Council supports Sunday Streets, looks to find funds

Sunday Streets Photo- Alan Tobey

Berkeley’s first Sunday Streets, which was held on Oct. 14, was deemed a big success. Photo: Alan Tobey

Last October, Berkeley held a Sunday Streets event for the first time, and an estimated 40,000 people flocked to Shattuck Avenue to stroll, bike and skate the length of 17 blocks enjoying the car-free environment, al fresco eating, music, yoga and chess playing. By most accounts, the event was a success, but to make it happen again this year and going forward, the organizers are asking officials to stump up the funds to cover city costs.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, officials expressed their support for the event, but were hesitant, given Berkeley’s tight budget, to commit to the full amount needed to cover city costs for a 2013 repeat performance, as well as funds for future years. They also said they were uncomfortable making financial decisions separate from the context of the rest of Berkeley’s events.

In the item set before the council, Councilman Laurie Capitelli asked his fellow officials to make a cash grant of $7,500 to Livable Berkeley, the event’s main organizer. He also requested that the council commit to $22,100 of in-kind support toward the October event.

The lion’s share of Sunday Streets funding to cover city costs remains to be decided as part of the next city budget vote in June, although several council members have pledged initial financial support toward the next festival through their discretionary funds. (They’ll determine the exact amounts at the Feb. 19 council meeting.)

The council agreed to discuss an annual appropriation of $59,098, to cover two events, for 2013-14. That would include $44,224 for in-kind services and permit fees, along with a $15,000 cash grant for city-required signage, materials and related labor.

This year, 2012-13, the city’s total adopted budget for events is $57,4440 in cash for 16 events and one miscellaneous line item (see chart, below); the city also has $35,550 allocated for in-kind expenses such as overtime, portable toilets and insurance, according to the city’s budget book. (City Manager Christine Daniel said Tuesday night that in-kind expenses are actually higher than what has been budgeted, but she did not have the exact figure. July Fourth celebration costs do not appear below because they come from another city fund.)

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Livable Berkeley would be responsible each year for providing $124,000 for Sunday Streets, in part from private sponsorships, “to produce and publicize two events and manage the program.” (That breaks down as $100,000 in cash and $24,000 in kind.)

One of the event’s lead organizers, Emunah Hauser, acknowledged that the amount of money requested from the city to put on Sunday Streets is “a lot more than other events need.” But, she said, the amount is based on the event’s model, which was created and refined in other cities. Hauser also noted that the cash request would go entirely toward paying for things like signage and barricades, which are required by the city but not provided by them.

“We still have to raise money to pay ourselves. That money just goes toward stuff the city doesn’t have available,” she said.

Council members who attended the event said it provided an experience like no other. Those who were unable to attend said they received emails and other communications from constituents who, by and large, considered the event a huge success.

Capitelli said: “We need to have some celebrations as a community. In my almost 50 years in Berkeley, I have never been to an event like Sunday Streets last fall. And I’ve been to a lot of events.”

Councilman Gordon Wozniak said he had never received as much positive feedback about an event as he did after the first Sunday Streets festival. He added that the math works out to about 50 cents per resident to cover the city costs for Sunday Streets.

“We have to invest in Berkeley,” he said. “This fits in our Climate Action Plan. It’s a feel-good event. It does the right thing. It makes the streets available to pedestrians. You get to take back the streets.”

Meanwhile, Livable Berkeley has collected nearly 950 signatures on a petition to support Sunday Streets that will remain active until the future of the event is certain.

Berkeley happily abandons sidewalks for Sunday Streets [10.15.12]
Shattuck Avenue goes car-free for 17 blocks on Sunday [10.11.12]
Can car-free “Sunday Streets” come to Berkeley? [05.11.12]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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  • Anon

    “pay ourselves”…

    People are collecting “consulting” or hourly wages from this gig. they should work for 0 dollars if they’re so passionate

    otherwise, i can do without Sunday Stroll

  • David D.

