Berkeley students want better stores, fewer street people

People hanging out on Telegraph Avenue on Memorial Day. Photo: Nancy Rubin

While UC Berkeley students eat regularly downtown and on Telegraph Avenue, they generally go elsewhere to shop for clothes, get their hair cut, buy sundries, or go out on the town, according to a new survey of 1,800 graduate and undergraduate students.

While 40.3% of the respondents say they eat weekly on Telegraph Avenue, at least half said they visit the street less than once a month to shop, work, or get personal or professional services. Instead, they go to Emeryville or San Francisco. The numbers were similar for downtown.

But the students said they would frequent Berkeley’s shops more frequently if the selection was better, the streets were cleaner, and they felt safer walking around.

“The shopping districts near campus are under-performing,” City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said in a press release. “And yet there are over 35,000 students nearby who are potential customers. If we are going to revitalize our local business districts we need to understand what the campus community wants to see here. Otherwise we are going to continue to lose business to Emeryville and San Francisco.”

Safety seems to be one reason many UC students steer clear of Telegraph Avenue. More than 66% of the respondents – who were overwhelmingly female – said they would patronize Telegraph Avenue more often if they felt safer. Seventy-five percent said they would walk around more if the streets were “cleaner and more inviting”, and 65% said they would visit more often if there were fewer panhandlers. The percentages were slightly lower for the downtown area.

“The survey underscores the fact that a high proportion of students do not feel safe in the business districts, particularly on Telegraph Avenue,” said Clara Botstein, Graduate Assembly Legislative Director for City and Community Affairs, who coordinated the survey.

Telegraph Avenue. Photo: Nancy Rubin

The results of the survey come at a time when business owners in the downtown and Telegraph Avenue areas have been expressing concern about keeping sidewalks clear from congregating groups of homeless people and youths.

The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce held a seminar in early April to discuss whether Berkeley should have a sit-lie ordinance like the one enacted by San Francisco last year. That prompted a number of marches and rallies against any sit-lie ordinance in Berkeley, even though no city official has introduced one. If Mayor Tom Bates or any city councilmember ever had an interest in suggesting a sit-lie law, they no longer do as the protests seem to have had a chilling affect, according to city insiders who asked not to be named.

The survey was conducted by the UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly and Associated Students of the University of California. More than 1,800 UC students and staff responded to an online questionnaire. Fifty-two percent of the respondents were undergraduates, 38% were graduate students, and the rest were faculty and staff. The majority of those who answered the questions were women – 65% — and most were between the ages of 21 and 35.

The Telegraph Business Improvement District, Downtown Berkeley Association, UC Berkeley’s Local Government and Community Relations Office, City Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli, Susan Wengraf, Gordon Wozniak and the City of Berkeley’s Office of Economic Development were partners in the project.

In the survey, 86.9% of the students expressed a desire for an “all-purpose” store that sold general items, like a Target, a “basic clothing” store (79.6%),  an “upscale” clothing” store (86%), an electronics store (78%), a household appliance store (78.5%), and a grocery store (78.3%).

Target won’t come to Berkeley because the company already has stores in Albany and Emeryville, said Dave Fogarty, the acting director of economic development. Berkeley is interested in bringing an all-purpose store to downtown, but has not yet attracted one, he said.

The survey “shows both the severe problem but it also shows the potential, “ said Fogarty. “If we could have adequate policies in place to create a sense of safety and well-being on our sidewalks and we had a few more stores that sold articles that students were interested in buying, the sales tax situation would improve for the city of Berkeley.”

EXTRA: The respondents to the survey left more than 4,000 comments to various questions about Telegraph Avenue and the downtown area. Councilmember Capitelli’s office hopes to organize the answers and release them this summer. Here are some selected responses from the UC Graduate Assembly 2011 Student survey:

I would frequent Telegraph Avenue more if:

…there was more public art, environmental/sustainable/urban forest design, and appreciation for Telegraph’s history as a symbol of the Counterculture of the 1960s

I can deal with the streetlife, though being cursed and followed for a block by panhandlers or hecklers is disturbing. But my wife really prefers to avoid the area if possible.

