New site draws concern

BART delays action on Brentwood

LMC+President+Bob+Kratochvil+speaks+to+the+BART+Board+of+Directors+Thursday%2C+October+23%2C+2014%2C+in+Oakland%2C+California+about+the+location+of+the+new+Brentwood+Campus+and+a+new+BART+station.+
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New site draws concern

LMC President Bob Kratochvil speaks to the BART Board of Directors Thursday, October 23, 2014, in Oakland, California about the location of the new Brentwood Campus and a new BART station.

LMC President Bob Kratochvil speaks to the BART Board of Directors Thursday, October 23, 2014, in Oakland, California about the location of the new Brentwood Campus and a new BART station.

Cathie Lawrence

LMC President Bob Kratochvil speaks to the BART Board of Directors Thursday, October 23, 2014, in Oakland, California about the location of the new Brentwood Campus and a new BART station.

Cathie Lawrence

Cathie Lawrence

LMC President Bob Kratochvil speaks to the BART Board of Directors Thursday, October 23, 2014, in Oakland, California about the location of the new Brentwood Campus and a new BART station.

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In a tension-filled meeting last week the BART Board of Directors and members of the Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board discussed a proposed controversial letter from BART to the college district about the future site of the permanent Los Medanos College Brentwood Center.

The letter, which was written and placed on BART’s Oct. 23 meeting agenda by its President Joel Keller, expressed concerns that the current location approved by the college governing board violates state and federal laws, deprives a disadvantaged group of minority and low income students access to public transportation, and has significant and unavoidable impacts on the environment.

In the end, action on the letter was delayed until the next BART meeting, but not before opinions were aired by representatives of both boards.

Keller was not present at the meeting but his fellow board members said he asked them to adopt the letter and officially send it to College District Governing Board President John Marquez, who attended the meeting at the last minute to respond to the letter which, he said, he had only received word of that morning.

“I’m hurt and angry actually that there could be any concern about my district and me to be discriminatory in any way toward our students,” said Marquez at the meeting. “Mr. Keller spoke of cooperation and working together but his actions say otherwise.”

Keller attended the Sept. 10 meeting of the college governing board to express his concerns with the new Brentwood Center site.

Along with Marquez, Governing Board Vice President John Nejedly, LMC President Bob Kratochvil and attorney David Suldany, who represents the district in legal matters, also made hasty arrangements to attend the meeting to voice their disapproval of premature action on an official letter. They urged the BART Board of Directors to not make a decision on the letter until the college district finishes the new feasibility study.

“We appreciate Mr. Keller’s interest and comments he made at our governing board meeting and hope that you have seen that we have taken your comments seriously,” said Nejedly.

Nejedly is a part of the college district board’s ad-hoc committee created by Marquez during its Sept. 10 governing board meeting to address Keller’s proposal.

The committee agreed “to fund an unbiased and objective feasibility study at a cost of almost $20,000 to evaluate (Keller’s) idea,” explained Nejedly, asking the BART Board to let the district complete its due diligence and not take action on the proposed letter until the findings from their study are presented at the College District Governing Board’s meeting Nov. 12.

With the passage of Bond Measure E in June, Negedly said the college district is ready to break ground on the new Brentwood Center campus, which has been in the planning stages for many years. He told the BART Board he is concerned Keller’s letter could halt construction of the center for decades and exponentially increase costs.

“The building of a permanent site is something we’ve been working towards for about 10 years,” said Kratochvil, adding Measure E now “provides us sufficient funds to build the new center.” He said the site would eventually be served by public transportation, but BART Board Director Gail Murray probed that point.

“You mentioned working with Tri-Delta but I’ve seen a letter from Tri-Delta that says they cannot serve your campus,” she countered and asked Kratochvil how that would work for students.

Kratochvil admitted Tri-Delta could not currently provide bus service to the site but added, “currently BART cannot provide service to any of the centers either. We are about three and a half years away from the final construction of that and we will be having meetings with them to see if we can change their minds.”

The district’s legal counsel underscored Kratochvil’s point.

“If you look at what’s going on out in that area, we are confident that the transportation is going to be there when that center is complete,” said Suldany. “As you know, being a transportation agency, service follows demand.”

Suldany also addressed concerns about disproportionate impact on students without viable transportation options.

