Construction crews began working on Belvin Street earlier this week. Daily Record photo by Gerald Castillo
Sidewalks continue to draw debate
The city has started work on Belvin Street ahead of a new sidewalk project that residents are keeping a watchful eye on.
On June 10, the city performed a mill and overlay of Belvin Street between Bishop and Dixon streets — the area where resident Lisa Marie Coppoletta lives and is recording the work as it occurs. Coppoletta has expressed concerns about toxins going into the air and trucks sitting for too long under trees and scorching them.
Director of Public Services Tom Taggart and Streets Maintenance Manager Shawn Wolfshohl have said there was no slurry involved in the process and trees were not scorched by the trucks that were on the street June 10. The overlay work was completed in one day.
In an email responding to questions from the Daily Record, Taggart and Wolsfhohl said the city will be starting the sidewalk work on that stretch of Belvin Street on July 1.
“City crews will begin Belvin Street sidewalk construction starting at Bishop Street and continuing toward Dixon Street,” the email said. “Contractor will also install curb for sections of street lacking curb and new bulb-out medians. The sidewalk is scheduled to be completed in September 2019, weather permitting.”
Coppoletta has submitted letters and research to the city about the sidewalk project, which she opposes for numerous reasons. She has spoken to the San Marcos City Council and the Neighborhood Commission about her concerns, which include the possibility for increased flooding, damage to or loss of heritage trees, potentially disturbing artifacts and historical sites, and moving pedestrians closer to people’s homes on a stretch of street that has very little lighting. Coppoletta said that for the city council meeting at which the city’s sidewalk program was discussed, the agenda packet did not include all of the email complaints and phone calls about the Belvin Street sidewalk or minutes from boards and commissions that have discussed the sidewalk project.
“My neighbors are furious, and so is my landlord,” Coppoletta said in an email to the Daily Record.
She also expressed concerns about the bulb-out medians.
“The bulb-outs will cause someone to get in a wreck because hello, there are no bulb outs in town and there is no light on this side of the street,” she said.
The city has said it is taking steps to protect the trees along and near the path of the sidewalk.
“Urban Forester Kelly Eby is involved with the project and ensuring the appropriate tree protection measures during construction,” Taggart and Wolfshohl said in their email to the Daily Record. Eby sent a letter to Assistant City Manager Steve Parker in January about the live oaks on Belvin Street that included recommendations for ways to install a sidewalk without harming the heritage trees.
“The sidewalk design includes ‘bulb out’ areas where the sidewalk is in proximity to trees or at or near the edge of ROW [right of way]. These bulb outs will narrow the road section and allow the sidewalk to be constructed where there is now pavement, This will minimize digging in root zones” the email from Taggart and Wolfshohl reads.
The city also said it will be using an “Air Spade,” which is considered a less invasive method of digging that the city says will minimize root disruption.
“These techniques will be incorporated into all our sidewalk projects moving forward,” the email said.
The city has also said it took steps to improve drainage on Belvin Street when it did the overlay on June 10.
“A sidewalk provides such a small amount of impervious cover that a drainage study would not be necessary to add this to an area that is already developed such as Belvin Street,” the email from Taggart and Wolfshohl said. “Additionally, with the mill and overlay performed Monday, a crown (slightly raised elevation in the middle of the road section down the center of the street) was installed with the overlay to help prevent water from crossing the street west to east as it comes off the higher elevations to the west. This should counteract any sidewalk impervious cover effect.”
However, Coppoletta has a different view of the drainage issues.
“The drainage on the other side of Belvin will not help us,” she said. “... The water comes down Bishop to my side of Belvin and Clara Street. Now the thing they put in the middle of the road will send the water to our houses.”
Coppoletta spoke to city council at its meeting on June 4, when a discussion about the city’s broader sidewalk program was held. More transparency, better outreach to the public and studies of where sidewalks were needed were all recommendations the council suggested. Coppoletta asked the council to put in a stop order on the Belvin Street sidewalk project and asked that she receive the same consideration that the rest of the city will receive with the changes to the way the city carries out its sidewalk program.