The proposed St. John’s project going before the Planning Commission on Wednesday has been studied for 10 years. A more extensive Environmental Impact Report has been in process for nearly 4 years. The final Environmental Impact Report can be attained from the planning department. The EIR will answer all your questions about the details of the proposed project and it will indicate how deeply the City of Oakland Planning Department has studied this proposed project. The study is done independently under the direction of the City Planning Department and the church is billed for the cost of all the studies. To date, the church has spent over $300,000 studying these improvements. All the recommendations are independent. The EIR process, as required by the City, has invited input and critique from the community throughout the process and all these are also part of the report.
There have been some misstatements made about the project:
- There will be no “clear cutting” of trees. 66 trees will be removed but, as the EIR states, an independent arborist identified 49 of these trees as being in poor health or small fruit trees, leaving 17 other trees being removed. 66 new, predominantly native large box trees will replace these.
- The current entrance and exit to the parking lot are unsafe and do not provide proper access to emergency vehicles. The plan will not only create an entrance with improved site lines but will also provide a turn around that the school can use for a safer drop off. The church and the school have always been good neighbors to each other. Currently the church allows parents and teachers to use their lot and the school also allows the church to use theirs. The church has been, and remains committed to working with the school.
- The turnaround that will be created will also mean that emergency vehicles will have proper access to the site. This greater access, along with a plan to install fire hydrants will increase fire safety for the entire neighborhood.
- The reason the church hopes to build a proper sanctuary is because they currently use a parish hall for their worship services. Every time they have a social event, all the pews have to be manually removed and placed outside. The plan is not to become an event facility but rather to have a dedicated space for the events they already have throughout the year.
- Traffic and parking have been studied extensively by the City and researched by highly-respected independent traffic consultants. Again, all of this can be found in the EIR. The proposed plan will improve parking and circulation.
- The church has hired an exceptional architect and landscape architect. Turnbull Griffin and Haeslop are LEED Platinum rated and known for their sensitivity to site development. Sea Ranch is one of their many nationally known projects. PGA Design is also LEED Platinum rated and have received countless awards for their environmental designs.
- The church is not asking for any variances. The site improvements are entirely within their rights and consistent with building codes. The church is committed to integrating their site improvements into their property; to make best use of its natural qualities of topography, the wooded setting, and a place for community gatherings. Much thought has been given to having a sustainable approach in the context of these qualities.
- The church is always interested in talking to anyone about this project and looks forward to working with Thornhill School and all the neighbors as they seek to improve their facilities. The church is happy to meet with anyone to give them a tour of the site and to discuss the project. Simply contact the church at 339-2200.
St. John’s is a modest community of progressive Episcopalians who have been serving the community on many fronts for over 60 years in their current location. They are attempting to improve their property and make it more safe and functional for the entire community.