Urban planning

A green, pedestrian-friendly vision for Downtown

On Saturday Berkeley citizens were given a taste of how their fair city might become quite a bit fairer when the people behind the Streets and Open Space Improvement Plan (SOSIP) held an open house to present a number of possible scenarios to prettify the downtown area.

Not to be confused with the Downtown Area Plan Forum, SOSIP is focused on making neighborhoods more pedestrian and bike friendly, with well-maintained streets, wider sidewalks, calmer traffic and lots more trees, greenery and vegetation. Proposals have been drawn up for five distinct but inter-connected areas: lower Shattuck/Park Blocks; mid-Shattuck/Boulevard; Shattuck Square/end of University; Hearst Street/Ohlone Greenway extension; and Center Street plaza and Greenway.

The photos above, for example, show how existing sidewalks on University Avenue (between Shattuck and Oxford) are relatively narrow, but could be widened and enhanced.

Some fascinating tidbits emerged at the presentation, made by Matt Taecker, Principal Planner for Downtown. For instance:

  • Half the blocks in downtown have no trees.
  • Except for Center Street, downtown’s main arteries have more traffic lanes than are needed: Shattuck, which historically had four rail-lines running down its length, could be narrowed to two lanes (on either side) without causing traffic problems.
  • 82% of Shattuck is taken up with moving or parked cars.
  • It would be possible to have a 64 ft-wide park running down the center of Shattuck.

All sorts of solutions involving planting, landscaping, addressing water run-off, lighting, public art and signage were shown at the meeting. All of them would help transform downtown into a more beautiful, more welcoming, healthier city center.

Input received from Saturday’s open house will be used by members of the four Commissions who will guide the SOSIP:  the Parks & Recreation Commission, the Planning Commission, the Public Works Commission, and the Transportation Commission. Financing options will be explored once specific plans are identified as having the most support.

Information and future meeting dates for SOSIP will be posted on their website. Matt Taecker can be reached at mtaecker@ci.berkeley.ca.us or 510-981-7487.

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  • jane warren

    to the Transportation Commission:
    I would like to see all vehicular traffic banned on MLK, Solano Avenues (for starters). Widened sidewalk, more landscaping. Transportation to be supplied by small jitneys, such as you see in many third world countries, that should be electric, transport 15-20 people frequently and nimbly across town. Big city buses are NOT rider friendly, are slow, bulky, and way too big for city use.
    Jitneys could be privately owned, licensed and provide employment. And they would be QUIET and environmentally friendly.
    I would even go from Thousand Oaks to downtown Berkeley to shop if there were jitneys. Instead, I avoid downtown (haven’t been down there for years and have been in the new library once.) I shop on Solano, dodging cars, trucks, that are continually backing out, unloading passengers, UPS trucks, delivery vehicles. It’s a mess.
    Give us back the streets.
    Would be happy to serve of the Transportation Commission.
    Jane Warren

  • jane warren

    You’re website is making me crazy.

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