Berkeley: Prepare may possibly switch Telegraph Avenue into ‘West Coast’s Moments Square’
Telegraph Avenue has been the religious hub of Berkeley for decades, at any time since the Totally free Speech Motion and Vietnam War protests set its blocks abuzz in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Even as file outlets, blacklight poster retailers, road sellers, faculty students and free spirits came and went like wafting scents of marijuana smoke and patchouli oil, the fabled corridor retained its cachet as Berkeley’s hippest road.
But a new era may well soon dawn, a person that could even see four important blocks of a single-way Telegraph closest UC Berkeley lifted to the amount of its sidewalks to produce a walkable plaza where no autos would be allowed.
That motor vehicle-free situation, however staying analyzed, would be element of an $8.3 million job the Berkeley City Council unanimously authorized Tuesday to remodel sections of Telegraph Avenue, Bancroft Way, Fulton Road and Dana Street into a green, transit-oriented community stretching from Dwight Way to the southern finish of the UC Berkeley campus at Sather Gate.
Dubbed the Southside Entire Streets Project, the redesign will characteristic dedicated bus lanes, safeguarded bike paths, widened sidewalks, improved pedestrian crossings and public transit stops. The intent is to lower harmful visitors collisions, make improvements to area transit dependability and improve the financial and cultural vitality of the neighborhood, according to the town.
Whilst the auto-free thought was not originally on the table, town officials bought into it pursuing public outreach last summertime and a previous-minute force by members of Telegraph for Individuals, a scholar-pushed advocacy group.
By banning cars from a lifted, walkable plaza, the town could transform Berkeley’s Southside neighborhood into the “West Coast’s Times Sq.,” stated Brandon Yung, co-founder of Telegraph for Individuals and a UC Berkeley senior.
“Few neighborhoods in The usa have the density, professional exercise and transit styles that Southside does that would make motor vehicle-no cost Telegraph this significantly of a good results,” Yung explained. “In New York, enterprise enhancement districts have spearheaded pedestrianization initiatives in the previous two several years. Not only would pedestrianization be very good for the bottom line, but also targeted traffic basic safety.”
Underneath the steering of senior transportation planner Eric Anderson, metropolis staff now will start off arranging and engineering design on the four streets.
While the council hasn’t yet decided no matter whether to convert Telegraph into a whole-fledged plaza, team will proceed with plans to take out curbs from the two blocks closest to the college, where by only one lane would be used for cars and trucks and 1 for buses.
On Bancroft Way, which has been deemed a “high personal injury street” by Berkeley’s Eyesight Zero Motion Approach, one particular lane will be reserved for automobiles traveling west with a dedicated bus lane on its proper, although a two-way bikeway will be established behind parking areas and a protection buffer.
Not absolutely everyone is pleased about the prospect of a West Coastline variation of Situations Square, even so. Some close by organization and house entrepreneurs say carrying out away with cars and parking will push absent shoppers.
That could be the closing nail in the coffin for establishments even now striving retain the lights on and doors open up immediately after struggling through the pandemic, reported Alex Knox, executive director of the Telegraph Avenue Company Improvement District.
Daryl Ross, proprietor of Caffè Strada for the last 33 several years and a Cal graduate, does not like the idea of decreasing the range of lanes for cars and trucks although other nearby streets these as Bowditch will keep on to host two-way traffic.
“I totally support full streets, I just have considerations it is likely to result in a great deal of targeted traffic and a good deal of congestion,” Ross stated. “Businesses near campus want to do a year’s worth of business in 9 months, and I just feel it may possibly be undesirable timing to do this as we’re all seeking to occur out of COVID.”
Ken Sarachan, a longtime enterprise owner alongside Telegraph Avenue, took his concerns one phase further, declaring the job is tantamount to UC Berkeley extending its “sovereignty” beyond its individual blocks and altering the historic road into a “food court” in the process.
“If you want Telegraph to remain mixed and have retail, the used file stores, recycled outfits stores, used bookstores and other enterprises that are associated in recycling items want to buy all those items from the public — that’s how we get our solution,” Sarachan stated. “If we remove autos on Telegraph, if we just make congestion happen on Dwight and Bowditch, you’re likely to totally destroy what is left of a deteriorating economic environment.”
Council users still supported the concept of vehicle-absolutely free streets and directed personnel to check out the added benefits and possible challenges of proceeding with that solution.
“I want to guarantee you that issues are taken pretty critically by me and the council, but a lot more importantly by our engineers and transportation consultants,” explained Councilmember Rigel Robinson, who signifies the Southside neighborhood and has championed the effort since 2019.
Robinson stated he envisions a task that gains both merchants and pedestrians and bicyclists. “This challenge is having the Southside in a certainly interesting path … there is a whole lot to be very pleased of in our perform today.”
An overhaul of Telegraph Avenue was first proposed in 2010, when AC Transit tried to extend its Bus Rapid Transit venture from San Leandro to UC Berkeley’s campus. Council users scrapped the strategy back again then just after quite a few company house owners alongside Telegraph complained. A decade later, Robinson persuaded the present-day council to resurrect the thought.
The Southside Complete Streets Job will be funded by point out and federal transportation grants, as nicely as funding from Alameda County Transportation Commission and California Office of Transportation.
If the approach is authorized, development is not expected to start out until eventually sometime in 2023.