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October 3, 2006 > Hayward City Council makes it happen

Hayward City Council makes it happen

by Steve Warga

Could this be a new face on Hayward's city council? Unlike their usual long, drawn-out affairs, the past two city council meetings have adjourned in less than 90 minutes. While this may seem trivial, the fact is, council business rarely requires two to three hours of ruminating from each and every councilmember. In more recent times, prior to their normal summer recess, Hayward councilmembers demonstrated a remarkable ability to turn trivial matters into long-winded discourse, as a matter of habit.

In contrast, on September 26, the council heard, considered and approved a major revision of past policies necessary to continue progress on restructuring the Interstate 880 and Highway 92 interchange. Director of Public Works, Bob Baumann, succinctly reviewed the particulars of this matter for council's consideration. Councilmembers then offered reasonably concise observations and questions. Mayor Sweeney opened the meeting to public comments and none were offered. Immediately thereafter, council voted by five "ayes" and two abstentions to approve the staff recommendations. (Councilmembers Barbara Halliday and Doris Rodriquez abstained because each lives in an area that will endure construction and traffic nuisances during the four-year project.)

Just like that, the council approved a new "Freeway Agreement" with Caltrans and superseded prior agreements dating back to the '50's. The proposed reconstruction will greatly enhance the flow of traffic on busy Jackson Street; busier I-880 north and southbound; and the approach to the Hayward-San Mateo Bridge. With an expected completion date of 2011, the light at tunnel's end is yet dim for Hayward residents and area travelers, but at least it's visible.

Councilmembers praised city staff for their diligent efforts to minimize this major project's impact on nearby homes. Original plans envisioned the demolition of nearly 400 homes. City planners worked with Caltrans staffers and managed to reduce that 400 number to a grand total of 12 complete takeovers of existing houses plus a handful of partial takeovers or easements.

Users of Santa Clara Street just south of Jackson Street will be advised to expect even greater congestion for the next few years. Caltrans is presently preparing a large empty lot immediately beside and behind the Valero gas station to serve as a staging ground for equipment, supplies and offices. They will be there for the next few years.

City officials and politicians invariably express a desire for greater citizen involvement in community affairs. City council meetings are the most visible and logical places for citizens to influence city government. When those meetings routinely run three, four or more hours even the most dedicated locals find themselves heading home. Given the routine nature of most city council business, briefer meetings with less musings from councilmembers should encourage greater resident participation.

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