Berkeley is taking on a big challenge—revitalizing the Adeline Street commercial corridor from Shattuck Ave to the Oakland city line. And doing so in a way that balances the needs for investment and regional growth with local residents’ desires to make Adeline Street more about people and less about cars, while remaining a neighborhood they can live in. It’s a tall challenge that Mayor Bates and his city staff have not figured out. They have a $750,000 planning grant to try.
The street’s 180-ft right-of-way, fast-moving traffic and many uncontrolled intersections present an imposing barrier to pedestrians and bicyclists and detract from the retail uses along the street. There have been 10 fatalities on the dangerous street since its redesign years ago as a freeway off ramp. Despite this, businesses are expanding on the corridor and just about as many people bicycle Adeline Street as the King St bike boulevard a few blocks away. With 180 ft, there is plenty of room for a bike lane, and it’s needed, not only to connect to the 190 businesses on the street, but also to connect to Oakland’s new buffered bike lanes on Adeline St right across the city line (coming soon).
However, so many larger issues will control this planning process for Adeline St. For starters, MLK Jr Way and Adeline St see 35,000 cars per day, even though BART runs right along these streets. How will Berkeley convince some commuters to take transit or bike or find a different route. Parking is a major concern of local businesses, even though half the street is dedicated to parking. Will Berkeley show local businesses how important customers who walk and bike are to their bottom line, as was recently done for the Temescal District of Oakland?
City staff shared some useful economic information on the corridor. While South Berkeley has 11% of city residents, local business only generate 8% of city sales taxes, to the tune of $1 million per year. This means that residents are spending over a third of their money outside the corridor. They are spending $375,000/year elsewhere. 190 local businesses would love to have that money, but it means Adeline Street needs to be more about walking and biking and less about commuter car traffic.
A major challenge for the planning process will be encouraging the right type of investment along the corridor that benefits this once majority African-American community and is not a force to drive more long time residents out. At the January 31, 2015 community forum to introduce the planning process, over 100 people attended, most from the community, and they gave the city an ear-full of frustrations over past failed promises and continued economic forces causing African-American residents to have to move away. To the City’s credit, the room was full, and most of the time was dedicated to talking about what the process should look like, not what the plan should look like.
Residents reminded city planners of “the need to overcome cynicism of long-term residents of South Berkeley neighborhoods” and courageously expressed their desires to “keep the richness and diversity of South Berkeley. A long time resident of the area and former city employee threw the gauntlet down that displacement will not happen “on my watch.” Mayor Bates stood and listened.
The City is convening a community advisory committee and Bike East Bay is going to ask for a seat at this table. While community outreach will continue, the City plans a significant ‘Visioning Festival’ in April-May on Adeline Street, to take the planning process into the heart of the community. Look for an announcement about this event soon.
What you can do:
- If you are interested in being our resident point person on the Community Advisory Committee and live in the area, please contact Dave Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Contact City Planner Alisa Shen and get on the notification list for the Plan
- Take a quick 6-question survey about your bike priorities in Berkeley.
- Bookmark the City of Berkeley City Website for the project: www.cityofberkeley.info/adelinecorridor
For good background information, read Professor Betty Deakin’s research on the Adeline Street corridor: Old Road, New Directions: Plan for Adeline Street in Berkeley, California
Your membership and support of Bike East Bay drives the work we do and with your volunteer efforts, helps us build community support for streets that work better for the people who use them every day—you. Join today!