“To my knowledge, at no time were any of the issues now raised by Mr. Keller identified in comments or public testimony,” during the public process of deciding where the new center should be built, said Suldany. “There was no evidence in the record that the new campus will have a negative and/or disparate impact on minority or low income residents.”

In an interview after the meeting, Marquez addressed concerns about being able to fund transportation services to the new center after it is built.

Tri-Delta might not be able to go out to the site now, said Marquez, but there is a transportation bond that will be put on the ballot in a few years. If voters approve it, there will be money for transportation to the new site.

District Governing Board Member Greg Enholm, who represents Ward 5 where the center will be built, and who has supported Keller’s proposal to move the LMC Brentwood Center from the selected site to an alternative location near the Mokeloumne Trail on Highway 4, arrived late to the meeting. He sat across the aisle from the other college district board members and, unlike his fellow board members, did not speak before the BART board that night.

After members of the college district finished addressing the BART Board, there were still a lot of questions and directors were not in agreement.

BART Director James Fang said he didn’t know if he could make a clear decision without Keller present to guide the board on his proposal.

“I would like to move this issue over to the next meeting so when Joel’s here we can at least talk about it a little bit more,” he said.

Murray, who said she wasn’t even aware the college district was conducting a feasibility study to address Keller’s concerns, agreed with Fang about delaying action until the next meeting.

“I would just like to know more about it and I think Joel can give us more of those answers,” said Murray.

In contrast, BART Director Rebecca Saltzman said she was concerned that if they did not take action that night the College District Governing Board might make a decision at its Nov. 12 meeting based on the feasibility study without giving BART the opportunity to weigh in officially.

“I don’t know if it will be an action item or not,” Negedly responded, “but it will be discussed whether we need to hold off on breaking ground on our new site and consider this alternative.” He also noted the proposal that Keller presented to the board to relocate the new campus to the Mokeloumne Trail isn’t really an alternative because the BART Board does not have any solid plans for moving forward in Brentwood.

“The Mokeloumne station is something that is nebulous at this point,” said Negedly.

Saltzman said she was confused about how the college district could do a feasibility study on an alternative location that doesn’t exist.

“We have been told … there is a feasibility study, now you’re saying that there is no other site that we’re studying,” asked Saltzman.

“That is what’s difficult about this process,” replied Nejedly, because the study is being done on a site that does not exist, near an eBART that has not been built.

Because the College District Governing Board will have the new feasibility study findings by its Nov. 12 meeting and could make a decision at that time about whether or not to begin construction, Saltzman suggested the college district’s “goal is to have us not weigh in by delaying this.”

Nejedly countered it would be premature for the BART Board to make a decision at its meeting because the study is not complete, and said the district board would be happy to provide BART board members with a copy of the findings once it is done.

But BART Director Tom Radulovich said he supports sending the letter.

“All we’re doing is sending a letter saying we are concerned the current site is inaccessible to transit and apparently that’s been confirmed by Tri- Delta,” he said adding that comments by the college district representatives during the BART meeting indicate to him a lack of openness to looking at alternative sites.

He also said the college district representatives displayed a level of naivety about how public transit really works to think that just because something is built, means the location will be readily served by public transit.

BART Director Zakhary Mallet said he also supported sending the letter on to the college district.

“The fact that this is just a letter and the fact that there is all this effort that we not endorse the letter suggests to me that there is something else is going on and makes me more inclined to support the letter,” he said.

BART Director John McPartland criticized the approach taken by the members of the college district in presenting their concerns to the BART Board.

He said he found the college district’s speakers disingenuous and in conflict with one another.

“If you’re preparing to break ground you have already made the decision to move forward,” said McPartland. “If you did your due diligence as you claim, then when you receive the letter can dismiss it.”

BART Director Robert Raburn, who is also the BART Board’s chairperson of planning, public affairs, access and legislation items ultimately decided to set the issue aside until a future meeting date due to a lack of information, the absence of Keller, and concern over eroding relationships between the two public agencies.

“I don’t believe this is up to us,” he said.

Marquez echoed the same sentiment in an interview after the meeting.

“We are education, they are transportation,” he said. “You wouldn’t see us going in and telling them what to do.”

If you would like to watch a video recording of the meeting, check out BART Board TV at http://www.bart.gov/about/bod/multimedia. For more information on the new feasibility study, attend the Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board Nov. 12 in Martinez at 4 p.m. in the George R. Gordon Education Center located at 500 Court St.

 

 

 

 

 

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