HAYWARD — Opponents of a downtown loop of one-way streets were surprised to find out they didn't have enough like-minded City Council members to revisit the idea at a Tuesday work session.
The plan to modify the streets as part of Route 238 renovations was narrowly approved by the City Council in November 2007, but since then two new members have been seated who previously had stated that they did not think the loop was a good idea.
Councilwoman Anna May, a loop opponent, said that it's bad for residents on nearby streets, which will be impacted by overflow traffic, and for downtown merchants.
Mayor Michael Sweeney and Councilmember Olden Henson voted against the plan on similar grounds.
"The loop is for traffic headed toward the (San Mateo) Bridge," Sweeney said. "It's for people going through Hayward, not stopping here. We need to look at what's good for people living here."
But Councilman Francisco Zermeno, who opposed the loop during his campaign, has had a change of heart since then, denying opponents the four votes needed to bring the matter back to the table.
"When I was running, I was against it because of what I knew at the time," Zermeno said on Wednesday. "But after digging into the details, I saw more positives than negatives," including beautified, pedestrian-friendly streets.
He said that he'd like to see the city focus on bigger problems at hand, such as the deficit, filling vacant storefronts and replenishing the police department.
"That's what really changed my mind," he said. "I was on the outside looking in; now I'm on the inside and I have to think of what's good for the whole city."
The plan would turn the downtown portions of A Street and Mission and Foothill boulevards into one-way streets to facilitate traffic.
The Alameda County Transit Authority agreed to fund most of the work, with the first phase expected to cost $38 million for design and acquiring properties for the roadway changes.
So far, about $7 million has been spent.
While the entire project includes improvements farther south on Mission Boulevard, in particular at Carlos Bee Boulevard and in front of Moreau Catholic High School, if Hayward were to bow out of the loop plan, the transit authority may opt to ask for its money back.
"I'm not sure if they would let us do the rest of the project if they didn't think it would have significant traffic improvements without the loop," said Bob Bauman, the city's director of public works.
City Attorney Michael Lawson said he pulled the paperwork today and is going over it, but that it "appears" that the city could be at least liable for the cost of acquiring properties if the loop is ditched.
Council members Bill Quirk, Barbara Halliday and Kevin Dowling all reiterated support for the plan.
"I would say let's get something done," Dowling said. "We can't bring every project back when a new council member comes along."
Halliday said it would be foolish to potentially forfeit the transit authority money to other agencies.
"We would become the laughingstock of the funding community if we said no at this point," she said. "We'd lose the money and it would be a long time before we'd see it again."
Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Reach him at ekurhi@bay- areanewsgroup.com or 510-293-2473.