Tag Archives: Parking in Berkeley

Automated license plate readers will help parking availability but some express concern about privacy issues

A picture of the ALPR from Genetec, which is providing the devices for Berkeley
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Berkeley has launched a program to use a controversial technology that automatically reads license plates on cars to optimize and enforce parking, part of a larger effort to encourage more Berkeley residents not to drive.

The program, which began in May, aims to make the tedious and time-consuming process of conducting manual surveys of downtown parking — which takes more than two months from start to finish — more efficient, Matthai Chakko, city spokesman, told Berkeleyside. The city uses data from the surveys — how often and at what times parking spaces are occupied, for example — to adjust parking pricing and time limits based on people’s behavior.

“It’s extremely labor intensive to input every single license plate and license plate readers automate the manual data collection,” Chakko said, adding that it improved the accuracy of the assessments and allows them to be conducted more frequently. The readers also eliminate the need to manually chalk tires to enforce time limits, he said.

But some civil libertarians have expressed concern that the data collected by police can be used to track the movements of individuals and have called for tighter control of the data collected. The Police Review Commission is set to discuss the technology and its implications at a future meeting. It was going to discuss the issue Wednesday but the meeting was canceled due to lack of a quorum, according to Katherine J. Lee, who staffs the commission.

Berkeley has equipped five parking enforcement vehicles with the automated license plate readers (ALPR), which will also be used to conduct parking enforcement — such as booting or towing vehicles with more than five citations that are more than 30 days old — and search for stolen cars. … Continue reading »

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Transportation

Berkeley’s Center Street garage to close June 30

Designs are coming along for an updated Center Street garage. Image: Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects
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Berkeley’s Center Street garage is set to close at the end of the month to make way for a modern, new garage with hundreds more parking spots.

The 70-year-old garage, which has entrances on Center and Addison streets, will close June 30, the city said Wednesday. The new structure will include 720 parking spaces, compared to the current 420.

The new structure is scheduled to re-open by fall 2017.

The new garage’s more efficient design will more easily move cars through the structure. It will also add valet and self-storage for over 300 bicycles, creating the largest such bicycle storage in the City,” according to city staff. 

Read more about the Center Street garage in past coverage.

The new design is set to include “rooftop solar panels, high-efficiency LED lighting, a rainwater collection system to bio-filter and store water for irrigation. It will also be the hub of a micro-grid that provides emergency power.” There are also 19 electric vehicle charging stations.
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Critics question impacts of ‘Spenger’s parking lot’ project on Berkeley Fourth Street, Ohlone heritage

A rendering of what 1900 Fourth St. may one day look like. Image: TCA Architects
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Berkeley community and zoning board members had a chance Thursday to weigh in on what the environmental impact report for a large mixed-use project planned for 1900 Fourth St. should focus on.

The “Spenger’s parking lot” project has been in the works for years, with efforts ramping up in 2014 when project reps said they found no evidence at the site of a Native American shellmound created in West Berkeley by the Ohlone Indians.

Members of the public who came to share their views about the project March 10 with the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board said they were not convinced by that assertion. Some said the land where the parking lot is now should be purchased by the city and turned into a park to honor the history and culture of the Ohlone. The property at 1900 Fourth is a city landmark, dating back to 2000, within the potential boundaries of the West Berkeley shellmound. The exact location of the shellmound is unknown and has been a matter of much debate.

Other speakers Thursday questioned the scale of the project, and how it will fit in with the surrounding neighborhood, as well as traffic impacts, air quality and liquefaction. The lot is bordered by Fourth Street, Hearst Avenue, University Avenue and the railroad tracks running east of Interstate 80.

A sprawling complex is planned at 1900 Fourth, across from the historic Spenger’s restaurant, set to reach up to 5 stories, with 135 apartments and a 372-space parking garage open to both residents and the public. The project’s approximately 207,600 square feet are slated to include about 33,000 square feet of retail and restaurant uses. The property is owned by Ruegg and Ellsworth, a real estate group that co-owns the parking lot with the Spenger family, which sold its Fresh Fish Grotto years ago. Robert Ellsworth, a Berkeley native, is co-owner of Ruegg and Ellsworth. The developer of the project is BHV CenterStreet Properties based in Danville.

