"New ‘vision plan’ imagines 3-mile greenway from downtown Berkeley to Bay Bridge"
By Stuart Luman on Berkeleyside.com
April 22, 2019
Photo: Matt Taecker
Matt Taecker (M.C.P./M.Arch. '89— former Berkeley city planner and principal author of the city’s Downtown Area Plan— has developed a greenway proposal Bike East Bay, an East Bay bicyclist advocacy group. The plan proposes that three miles of Shattuck Avenue, Adeline Street and Stanford Avenue to be converted to a bicycle and pedestrian path. It also includes designs for natural cache basins and engineered wetlands to mitigate flooding and filter out pollutants from runoff. If realized, the greenway, could also potentially connect to the Bay Trail, creating a path that extends from Richmond to Hayward.
“This is an exciting project to really think about how we can re-envision our streets as open space, pedestrian space and an opportunity for increased bicycle infrastructure,” Mayor Jesse Arreguín said at the annual meeting of the Downtown Berkeley Association on April 16.
Arreguín said the next step would be to seek funding from the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) to further develop the proposal.
The idea for a long, intercity greenway, came out of work on the Downtown Area Plan and Berkeley’s Streets and Open Space Improvement Plan, which both call for the greening of Berkeley’s downtown roadways, said Taecker. It also builds off of work done on the city’s Adeline Corridor Plan, which would add green “linear parks” to the paved sections of Adeline Street from Shattuck to Alcatraz Avenue. Later on, conversations grew to include Bike East Bay Advocacy Director Dave Campbell, who suggested extending the greenway concept all the way down Stanford Avenue through Oakland and Emeryville and connecting to the Bay Trail and the Bay Bridge, according to conversations with all three.
“Think of all the people who might want to come from the Bay Trail to downtown Berkeley, to Cal, walking and biking,” Campbell said by phone of their brainstorming session. “They agreed that [that would be] a much bigger and better vision. That got us all super motivated and on the same page.”
Neither Berkeley, Oakland nor Emeryville has formally supported the greenway proposal yet, nor has the ACTC considered it. ACTC has its own countywide bicycle plan and calls for a connection between the Ohlone and Bay Trails. However, Taecker said that he had spoken to officials in all three cities and the various commissions that would have oversight of any plan to get feedback and to incorporate their suggestions.
Jonathon Brown, president and chairman of the Lorin Business Association and vice president of the NAACP’s Berkeley branch, supports the greenway concept because it promotes several of his and his organization’s priorities for the Lorin District, including increasing greenery, promoting exercise, and helping to make South Berkeley more of a destination for people. These changes, he says, may not be popular with everyone in the neighborhood who might fear change, but business owners and other people that he represents would welcome them.
“We need South Berkeley to change,” said Brown. “It needs to be reimagined, reconstructed, it needs to be rebuilt. [This] may not be a popular opinion but it’s my opinion.”
He did caution that any redevelopment shouldn’t be done at the expense of people of color. “We need to make sure that people of color have access to all these wonderful things, all these wonderful services,” he said. “That people won’t be pushed out just because things get new and shiny.”
Ben Gerhardstein, a coordinating committee member of Walk Bike Berkeley supports this proposal as well. “At a very high level this is exactly the kind of bold thinking, bold vision that the city of Berkeley needs to be exploring,” he said. “This kind of idea fits squarely with the mayor’s Vision 2050 efforts, aligns with the city’s climate, pedestrian, and bike goals, and our values around equity.”
Like Campbell and Brown, he warned that all stakeholders would have to be part of any future planning and discussion. “Gentrification is one of the primary concerns here,” he said. “Ideally what this vision helps us build [is] a movement for improving our community that doesn’t displace people and leverages and supports the diversity that we have in Berkeley. We need everybody affected by this project to have a voice in it.”
One area that Gerhardstein thought needed more work was in regards to transit. The current proposal is focused very much on pedestrians and bicyclists but nothing in the way for buses, he said, which he cited as an equity issue.
The next step will be proposing this project to the ACTC to be added to its official work plans for the future to help secure further funding, said Campbell.
However, don’t look for the greenway anytime soon, said Taecker. It took BART and Berkeley 12 years to build the new BART Plaza in the downtown. Taecker estimated that this plan would take at least 20 years to bring to fruition.
“I just hope that people will give it a chance as an idea,” he said. “Let’s just get excited about a greenway, let’s not presume what the [final] design is going to be. Something really cool could occur.”
To read more about the proposed Downtown Area Plan, click here.