Councilman Lan Diep, we reached out to you, our District 4 representative, to help fight against San Jose’s Charcot Avenue Extension—a project suggested by bureaucrats decades ago that, for the longest time, no one cared enough about to actually pursue.
And why would anyone? The project will widen a residential street next to an elementary school and put almost 14,000 cars next to 900 young children playing and learning. It will cut through the community, wall off homes and school playground on both sides of the road with massive 6-foot-plus sound barriers, and increase air pollution at the school more than 2.5 times. Yet, here we are.
Traffic engineers awash with VTA Measure B money are rushing to pour concrete down in our neighborhood to make room for more cars causing more congestion—paving over our playground and ball field.
The city’s traffic study shows building the extension will lead to people driving more. Yet, you falsely write “this project is not going to increase traffic”.
You talk of “pedestrian lanes” as if people were cars.
You say “there will be crosswalks to ensure the safety of the students and residents.” Do we really need to point you to the countless reports of people dying in crosswalks every day? No crosswalk can “ensure” the safety of our children.
The experts from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District analyzed the city’s air pollution study and scolded San Jose for using an outdated model, for deviating from standard practices recommended by the state, for underestimating exposure rates. Our region’s leading experts worry that cancer rates and fine particle exposure have been significantly underestimated by the city.
Yet, you write that consultants studied the issue “extensively” and deemed that there would be no negative health impact. We understand that the consultants took a long time and charged a lot of money, but that doesn’t mean the result is high quality work.
Equity, the idea that we need to take special care of our most vulnerable, is not mentioned in the city’s 204-page draft environmental report. Not once. So how can you say, equity “was given close attention?”
You say you “hope” this project will alleviate bumper-to-bumper traffic. “Hope?” The health of our children is too important to risk for something we are not sure will work.
You write that the “design team has responded to community input.” This is laughable. We have asked for a pedestrian overpass instead of a road. The team insists on putting cars next to the school. We’ve asked to evaluate a location away from the school. Denied. Banning trucks next to the school? Denied. We asked for narrower lanes to slow them down. Denied. A full traffic signal at the crosswalk? Denied. A raised crosswalk? Denied. Air pollution monitoring on the school site? Denied. Fifteen mile-per-hour speed limit?
Denied. Denied. Denied.
We’ve been advised that if we protest long enough, if we make enough noise, we will probably get one, two or maybe even three of the things we asked for. That staff not agreeing to them now is a negotiating tactic. This is infuriating. For staff to hold back on safety improvements just so they have a better negotiating position later on is reprehensible. The safety of children is not a bargaining chip.
And that brings me to my last and most important point.
You write that “every effort is being made to ensure that the students’ quality of life is not diminished” and that “the city made it a priority to protect students and the environment.” No it isn’t, and no you have not made it a priority.
If you were to truly make the children a priority and expand every effort, then you—and city staff—would call for canceling the project or at least changing it to a bike-friendly and pedestrian-safe overpass. But you don’t. Instead of fighting with us and for us, you seem set to confuse and mislead. Our children deserve better.
Clémence Tiradon is the Orchard School PTA president and the mother of a second grader and a future kindergartner. Along with a core group of parents and other community representatives, she has been engaging in the protest against the city’s Charcot Avenue Extension for over a year and a half. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].