The city of Berkeley is hoping to dramatically rethink many elements of South Berkeley, thanks to a $750,000 planning grant it received from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in May.
South Shattuck Avenue and nearly 1 mile of Adeline Street in South Berkeley might see more affordable housing, pedestrian- and bike-friendly neighborhoods, more park areas, a new theater, mass transit improvements, and more.
Those are just some of the ideas that have been proposed so far. Before any plan is adopted, officials will hold community meetings and do other outreach to gather ideas from residents, businesses and local groups and institutions. The grant will also permit Berkeley to do an environmental study, the city said earlier this year. (That study would “allow streamlined CEQA review for future projects on Adeline and south Shattuck Avenue,” according to project materials.)
There is a meeting scheduled with the city, Tuesday, Aug. 19, at 1:30 p.m. for planning and environmental consulting groups who have questions about how to file bids. It will take place on the second floor of the Berkeley Permit Services Center, 2120 Milvia St. Final proposals are due Sept. 9 at 2 p.m. The most qualified teams will be interviewed in September and the city intends to seek Berkeley City Council approval of the project team in November.
The area covered by the grant includes the Lorin District commercial area; the Berkeley Bowl, Walgreens and Any Mountain shopping area; the Ed Roberts Campus and parking lot; the Ashby BART station and parking lot; and the intersections of Ashby and Alcatraz avenues with Adeline.
The South Shattuck area is also involved, including “the auto dealership cluster, an approved 155-unit mixed-use development project, and an approved Sports Basement store to locate in the former Berkeley Iceland skating rink,” according to a document released last week.
That translates into 100 acres in Berkeley, from Dwight Way south to 62nd Street, according to the city.
Mayor Tom Bates, who spearheaded the effort to seek the grant and is working with Councilman Max Anderson on it, said he’s already heard from “a lot of people” who are interested in overseeing the planning process.
Bates said a range of creative ideas have been floated about possible changes in the area, from expanding the island on Adeline to create a park; to closing one side of Adeline to traffic to narrow the stretch pedestrians have to cross; to building a community center and housing above a parking podium on the Ashby BART lot, with open space remaining for the flea market and other events.
He said the Shotgun Players, who operate now out of Ashby Stage, at 1901 Ashby, are also investigating the possibility of a new venue at Ashby BART.
“There are all kinds of ideas,” Bates said Monday, adding that all of these concepts are hypothetical at this point. “We’re going to do this with the neighbors, and work with the community to make sure that, to the extent possible, they want this to happen.”
Also listed among project priorities are “local jobs, improved safety, historic preservation, cohesive streetscape design, public art and assessing the role that the Ashby BART parking lot could play in achieving community goals while maintaining the Ashby BART flea market.”
Ways to improve connectivity between South Berkley and Ashby BART, downtown Berkeley and the East Bay corridor will be considered as well.
Housing and increasing density in that part of the city will be another area of focus.
According to project materials, the city’s housing element has identified 13 “opportunity sites” with the “potential for over 700 units” in the area to be studied. (See a map of those sites, which was provided by the city of Berkeley after publication of this story.)
Separately, more than 400 new housing units have already been approved by the city but have not yet been built. Most of those are in or near the south Shattuck Area: at Parker Place (2600 Shattuck, 155 units); 2701 Shattuck, 24 units; 2711 Shattuck, a residential hotel planned by Patrick Kennedy to include 22 units; 2107 Dwight Way (99 units); and 2201 Dwight (77 units). There’s also a 42-unit project at 3132 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, called Harper Crossings, that’s set to include 100% below-market-rate housing for seniors.
Other than Harper Crossings, the number of projected “affordable units” was not readily available as of publication time. According to the grant application, however, most of the other projects have affordable housing planned on site or would pay into the city’s affordable housing fund. In July, Parker Place reps said they plan to include about 30 affordable units on site, which translates into 20% of the total project, rather than the 10% the city requires.
(An update on the Parker Place project, which was unanimously re-approved by the zoning board with a variety of changes and a new owner, is forthcoming on Berkeleyside. See highlights and images from that meeting here.)
The new planning process “will allow the community to discuss where projected growth may occur, what shape it will take, and how the [areas] could accommodate more households.” Further, it will “facilitate interest in new development by illustrating a commitment to new growth and a complete community,” according to project materials.
Via the original grant narrative: “The area has been [a] transit-oriented neighborhood for over 130 years. In 1973, the Ashby BART Station was built. While an important asset, the BART station creates physical discontinuity on Adeline, which combined with the street width and traffic volume, separates the Adeline-Alcatraz commercial district from the regional shopping area to the north. The neighborhood also has a disproportionatly [sic] low income and minority population relative to the city as whole, and has been designated as a Community of Concern by MTC.”
The city’s Office of Economic Development has been working with merchants and property owners in the neighborhood for the past five years on revitalization efforts, to “rebrand” the shopping district and improve the area’s infrastructure and “sense of place,” according to the city.
The total project is expected to cost $908,000, with $800,000 coming from the grant and $108,000 as a local match, according to a report from the mayor’s office in June. Of that local match, the city expects to spend $90,000 on staff costs. Another $18,000 from the city is slated to be covered by permit fees.
The city has asked for proposals that include a significant public process, a market demand analysis for all types of housing, a housing strategy, a parking analysis and more.
The project must be complete within 30 months of its final approval by the MTC, according to the city, which is scheduled for November.
More documents related to the Adeline Street corridor project are located on the city of Berkeley website. Berkeleyside will continue to follow this project as it develops.
The city of Berkeley did a study of the Adeline corridor in 2005. A local resident has compiled a website with news articles and documents addressing changes in that area.
An error introduced during the editing process was corrected after publication to better define the nature of Tuesday’s meeting, which was held to answer questions on how to file bids.
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