The traffic bottlenecks created by the worthless street vendors was eliminated. Telegraph became one way in response to a Berkeley traffic plan. Allowing street vendors greatly impedes traffic, produces more smog and undermines brick & mortar business forcing stores to cater to low-end merchandise to meet the demographics. COB should create an attractive central market like most of the rest of the world.

outdoor eating places, kid-friendly eating places (Raleigh’s is ok but it’s the only one), healthier eating places

It is not panhandlers per se that make Telegraph Avenue intimidating, but the fact that I have had several experiences of people behaving aggressively toward me and others (shouting profanities, making unpleasant comments). The groups who sit on the sidewalk would probably make me uncomfortable in any case, but more so in this context.

It certainly isn’t the panhandlers and the homeless people who keep me away from Telegraph Avenue, and I would be very upset if the results of this survey asking for an improved Telegraph Avenue were used for Giuliani style persecution of street people. Telegraph Avenue caters almost exclusively for undergraduates, and I would appreciate better places for lunch–no chains! Bancroft has nice stores and places for lunch, and I go there much more frequently than to places on Telegraph.

I hate Berkeley because of street kids. They make me extremely uncomfortable and have ruined many a good mood. Telegraph has become a dirty street that I walk down as fast as possible just to get to class. North Berkeley, College Ave, Solano Ave, and the gourmet ghetto and much better places and if the surrounding neighborhood catered more to the large student population, Berkeley would be a much more desirable and happy school to go to.

There are only a handful of places to go dancing in Berkeley (most places that count as “nightlife” are bars). The ones that do exist suck. Please do something about this. You don’t want students heading out to SF constantly and risking the incidents of drunk driving. Do something to keep them around Berkeley!

I was born and raised in Berkeley. Telegraph has always been a retched hive of scum and villainy. When I was 13-23, that was kind of cool and exciting. Now, it’s just sad. Especially with the losses of anchor tenants like Cody’s and Blakes. I can honestly say there is ZERO draw for me to that business district currently.

I would frequent the Downtown more if:

Meter rates are outrageous. Parking tickets, excessive. I shop in Albany and Oakland and avoid Berkeley. Albany has one-hour free parking in most areas and the stores are doing better than Berkeley. Ditto for restaurants.

The area by the main entrance to the bar could be a fantastic place for people to gather and relax if it were not for the people who currently make it uninviting. Although they are doing absolutely nothing wrong, I openly admit that I would enjoy sitting there if they were not there. Instead, when i get my gelato at Almare, I sit inside. Business in that area would much increase if it were nicer and more inviting (think Elmwood). Businesses like Almare should be encouraged and protected: local, great quality, affordable.

Parking is a huge problem — which ties in with the safety issue. How far away I would have to park and then walk and how safe I would feel. I would go downtown even less if I didn’t belong to the Y.

More stores, shops, nightlife, and places to go for students. Berkeley needs to admit to itself that it is a college town and start representing that more.

Yep. I’m going to work in Palo Alto. People who like a clean and inviting environment once they have a job get out of dodge. I think if Berkeley cleaned up a bit (it doesn’t have to lose it’s quirky character, just take a shower and maybe put on a clean t-shirt) you would retain a lot more taxpayers.

It is better than Telegraph, though less exciting.

No matter what time of day it is I always feel unsafe walking around the downtown area. There are always people loitering; they stand and sit in front of the doors and windows of stores and on street corners-anywhere they can. No one wants to say anything to them because they are scary, mentally unstable, gang members, sex offenders.

Downtown Berkeley is a hella lot nicer atmosphere-wise than South side. Way less ghetto, and more public transport leaves from there. I could do with out some things but compared to Telegraph, this is the better place.

There is a really good variety of resturants which is lovely, but everything in berkeley closes so early. I would love to see some more late night places like AuColet Cafe that provide internet and food late at night.

More nightlife and more late night food!

Downtown isn’t as grungy as Telegraph Ave, but it just feels too big (Shattuck is so wide and busy) and it just doesn’t feel as inviting as other shopping districts. The closest area that I like to go that is like it is Gourmet Ghetto…say from Virginia through Rose on Shattuck. That is much nicer. There are less people sitting on the street/panhandling. I really like the shops/cafes/restaurants there…Gorilla Cafe, Cheeseboard, the fancy foodcourt with the garden in the back by the Chinese tea shop, Chez Panisse, Cesars…these are Berkeley gems. The block right around the Downtown BART station, particularly on the west side of the street often feels sort of intimidating with all the people hanging out there, often panhandling you. I feel like I’m running the gauntlet in that block sometimes. I love that the library is there…that’s the thing that brings me downtown most often as well as my bank and 2 or 3 restaurants. What is moving in the right direction is the block that goes from Shattuck on Center St. up toward campus. That’s nice with all the potted plants and the outside tables at restaurants. The updated area with the theater and Freight and Salvage is nice too. I think finding ways to make side streets calmer, slower, greener, prettier, more inviting would be really useful for Downtown. I heard they were talking about daylighting the creek through the Center St area. I think that would be a lovely idea.