    Sunday Streets was the single most enjoyable city event I’ve attended since How Berkeley Can You Be? was discontinued. Even if HBCYB? were still on, I would note that I found Sunday Streets that much more enjoyable. If San Francisco can manage to host a similar event several times per year, I have every expectation as a Berkeley resident and taxpayer that we can host it once per year. So, see you in October! :)

  • Charles_Siegel

    Notice that they said that no city money will be used to “pay ourselves.” They are going to raise that money privately:

    Hauser also noted that the cash request would go entirely toward paying for things like signage and barricades, which are required by the city but not provided by them. “We still have to raise money to pay ourselves ….” she said.

    So, people who are passionate can volunteer their time, or people who are passionate can donate money to pay for for people’s time.

  • jjohannson

    Alternative title — “When Pension Monsters Attack!”

  • Emunah Hauser


    Producing Sunday Streets Berkeley took hundreds of hours of generous volunteer
    and always will. Organizers will always do their best to leverage
    volunteer goodwill and willingness to do Pro Bono work. Even paid staff
    will always need to put in many additional hours of volunteer labor.
    There’s a lot more to Open Streets success than meets the eye.
    Fundraising, merchant and community outreach, logistics planning,
    marketing, publicity, recruitment and management of activities,
    participants and performers, recruitment, training and management of
    on-the-ground volunteers in the weeks preceding, and coordination of 80
    volunteers on the day . . . Large-scale event planning requires months
    of way-more-than-overtime, very high-stress working conditions. Fair
    labor practice and health & wellness advocates would be horrified : ) But we did
    it because we are passionate about Open Streets and want Berkeley to
    have a beautiful, remarkable, SUCCESSFUL Open Streets program.

    Should people only earn a living for professions for which they have no
    passion? Should all mission-driven work go uncompensated? That sounds
    like a world of deep inequality, where only the extremely independently
    wealthy are permitted to serve the community and better the world.

    It takes an incredible amount of labor to achieve the level of
    community engagement we saw on October 14, 2012. We did everything we
    could to ensure the first Sunday Streets Berkeley was something this City could be proud of and made
    many sacrifices in our personal and professional lives. We creatively
    squeezed every bit of time, effort, and know-how out of a shoestring
    budget and non-profit coalition, and a very resourceful, scrappy, and
    very Berkeley network of people. But it was worth it. We want Sunday
    Streets Berkeley to be among the very best of Open Streets Projects of
    the 70 progressive cities in North America that have them. Our city
    should be represented with our best, and with pride. We want to ensure
    Berkeley’s Open Streets Project does justice to our amazing City and

  • The Sharkey

    Hauser also noted that the cash request would go entirely toward paying
    for things like signage and barricades, which are required by the city
    but not provided by them.

    I don’t understand this. Events like Sunday Streets are unquestionably good for the City of Berkeley as a whole, so why isn’t the City waving fees for this stuff? Is it because of Union rules or something?

  • krugman

    I don’t understand [why the event needs money to pay for “signage and barricades, which are required by the city but not provided by them.” ….] Is it because of Union rules or something?

    It’s complicated. It turns out that it takes money to provide the signage and barricades which the city requires but does not itself supply. The complex arrangement in play here, sometimes called “payment”, involves the exchange of dollars in return for goods and services. Yes, this is entirely because “Union rules or something”.

  • Tizzielish

    I also quite enjoyed our one Sunday Streets in Berkeley. My thoughts turn to the Solano Stroll, which I don’t enjoy because it is so crowded and I believe it is so crowded because much of the street space is ‘sold’ for the day to various vendors. Sunday Streets relies on the businesses already there, leaving the street wide open.

    I would like to see Berkeley emulate SF’s Sunday Streets by having a ‘Sunday Street’ on more than one street. How about San Pablo, which would be my first choice after a Shattuck Sunday Street? Or a Telegraph one? Maybe a Telegraph Sunday Street could boost the energy of Telegraph?!

    A Sunday STreet is a huge boost to the city and it is not quite right to limit that boost to Shattuck.

  • guest

    San Pablo is too much of a traffic artery to close it down like that.

