Neighbors of the Allston Way Corporation yard are asking for peace and quiet. More than a dozen residents gathered at the yard Tuesday to voice concerns and discuss solutions to problems surrounding the city’s operations center – they want less traffic, pollution and noise.
The community group submitted a list of demands to the yard manager and the group’s leader, L.A. Wood, took city officials and nearby residents on a tour of the facility to point out the changes they hoped to achieve.
The Corporation Yard, located at 1326 Allston Way, adjacent to Strawberry Creek Park, is used by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, the Berkeley Police Department and road and sewer maintenance crews. The yard houses city utility trucks, a fueling station, old park benches, gravel and dirt, and many other maintenance and repair items used on a regular basis.
Resident Toni Horodysky, who has lived across the park from the yard for more than 25 years, complained that the yard is too noisy, creates too much pollution and houses too many large trucks.
“We’re long suffering here. We’ve been hashing and rehashing these issues for years. It’s time to take action.”
The three-page wish list of changes residents presented to officials includes the construction of new landscaped walls along the entire perimeter, noise reduction, elimination of long-term storage of rusted, rotten and unusable material, and a semi-annual yard cleanup.
Residents also asked for safety measures such as adherence to established traffic flow patterns, reduction of “driving in reverse” which produces a loud beeping noise from most city trucks and consolidation of hazardous waste materials, which includes cleaning solvent.
Yard manager Patrick Keilch agreed with most of the recommendations the residents made but said he was confused and concerned with the way they approached the meeting.
“The thing that disturbs me is that people are not focusing on the facts. That takes away from what we really need to get done.”
During the course of the tour Wood a longtime yard watchdog, made several allegations that the yard had recently been cited by the District Attorney’s Office for hazardous waste violations. He also suggested that the underground storage tanks were not in compliance with city and state regulations and suggested that they pose a serious risk to the neighborhood and city at large.
Keilch asserted, however, that no charges were filed against the yard for noncompliance with city and state laws.
“As for the storage tanks, those are doubled-walled state-of-the-art tanks. They’re as good as or better than any tank anywhere in the U.S.,” Keilch said.
In addition, he said that he felt unprepared for the meeting that was organized by Wood.
“I had no knowledge that Wood had canvassed the neighborhood with fliers or contacted the media. I had to scramble at the last minute to get staff together to help answer questions and if I had known I would have prepared a fact sheet.”
Keilch added that he has an open door policy and that he welcomes suggestions and comments.
“We should all be open and up front about what’s going on.”
Keilch said that many of the problems could be addressed at a fairly low cost and that he is willing to work with the city and community.
“This is the first I’ve heard that there were concerns. I haven’t had a call regarding any of these issues in two years. I want to get these issues taken care of,” he said.
Conflicts in the west Berkeley neighborhood between the yard and residents began prior to 1992. Since that time the city has constructed a partial wall with landscaping and cleaned up the yard considerably, but neighbors say that is not enough. They are asking the city to re-address many of the same issues brought up nearly 10 years ago, such as noise control and traffic.
Wood is calling for the creation of a review board to ensure that complaints and possible violations are monitored and addressed in a timely manner.
“What we need is an environmental management and review board or committee to ensure that the city follow through on every single complaint and possible code violation,” he said.
Keilch said that he would like to build a wall around the entire facility as well as address the noise issue and will be taking steps to make improvements in that direction.
But, he was less confident that he could reduce the number of vehicles stored at the site because city-owned space is limited.
“There is a silver lining to all of this. We may have a better chance of getting the resources to do some of this stuff with Wood and the residents behind us.”