Downtown needs more nightlife / late night options. I prefer go to SF on weekend nights because there is so much more to do. Also, I don’t feel completely safe at night.

Bike lanes on major streets like shattuck, telegraph, MLK, etc, would help to encourage more sustainable modes of transportation and also attract way more people to the nearby shops and restaurants than are served by the few parking spaces.

There’s nothing i can get in downtown berkeley that i cant get in oakland, emeryville or sf, all of which i’d rather spend time in. downtown berkeley is soulless. sorry.

Lack of parking and buses that actually run on time are the biggest drawbacks to shopping downtown for me.

Downtown Berkeley is scummy at night. The area near the downtown BART area should be turned into something useful. A garden? Or even better: to install heavy duty spin bicycles that generate power for the lights in the area by cycling and a ruling that states you can only hang out there if you pedal and help give to the community!

Downtown is much better than Telegraph.

In general, all parts of Berkeley seem to lack inviting places to sit outdoors. Often in downtown Berkeley, I’ll buy an ice cream or a coffee and want to sit in the sun, but I end up just leaning on a bike rack since I get bothered every time I sit in the main area near the BART entrances.

The area is over run by people who don’t seemingly add much value, and instead treat public spaces like it is their personal dumping ground. The downtown area is simply an embarrassment. “Liberal” doesn’t have to mean dirty, unsafe and disrespectful for the public good.

It certainly isn’t the panhandlers and the homeless people who keep me away from Downtown Berkeley, and I would be very upset if the results of this survey asking for an improved Telegraph Avenue were used for Giuliani style persecution of street people. All of these things listed in the survey would be nice, but I do go to places in Downtown Berkeley quite often, I bike a lot, and rarely use my car

Are you guys trying to kick out the homeless?

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  • enc

    “Did that stupid Golden Bear building near University and Milvia ever fill up?”

    That “stupid” building is fully utilized. Several University departments have offices there, and many students take classes through UC Berkeley Extension. There are also many other businesses with offices in the building. There is already parking offered, both behind the building and below it.

  • mes

    ZSN, make that “As a female…”  I’m a Berkeley native, and recall being groped to the point of soreness (resulting in my developing skills in punching, throwing objects and kicking) whenever going to Telegraph as a teen in the ’60s.  That was a far more vicious, misogynistic time, with sharp increases in rape, etc. 

    I loathed Telegraph then, and still go out of my way to avoid it now, in spite of it having business I like tremendously (Cafe Intermezzo, Amoeba).  I think the actual crime rate is lower now, but it’s still unacceptable around campus.  So much happens, though, when cityscape design works well, there’s good lighting and visibility, sufficient night time traffic to feel safe (means night time businesses), space is well-maintained, and it’s clean.  And for both Telegraph and Downtown the filth definitely contributes to uncivil behavior.  Fact is, the density of use means steam cleaning daily (or nightly) is probably what it will take to maintain the space.  This would require funding from landlords and local business associations; the city can’t come up with those services.Commercial landlords are responsible for LOTS of the problems with appropriate business mixes, store size and site challenges, unwillingness to make improvements in collaboration with neighboring properties (like coordinated lighting or security systems or trash collection reorganization — I HATE evading over foul-smelling business trash bins blocking the sidewalks, and would like to see some creative solutions to that particular issue).By the way, a number of Telegraph restaurants do NOT convince me that they maintain clean kitchens, and I won’t eat in those places (7 food poisonings so far, and highly motivated to avoid more).

  • Jvigoreaux

    What Berkeley needs in a Super WalMart. Walmart has over 130,000.00 items including groceries. It is cheap for college kids and comes with security to keep all the homeless and degenerates out. The nearest real grocery store is like half a mile from campus, which means you have to carry groceries half a mile back if you don’t have a car. Target is more expensive. Screw the other businesses if they can’t compete with Walmart, it will bring better business that can.