  • The Sharkey

    Perhaps cities throw away old barricades and buy brand new ones every time they have an event in Middle America, but here in environmentally-conscious Berkeley, California the City actually owns and re-uses signage and barricades for multiple events and charges fees for groups to use these city-owned items! Shocking, I know! What will us hippies think up next?!?

  • galaxy_pie

    It’s unfortunate that it has to cost so much to close a few blocks. I’d like to see Sunday streets EVERY Sunday. The cars can go around. The businesses will make more money with foot traffic. The community will come together. Safely.

  • Emunah Hauser


    Yes, the City of Berkeley generally charges events for the use of barricades. The City of Berkeley does not own enough traffic signs and barricades to cover an event as extensive as Sunday Streets, so that cash amount is for covering the rental of these barricades and traffic signs, and for the labor to arrange for their rental and deliver them from other cities and suppliers.

    At Sunday Streets San Francisco, the City has enough barricades, traffic signs and Parking Enforcement Officers to cover the whole event – hence, this is all provided in-kind.

  • Open Streets Enthusiast

    If you’d like Sunday Streets Berkeley to return, please sign and share this petition. Your voice is important.

    Tell the Berkeley City Council and Mayor how important Sunday Streets Berkeley is to you, and how you’d love for Berkeley to join the Open Streets Movement.

    And remember to like Sunday Streets Berkeley on Facebook, and stay up to date on what’s happening with Sunday Streets Berkeley.

  • Huh? So people working for non-profits who are passionate about what they do should volunteer their time, and people who work at corporations doing nothing good for humanity should earn lots of money?? Makes zero sense.

  • Cammy

    I thought it was very enjoyable. Not as mobbed as the Solano Stroll, but unlike the Solano stroll you could actually stroll!

  • WalkBike

    San Francisco hosted ten events last year. Let’s make it 3-4 per year for Berkeley!

  • Bill N

    San Pablo is also a designated State Highway which would probably be a problem. Telegraph would be a great idea though.

  • Seems to me like a local “impact fee” could go a long way towards covering the costs of this event.

    Many of the benefits of Sunday Streets (and they are many — I loved the event) are for all residents of Berkeley. However, some of the financial benefits accrue solely to the shops along the route. They got a bump in revenue not through any decision of their own but through the thoughtfulness and hard work of the people who put on the event (though obviously the shops had to take advantage of it in many cases, by bringing in more staff and extending opening hours).

    The Downtown Berkeley Business Improvement District lists 138 restaurants and 75 “walk-in” businesses (according to my personal arbitrary classification) from Delaware to Dwight, though this includes some businesses up to two blocks away from Shattuck. Similarly, the North Berkeley Association represents ~45 restaurants and ~40 “walk-in” type shops. A fee that averaged $50/business — though it would presumably come directly out of the two business district funds, which assess their fees in proportion to square footage — would raise around $15,000. I imagine this would be well worth it for everyone involved.

    This article ( suggests that DBID and NBA did chip in funds — I’d love to know how much. And all of this presumes that businesses along the route actually made more money than usual during the event. I recall hearing this about individual businesses but I don’t know anything about it for the area as a whole.

  • Jennifer Quinn

    Most of us did work for 0 dollars. And many of us donated hundreds of dollars on top of that.

    We needed to hire a few key people to do the herculean tasks that this first-time event required (a HUGE thank you to Emunah!). It will get easier as this event starts running more often and people are familiar with it. Don’t forget, most other festivals are paid for by the hundreds of outside vendors that fill up the street with stalls and block storefronts. Sunday Streets allowed the existing street and businesses to shine, and gave people room to actually move and enjoy themselves safely.

    My entire family and many of my neighbors fully enjoyed the event, and appreciated the community-orientation that has been lost in many other Berkeley events. I think it’s worth 50 cents a resident to give us more opportunities to celebrate and actually get to know our neighbors.

    Thank you to the Council for pledging to provide some funding, and thank you to all who made Sunday Streets happen!