Dear Pittsburgian (Pittsburgite? Pittsburger? I will go with Pittsburger because, as I write this, I am a little hungry). Dear Pittsburger, I would like to ask you to do something. Close your eyes and go to a calm and tranquil place. Are you there? Seriously, close those eyes – stop reading for a moment! OK, once you’re calm and relaxed, ask yourself one simple question and let it bounce around in the ol’ noggin and resonate deep within you. Here is the question.
What does the City of Pittsburg (“CoP,” because I said so) need? Like, really need?
Ok, now come back to me. What did you come up with? Maybe something to do with schools? Maybe a solution to our pressing lack of jobs? How about something concerning our lack of commercial development? What about our increasingly overburdened infrastructure? And then there’s the small question of all those crimes that get reported in the news but magically do not impact the CoP official statistics? I am guessing you came up with something like one of these examples, because you are smart, Pittsburger, smart and sexy.
Yes, that’s right – your friend Zorro is not above pandering…
And because you are sexy and smart, here’s what I know you did not come up with.
You did not decide that the CoP needs more housing because, on top of it all, you are not completely insane. No one in his or her right mind would look at the thousands of recent/new housing developments that are getting slapped down on the crumbling frame of this city and think, “Yeah, we need more of this.”
Now, let’s repeat our little exercise, but this time, I want you to imagine that you are on the Pittsburg City Council or in the City Manager’s office. Now, what does the CoP really need? That’s right, the only official answer is…houses and more houses.
But let’s step back again and look at just one example of the many things that we, as Pittsburgers, know the city actually does need: roads. Anyone who’s endured the routine traffic agony that you’ll surely encounter if you drive in this city for longer than two minutes will recognize that the CoP needs more and better roads. That realization is even more pronounced in the circle of hell you enter if you actually try to leave the city. Because you have to go to work perhaps, or shop, or go find entertainment somewhere else…which, of course, you have to do daily. If you are drawn to the CoP webpage to look for solutions, you might even become convinced that the city government has recognized the need for more and better roads, and that the matter is being addressed through smart planning and city management.
This last point is where you would be wrong.
Because smart planning and city management would involve anticipating needs and addressing them before they become overwhelming crises. But that is just not how the CoP rolls. Our city government much prefers to create and exacerbate problems and then talk about maybe addressing them at some point in the future. And at this future date they will be much worse and even harder – and costlier – to fix. Thus, the immediate solution to overcrowding and severe traffic problems? You guessed it: more houses.
Take Range Road (please! Sorry, I am better than that joke). If you wander over to the CoP website, look at the 5-year Capital Improvement Plan and the 55-page summary of planned street improvements, you will find plans to extend and improve Range Road so it runs from the South side of the freeway and connects to the North side. This would be beneficial because it would provide an alternate route from Leland and areas around that main thoroughfare to downtown. Anyone who has sat in the half hour of traffic that accompanies any trip from the South side to Old Town Pittsburg or the marina could attest to the value of such a project. It could also provide an alternate route from the South side to Bailey and all points West. Sounds great, right?
One small problem, the status is “awaiting funding.” The CoP identifies an eligible funding source as “TMF,” with no explanation of the acronym. Could be “The Motley Fool” or perhaps “Texas Medical Foundation.” How about “Too Much Forehead” or “Timmy Made Flan!”? Any of those could work. But my best guess is it’s some kind of treasury bill. But, be that as it may, the point is moot because the actual identified funding source is listed as “none.” None. No funding. And with the additional housing developments around the South side of Range Road and several more in the works, the infrastructure is now completely overwhelmed. We need this project implemented now but, because it’s tagged as a $25 million project with no identified source of funding, I wouldn’t go looking for it anytime soon.
Given that there are over 300 new homes going up at the south end of Railroad, those people will have to go somewhere. There is a funded project to preserve the street, but not much in the way of adding to it. There is a plan for a class 1 trail down Railroad to where the new e-Bart station will be since – as your friend Zorro has already noted – there will be no parking at that station. (See our Kiss and Ride article on this very site!) The idea of the trail sounds fine, but it will cost more than $1 million, and the identified funding source? None.
Let’s look on the bright side. There is a funded project to extend James Donlon Road from Somersville to Buchanan, which might give a little relief to folks who live in that area. Temporarily. Once those 1,300 new homes currently being built there are inhabited, that tiny extension is not going to be so helpful after all.
And there is also a project to improve the intersection at San Marco and W. Leland, which might be great news for the good people in San Marco. That area, however, is deluged with more developments than you can shake a stick at – San Marco II, Toscana, Bellagio (are these houses or casinos?), and more and more… And these are additional developments filling up an area already way too crowded for the few roads that allow residents to crawl in traffic to get anywhere at all. Of course, years ago the city government promised the people of San Marco some commercial development, but the CoP only cares about one thing: more houses. The neighborhood might get a gas station, eventually. Lucky them.
The list goes on. Just scanning the document you’ll see geometric improvements for that beleaguered intersection between Railroad Avenue and Leland. Look further and what do you notice? “Identified funding source: None.” Then there’s Bailey Road Highway 4 turn lane modifications – identified funding source: none. Range and Willow Pass Interchange improvements – identified funding source: none. Bailey Road operational improvements – identified funding source: none. Westbound 4 off ramp at Railroad – identified funding source: none. West Leland safety improvements, extending and improving Avila Road to W. Leland so that all those new developments on the West side have an alternate route West, Marina Boulevard Improvements, Willow Pass and Century Boulevard bicycle lanes and facilities, California Avenue widening…
All these projects – identified funding source: none. Or TBD (“to be determined,”) which is just another, fancier way of saying…”NONE.”
None of this should be surprising if you live in the CoP. But if you look at this list of unfunded projects, it’s clear that the City needed to implement them years ago, before our population grew to its current density. These projects cover every part of Pittsburg, all areas overburdened in their present condition, and all areas being buried under new housing developments. We desperately need these improvements before the city grows any more.
And there’s one more point that needs to be made. What may be most troubling is the number of projects where the eligible funding sources include the word “developer.” Why? Let’s examine this closer. It’s not troubling because the developers get away with cramming in more people without paying to mitigate the harms of overcrowding. Far from it! What is troubling is this question…
For all the the new homes built here over the last ten to fifteen years, where did those developer contributions go?
I return now to my point (finally, you sigh because you are perceptive, dear Pittsburger, if a little impatient). This is not smart planning and city management. This is a massive commercial give-away to residential developers combined with stop-gap, inadequate band-aid measures to address overcrowding only after it reaches crisis levels. This is what passes for management in our CoP, a place where the residents cry out for services, commerce, roads, transportation, jobs, schools, and lower crime levels. And where the city government only hears the mantra “houses and more houses.”
For further reading, have a look on the CoP website at the list of residential developments at Toscana, Vista Del Mar, the Marina area, Bailey Estates, East Street Estates, Sky Ranch, Alves Ranch, San Marco, Montreaux, and Tuscany subdivisions, and try to imagine what the roads are going to look like when these projects are done. Based on the available figures for current and near future residential developments, and not counting the several developments for which the CoP does not provide stats, these projects will add more than 2,000 new homes within our limits. Most households, if not all, will have one car, many will have multiple cars and drivers. Are you picturing what I am picturing, Pittsburger?
Ok, so with that in mind it’s time to go back to our mental “happy place” and contemplate how we can head off this disaster and give this city what it really needs. Some actual planning…and maybe some new city management.