  • Diane B

    The street people are more than an irritation, they are a public health hazard–both to themselves and to others.  These are not people who are ‘homeless’–they are drug-addicted and  mentally ill.  Their damaged judgment leads them to become a health risk to themselves and others.  It’s neither compassionate nor civilized to cast this as a civil liberties issue.   As our students; we invite the best and brightest from all over the planet to come to us and we give them a damaged and pathetic neighborhood as their home.  Can’t we do better for everyone?

  • Helsha

    No, it’s not a red herring.
    You know what ISN’T on Fourth Street? Aggressive street folk.
    You know where other upscale stores are? Bay Street in Emeryville. You know what’s also NOT on Bay Street? Aggressive street folk.

    I’ll grant you traffic matters. (Fourth street has convenient parking lots in the middle of the district and plenty of non-metered parking all around, see also Bay Street.) But no matter how convenient a district is, if people feel harassed they won’t go there. If convenience to the highway was the only determining factor then University & San Pablo would be a yuppy mecca; so would Gilman Ave.

    Places like Elmwood, Westbrae, Gourmet Ghetto, & Solano Ave are NOT convenient but do fine because they’re clean and appealing.

    This topic is complex with many factors. But don’t pretend that street harassment isn’t a HUGE issue. I feel less safe and have been harassed more wandering the streets of Berkeley alone than in Manhattan. That’s a problem.

    Women (traditionally the bigger shoppers.) do NOT like to be leered at, called at, intimidated by, cursed at or approached in a threatening manner by strange men let alone GROUPS of strange men. If they experience that treatment consistently in a particular area they will take their money elsewhere. Because, let’s be clear, street harassment is largely a quality of life issue for WOMEN. More specifically, women who are by themselves.
    I do not like the fact that the only way I can avoid being harassed on the way to my bank, or to get ice cream, or a cup of coffee, or do ANYTHING in Berkeley, is to have my boyfriend with me. I go out of my way to Target or the Solano Ave Safeway to avoid walking the gauntlet of jackasses on the street. Clearly, based upon the survey results, I’m not alone.

  • 234234

    Back in the day, Telegraph was fun/vibrant. As kids, we spent many quarters playing video games at Silverball always followed by a slice of Blondies. When we were a bit older, Kips, Blakes, Henrys, Bison, La Vals for Games, good times, etc. Then things went downhill in the early 90’s. Anyone remember when the City of Berkeley did street sweeping on Friday/Sat Nights from 7-12pm and towed every car on Bancroft?

    Downtown Berkeley and Telegraph, located in one of the wealthiest places in the United States, should be performing much better in terms of providing business services to residents and visitors and bringing the city tax revenue. Unfortunately, Berkeleys salvation complex and lack of ability to really deal with controversial issues, like homeless people harassing visitors or people mugging students, has and will lead to the continued decline of Telegraph and the continued rise of Emeryville……it won’t change until Berkeley changes, but in its old age, Berkeley, once a leader in change, is now very uncomfortable with change….

  • tahoebelle

    I first arrived in Berkeley in the late 1960s. Telegraph was just beginning to change into the disturbing mess it is today, but it took about 20 years. Look at some old photographs of Telegraph from 60 years ago. It was really nice, the stores were great, it never seemed dangerous. I don’t expect anything much to change: our city government is gutless, and the university, which won’t deal with People’s Park, is similarly afflicted.  

  • Fourthgirl

    I am a lifelong Oaklander who in her teens and early twenties ( think 80’s) frequented Berkeley & Telegraph Ave.  Fast forward a generation and my now adult sons are faced with the SAME EXACT PROBLEMS.  I gave up on Telegraphy Ave when I was verbally assaulted and theatened by a panhandler and I had my then 6 year old son with me.  I had to “get Oakland” on him to protect my son and myself.  This just outside of Blondie’s.  It has helped that Berkeley City Council voted down AC Transit’s proposed BRT line.

    Having worked for Cal the last 13 years, I will say this.  The street vendors need to go elsewhere and allow the permanent businsses to thrive. Crackdown on the aggressive panhandling and return the foot patrol of Berkeley PD.  This also goes for another area that is sliding into decay, Constitution Square-Berkeley BART.

  • Anonymous

    Why Telegraph “Rests in Piss” 

    The Ave. thrived when serving the needs of the University community. Hardly surprising given its location. Now it’s a place they avoid. 

    Only our savvy local politicians could see the silver lining as the street morphed into to an open sewer: It pushed the University back, almost to it’s front door.

