Berkeley happily abandons sidewalks for Sunday Streets

Thousands walked, cycled, and played on a mile-long stretch of Shattuck that was closed to traffic for five hours on Sunday. Photo: Tracey Taylor

An estimated 30,000-40,000 people headed to Shattuck Avenue on Sunday for Berkeley’s first Sunday Streets event which saw 17 blocks, from Haste to Rose, closed to traffic and open to pretty much everything else: from scooters, to strollers, from bikes with triangular wheels to roller blades, as well as people playing music, doing yoga, whipping hula hoops, eating, laughing, running and playing.

“It was a wild success,” said John Caner, Executive Director of the Downtown Berkeley Association, who added that he was particularly pleased to see the local merchants doing such great business. “We are absolutely thrilled that it brought so many people downtown. It was zany, creative and a cascade of fun and cultural entertainment for everyone.”

Caner was pleased to see how Shattuck Avenue’s width, originally designed to accommodate trolley cars, was so accommodating to the great numbers of people who stepped off the sidewalks. “It absorbed all those people and could comfortably absorb double that number,” he said.

Adults and children are mesmerized by a performance by MCEucalips at Sunday Streets. Photo: Nancy Rubin

The event, brought to fruition with the work of Livable BerkeleyEast Bay Bicycle Coalition, the Downtown Berkeley Association, the Ecology Center, and the North Shattuck Association, was closely modeled on the Open Streets concept which came to San Francisco five years ago. “We took their time-tested policies and guidelines and used them which was one reason it was so successful,” said Emunah Hauser who was one of Sunday Streets’ key organizers.


According to Caner, the event cost $50,000 to put on, with a significant part of the budget allocated to paying the city for permit, police presence, and traffic management. San Francisco waives the fees for its Sunday Streets events.

Many of those who participated said they hoped it would be the first of many such events. “We heard from people who said they would like to see it happen every month,” Hauser said.

Update, 3:50pm: We asked the Sunday Street organizers for clarification on the cost and resources involved in putting on the event. Here is what they said:

The event cost over $50,000 to produce plus many volunteer hours dedicated to the project. Funding was raised through donations and sponsorships, both cash and in-kind. Sunday Streets Berkeley is submitting an agenda item to the City Council for a consideration to waive fees for permit, police presence, and traffic management, to ensure producing Sunday Streets Berkeley again is financially viable. San Francisco Sunday Streets’ annual costs for ten events per year is approximately $500,000, not including city fees, and also depends on lots of volunteers contributing. San Francisco waives the fees for its Sunday Streets events, as do most cities across the country with ongoing, successful Open Streets events produced by 501(c)3 organizations. Sunday Streets San Francisco is nationally recognized as a resounding success, and their organizational structure is an ideal model for other cities by the non-profit advocacy group Open Streets Project.

Shattuck Avenue easily accommodated the estimated 30,000 people who came to Sunday Streets. Photo: Pete Rosos
Kids played with fall leaves on the street
A dancer performs next to Missing Link Bicycle Coop. Several bike shops were offering free repairs. Photo: Pete Rosos
Musicians representing a wide variety of genres were culled from all over the East Bay. Photo: Pete Rosos
A child does nature sculptures at artist Zach Pine’s stand. Photo: Nancy Rubin
Yoga was one of many activities, both creative and physical, offered on Sunday Streets. Photo: Bill Newton

Watch a video by Alex Merenkov of some impressive improvised break dancing, as well as his gallery of photos taken at the event. And check out Berkeleyside’s Flickr pool for dozens of photographs taken on the day by our readers.


Related:
Shattuck Avenue goes car-free for 17 blocks on Sunday [10.11.12]
Can car-free Sunday Streets come to Berkeley? [05.11.12]

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, check out Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.