    The millions in tax revenue lost, the businesses sacrificed, it was well spent if it reduced UC’s sphere of influence while expanding theirs.

  • Here’s an interesting opinion piece in the Berkeley Daily Planet from 2007 in which a Berkeley resident argues in favor of new rules regulating behavior in the Telegraph area, and that Telegraph really is dangerous.

  • SZunderwood

    Fascinating.  Lord and Love almost seem like a dr. jekyll & mr. hyde on this Telegraph question…  But then again, Bruce Love is a recently arrived entrepreneur in West Berkeley looking for some venture capital funds for his high tech start up and Thomas Lord is a slightly more bedraggled 20 year vet of the Berkeley street scene…  It’s almost a Prince and the Pauper story in the making…

  • Sjohn

    Hey, I too have been here for over 30 years, my Dad was born here and I’ve watched the decline of clean shopping and outdoor areas that are welcoming to the community and visitors. Homeless folks, pan handlers, dirt and crime are just an accepted fact of local life. The downtown area planning process went on for years and years and years and we’ve revisited Telegraph Avenue how many times? to what result? Moe’s and  Amoeba’s have been begging for help from the City. The Berkeley City Council, and the city in general panders to change but has no real intertest in really making changes. They are all “afraid” of all the critics who show up at council meetings while the rest of us sain folks with kids, jobs and families stay at home. This Cal student survey just proves my point. I don’t understand the lack of practical thinking here with all the Phd’s running around. Oh, I forgot……… it’s Berkeley.

  • In another piece for your “There She Goes Again!” file, Becky O’Malley has published yet another editorial attacking local businesses and defending the status quo. Even going so far as to encourage illegal activity in her opening paragraph.

  • I particularly liked this gem “ Berkeley businesses have got to stop blaming the victims of the economic collapse for their own problems.” where O’Malley suggest that the bums and gutter punks on Telegraph are “victims of the economic collapse” despite the fact that most of these societal drop-outs were a such a problem on Telegraph before the economy collapsed that she was writing the same kinds of editorials back then.

  • Anonymous

    My daughter is a junior at Berkeley High School.  She and her friends despise shopping or going to Telegraph because it is seedy and for them an unpleasant experience.  They tend to prefer College or Solano.  The only time they tend to go is to buy readily accessible drug paraphanalia or tobacco for the hookah.  This is despite the fact they are all minors.  I doubt any of them would patronize Telegraph if any of them end up attending Cal.  Telegraph has already lost this group of kids.  Looks like the city better get its act together if they want to appeal to future generations.

  • Szunderwood

    BTW, for your Berkeley Hypocrisy File, I noticed that a certain conspicuous local multi-millionaire who both advocates broad tax increases on the general public and on the “rich” but legally evades paying her own fair share in order not to prop up a “war economy”, is NOT among the charter members or signatories of this “Patriotic Millionaires” group which advocates for higher taxes on the wealthy.   The signatories list includes at least two Berkeley residents:

    We are writing to urge you to put our country ahead of politics.
    For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you increase taxes on incomes over $1,000,000.
    We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned an income of $1,000,000 per year or more.
    Our country faces a choice – we can pay our debts and build for the future, or we can shirk our financial responsibilities and cripple our nation’s potential.
    Our country has been good to us. It provided a foundation through which we could succeed. Now, we want to do our part to keep that foundation strong so that others can succeed as we have.
    Please do the right thing for our country. Raise our taxes.
    Thank you,
    David A. Brown Berkeley, CA 
    JERRY FIDDLERBerkeley, CA 

  • Anonymous

    I should also comment that my high school daugther and her friends will visit some of the stores and eateries on Bancroft, but have no interest on walking just one block to Telegraph.

  • Anonymous

    There are other groups whose opposition to a sit/lie ordinance is less philosophically motivated than simply screwing the University: Our vibrant local homeless industry.  A a sit/lie ordinance would put millions of dollars in salaries and benefits at risk. 

    Highly visible, offensive street behavior is their ultimate public relations asset. A short walk down urine soaked Telegraph (or around the Bart station, etc.) while being shaken down for change delivers a powerful pitch: “You, yeah You, staring and and holding your nose… You need to devote more resources to this problem.”

    Also, how better to recruit new disaffected youth than to show them the impunity they’ll enjoy as part of the group.

  • Ann Coulter

    berkely  is  a  rather  seedy  town  and  the  crime  rate  is  off the  hook …..lots  of  old  hippies, street  bums, bug  eyed  asian college  students, and  the long thin  line  of  despondent, angry,  over  the hill liberals 

  • Ann Coulter

    berkeley = oakland  pretty  much  same  same 

  • Ann Coulter

    better  stores  less  crime  less  street  people……its  easy  move  out  of berkeley 

  • Eric Westby

    @The Sharkey, I realize I’m two weeks late to this party, but if you’re going to engage in rather vicious personal attacks, you should have the courage to use your real name, as the subject of your attacks as done. Otherwise you’re just a whining coward.

    Not taking sides here, just pointing out a glaring imbalance in the debate from the perspective of a neutral third party.

    Eric Westby
    Berkeley resident

  • Actually, Eric, Mrs. O’Malley was posting under the name “Fact Based” for quite a while before she got called out for bashing people who use pseudonyms online while using one herself.

    The More You Know.

  • My husband is a grad student at Cal, so I am in that area often with our two year old daughter. I wouldn’t want to walk down there alone at night, but that’s true a lot of places.
    As far as during the day, I do not feel unsafe in the least.
    I am hardly ever approached by anyone asking for money and if I am and say “I’m sorry” to their request or money, that’s the end of it. The same goes for Shattuck near the BART station, an area we frequent even more regularly.
    I’m not always comfortable being in an area with so many people living on the streets and asking for money but I honestly look at that as my problem. I certainly don’t feel unsafe.

  • Les

    I used to go to Cody’s all the time in the early 90’s to buy books. It was a awesome bookstore! Afterwards grabbing a burger at Kips or something more exotic like the Blue Nile. I hated the gauntlet of street people hitting me up for money constantly. If I was dressed up in work clothes it was even worse. Eventually I would only go there if I was in grungy clothes. Finally I decided it was no longer worth the hassle ended up driving to Walnut Creek and started giving my money to Barnes and Noble along with all the local restaurants around there. No hassles.. free parking… could dress any way I wanted. I’m generally pretty liberal but I think Berkeley’s approach to the homeless is a total failure that eventually will lead to the area sinking into further abyss.

  • I’m in the planning stages of opening a store in the East Bay – I have 17 years of experience selling on Telegraph Ave (street vendor) – you could offer me half price rent and I wouldn’t consider opening my store there – the rents are exorbitant and the 20,000 “foot-falls” are BS as they are students heading to and from class.
    As for parking – if there is no where for me or my staff to park, then where are the customers supposed to park?
    I watched the “hey buddy can you spare dime” AKA ‘professional beggar”  cause at least a fight a week end up there – i don’t know if the police ever dealt with him because after four years of his crap i said – enough and took my business elsewhere.

  • Kia

    I know the kids in the photo personally. The dog’s name is Cassie. She’s a sweetheart. The street kids never let puppies go abandoned in their community; it’s one thing I really admire about them. If there’s an abandoned dog or a litter of puppies, people will take them in and raise them up to be good dogs instead of leaving them to die or wander the streets as aggressive strays. I hate when yuppies in Berkeley complain about the pit bulls, because it’s just ignorance and fear speaking. 

  • Kia

    Those people unfortunate enough to have to sleep on the streets do get woken up by the cops around 6 am if they don’t wake themselves up and GTFO in time. Honestly although the homebums are less than desirable, they’re part, result and victims of the capitalist system that we have ALL chosen to participate in. Throw them a freakin’ bone. They don’t even have a safe place to sleep at night.

  • Kia

    My perspective on some things you brought up: With the exception perhaps of the scummy gutter punks, I can say with 100% certainty that the clusters of streets kids are NOT meant to intimidate. In fact, to me it seems silly to be intimidated by most of them. A lot are honestly neo-hippies. The ones I hung out with were strongly interested in establishing a discourse with passersby — we put out books and jewelry for sale or trade and complemented shoppers and UC kids on their wardrobe choices, playing music when we could and trying to make for a positive atmosphere. That’s why we were on the sidewalk to begin with. What’s the fun in being negative? If they don’t want to interact with the non-homeless denizens of Berkeley, they would all be in People’s Park.

    Why do they all have dogs? Because no dogs go abandoned in the street community. If there’s an abandoned pit bull (often yuppies dump them on the streets) then people will take it in and raise it. Same with any puppies.

    As for cigs, I estimate about 90% of them are bummed from passersby. The homeless chain smokers will buy packs sometimes, which I don’t agree with, and share them. Money should be spent on food or saved for something productive. But it’s their life and their health, so it’s not my place to say. Keep in mind that is also a very powerful addiction and it’s easier to bum cigs than pay out the nose for nicotine patches and try to quit in a culture where almost EVERYONE smokes all the time.

  • Kia

    Your post disgusts me. It demonstrates an intolerance, inhumane lack of compassion for the disadvantaged and ignorance about the issue of homelessness. I’m not talking about the street kids, most of whom could physically get a job and become another cheerless cashier at Walmart, but rather the actual “home-bums” who can’t get off the street. Take a look at this info:
    “Serious mental illnesses disrupt people’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life, such as self care and household management. Mental illnesses may also prevent people from forming and maintainingstable relationships or cause people to misinterpret others’ guidance and react irrationally. Mental illness was the third largest cause of homelessness for single adults.” (National Coalition for the Homeless).
    Drug addicts and the mentally ill need help, not derision. I’m not saying them 5 dollars to go buy crack, I’m saying medical services. You know, compassion and civilization, like you said.

    From the outside, Telegraph might look like a damaged and pathetic neighborhood, but from the inside it also harbors secret communities of really beautiful people, intelligent people, generous people. A lot of the people who have nothing on the street have nothing because they gave everything away. I met a biologist who was working on a possibly revolutionary theory of genetics, and countless college graduated on the street. It changed my perspective radically. I genuinely encourage you to engage in conversation with those on Tele who are not obviously addicted or mentally ill, because you’ll discover a whole new side to your neighborhood.

  • Bring_Back_The_Lion_Pit

    As a licensed street vendor of 35 years on Telly, I
    must say that

    if it was not for the Street Vendors, there would
    be a drug-dealer

    on every corner. . . that’s right.  We are the
    “front-line” to all the

    problems that pop-up on Telly.  If we Vendors see
    an “issue”

    coming down, we “drop-a-dime” . (that’s
    ‘old-school’ for calling the Law)

    We have a good rapport with UC & Berkeley
    Police and Mental Health.

    If the Cal graduate and undergraduate students
    would support the Street

    Artist and Fixed businesses, the atmosphere and
    safety factor would improve.

    If students think it’s a problem
    “running-the-gauntlet” of “sidewalk-sitters” , try

    being a Street Artist on Telly. The drunks,
    mentally ill, and aggressive

    panhandlers run off all our customers. When we
    first get to our assigned

    vending space for the day, we must first kick-out
    the ‘passed-out-drunk’

    in our space, or clean up dog poop from out
    location! – – – Come hangout

    with a street vendor for a day and see if it’s a
    vocation you would like to pursue. (?)

  • Bring_Back_The_Lion_Pit

    As a licensed street vendor of 35 years on Telly, I
    must say thatif it was not for the Street Vendors, there would
    be a drug-dealer on every corner. . . that’s right.  We are the
    “front-line” to all theproblems that pop-up on Telly.  If we Vendors see
    an “issue” coming down, we “drop-a-dime” . (that’s
    ‘old-school’ for calling the Law)

    We have a good rapport with UC & Berkeley
    Police and Mental Health. If the Cal graduate and undergraduate students
    would support the Street Artist and Fixed businesses, the atmosphere and
    safety factor would improve.

    If students think it’s a problem
    “running-the-gauntlet” of “sidewalk-sitters” , try being a Street Artist on Telly. The drunks,
    mentally ill, and aggressive panhandlers run off all our customers. When we
    first get to our assigned vending space for the day, we must first kick-out
    the ‘passed-out-drunk’ in our space, or clean up dog poop from our
    location ! – – – Come hang out with a street vendor for a day and see if it’s a
    vocation you would like to pursue. (?)

  • Cal Student

    This survey is 100% obvious…Berkeley’s history and spirit of compassion and activism should not be an impediment to a useable, safe and sanitary downtown.

  • Nick

    What Telegraph does not need is more shopping. It’s my opinion that a major reason for Telegraph’s decline is exemplified in the block between Durant and Bancroft: mostly chain retail stores (Hot Topic, Volcom, American Apparel, Adidas) that do not contribute anything to our dying sense of community. I grew up in Walnut Creek before moving to Berkeley, and I can say that rich teenagers from Contra Costa come over to Telegraph to shop, then leave immediately and don’t return for another couple of months or year, when they’ve grown out of their Am Ap hoodies. Sure, more retail might bring some money to the city, but what does it really contribute to the city’s social environment? And it never appears to me that these stores are doing all that wall anyway, there’s hardly anyone in them.

    I think Telegraph needs new businesses in the form of cafes and bars. There’s clearly demand–Milano and Cafe Med are constantly brimming with people, as was Raleigh’s before its unfortunate immolation. In addition, establishments that stay open late (unlike the retail stores that close by 8 PM) insure that students and other people are walking around the area at night, preventing it from being dominated by street people and other relatively sketchy characters after dark, a time when too many students are reluctant to frequent the blocks between Bancroft and Dwight.

  • Guest

    Wow. Does anyone even remember how interesting, fun, and diverse the main streets of Berkeley USED TO BE?  I lived there 1969-74 at the height of the hippie era. On Shattuck there were nice shops, Hink’s Dept store,  movie theaters, places to eat, and people of all ages shopping. Over on Telegraph hippiedom definitely held sway but it was vibrant and a fun to shop on a Saturday afternoon. I especially loved the clothing store “Handmade”. And the bookstores.  Other wonderful Berkeley shops included Poppy Fabric and Trim (which moved a few times), Lacis (still there, YAY!!!) and the iconic, original Body Shop when it sold handmade soaps and you could bring your own bottles to be re-filled with shampoo or lotions!, the shops at Walnut Hill, Solano and the Alameda shopping district etc. (Does anyone recall the short-lived  “Lady Griddlebone’s Gowns”?) And there have been some great new additions over the years (e.g.- Stone Mountain & Daughter). So all is not lost. 

    Yep, the increasing numbers of long-term street people have made Berkeley their permanent home and chased away many other groups. When I visit there now, it just all seems a bit sad.          

  • As a home free street kid living on the sidewalk, I too am disturbed by the disrespectful behavior of the poverty stricken. HOWEVER, knowledge must dropped on people, never the condemnation of just wishing they were gone. If you wish another human not to simply exist freely or deny them their free spirit then judged you shall be as you have judged. Selah.

  • fhcec

    Why can’t the city power wash Telegraph and side streets regularly – Telegraph every day, side streets alternate days. That would help with the stink and the dirt, and get people up and moving out of their encampments. Paris does it – why not Berkeley?

  • okeneffec

    This is exactly the kind of negative, aggressive reaction to opening discussion that has been squelching progress on these issues for 30 years. This kind of permissive, enabling attitude actually keeps people on the street, and teaches them to distrust rehabilitation and services. I do not see anything in Diane’s post that was derisive but this attack, saying she disgusts you – for something you projected on to her…that’s precious.

    You too claim these people need help. She said the same thing. She says they need medical services. She said we should make things better for everyone. How on earth you read something dark between those lines is a toxic mystery. She suggested the same solutions as you, but what does she get? A social media kick in the teeth. Nice.

  • bradadad

    In Fall of 2013 Chinese students made up around %23 at CAL. I welcome diversity in all parts of the World but they can leave some things behind that I don’t want to see. Here is one.
    Putting homeless behind bars to protect the shoppers. It’s a disturbing trend that homeless are not given humanitarian considerations because they just muck things up and ruin the shopping. experience. Many students want a shopping mall-like experience and let’s face it, they have the money. Let’s let’s dumb things down a bit, hide the dirty homeless somehow, anyhow, and start catering to the rich. If we lose guidance, maybe we can look to Singapore of answers on how to shut down the citizen and allow the rich to thrive.

  • guest

    Those students are ethnically Chinese, not Chinese nationals.
    The lack of distinction between the two in your comment seems slightly racist.

  • Guest #2

    Wow, your comment is racist and oversimplifying the problem. As another person pointed out: there’s a huge difference between Chinese Americans and Chinese nationals. Also, nowhere in the survey was ethnicity mentioned; but gender was mentioned more than once, as in especially (but not exclusively) female survey respondents wanting to feel safe from the harassment of street people, which is reasonable. AND none of those people called for throwing homeless people behind bars. Berkeley does need to figure out a way to deal with its homeless problem and do it humanely. By the way, it’s not just about “shoppers” wanting to have a safe and clean environment: it’s about residents wanting a reasonable, clean, safe place to live.