(A video “fly through” of the project, created by the architect and set to music, appears below.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley wins $1M parking grant to fix ‘2-hour shuffle’

The city of Berkeley is looking at expanding its permit parking program to ease the crush in residential neighborhoods. Photo: Chris Makarsky
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A Berkeley plan to improve residential parking woes won a $1 million grant this week from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to help the city continue its goBerkeley pilot program for three more years.

The goBerkeley effort was one of six projects to be awarded a total of $6 million, as part of the MTC’s Climate Initiatives Program, out of 20 projects that applied for the money earlier this year. The goBerkeley program previously focused on bettering parking in commercial districts, and the city will now turn its attention to residential neighborhoods.

The commission voted Wednesday to approve the funding. The city hopes to receive the money in February and begin planning in March, said city spokesman Matthai Chakko. The three-year pilot is set to include one year of planning and outreach followed by two years of implementation and evaluation.

Read more about parking issues in Berkeley.

The prior goBerkeley pilot tweaked pricing for meters and garages downtown, in the Southside neighborhood and in The Elmwood district to make it easier for visitors to those areas to park. During outreach for that program, the city heard from many community members about the need to refine its approach to residential parking, too. … Continue reading »

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Construction to begin on 8-story building in downtown

Berkeley Way West as seen from Shattuck Avenue. Photo: WRNS Studio/UC Berkeley
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By Yasmin Anwar/Berkeley News

Construction is scheduled to begin this month on an 8-story complex in downtown Berkeley to house the campus’ Graduate School of Education, School of Public Health and the Department of Psychology.

The 320,000-square-foot building at Berkeley Way and Shattuck Avenue will replace Tolman Hall, built in 1965, which has been deemed seismically unsafe and will be demolished once the new building opens in fall 2017. Tolman Hall currently houses the Graduate School of Education in one wing, and the psychology department in the other. The School of Public Health is headquartered in University Hall.

Read more on the Berkeley Way West project on Berkeleyside.

Dubbed Berkeley Way West, the project will include more than 7,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, and classrooms, offices, open workstations and collaborative space on the floors above. A courtyard on the east side of the building will connect to a pedestrian walkway at the adjacent Energy Biosciences Building. The total cost for the project is estimated to be around $150 million, and will be paid for with private and state funding. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley’s 72-hour parking limit is outdated, discriminatory and needs to go

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It felt great to return to Berkeley recently after two weeks in Brazil without robberies, accidents or mishaps. But when we arrived just blocks from our home, we were greeted with an unsavory welcome: Our cars had vanished from the North Berkeley street where we parked them.

They hadn’t been stolen. They had been towed. Why? A neighbor, upset that her “usual spot” on a city street was occupied by an unknown car, called the police. Just like that, we … Continue reading »

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Berkeley plans ‘very efficient garage that people will be happy to come to’

Designs are coming along for an updated Center Street garage. Image: Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects
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As plans proceed for an updated municipal garage on downtown Berkeley’s Center Street, project details are firming up, and the plan for where people can expect to park while construction is underway has been released.

The city is planning to demolish its circa 1958 5-story parking structure at 2025 Center and replace it with a modern 8-story structure featuring a double-helix design to halve the time it takes drivers to exit the garage.

Last Thursday, July 23, the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board learned about the newest iteration of the plans for the project, and gave feedback to city staff about several issues they still hope to see addressed. The project is set to return to the board Aug. 27 for a vote.

Read more about parking in Berkeley.

Earlier this month, the city’s Design Review Committee gave the project a favorable review. The city’s Civic Arts Commission is also on board, and is helping determine the process the city will use to select public art — described as colored LED lighting on the façade — that will appear on site. Last Thursday, zoning board commissioners said they were largely pleased with how the project is coming along.

“I’ve seen this project four times and it gets better and better,” said Commissioner Richard Christiani. “Generally it’s a very well-thought-out building. It’s nice to see so much attention given to a structure like this.”Continue reading »

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City looks to continue goBerkeley parking program

New parking meters with credit card payment options are part of the goBerkeley program. Photo: Steer Davies Gleave/goBerkeley
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City Manager Christine Daniel has asked the Berkeley City Council to continue the goBerkeley parking program, which adjusts rates in high-demand commercial neighborhoods, for six more years.

Daniel made the recommendation in a June memo, where she estimated the costs of continuing the program at about $280,000 per year. She did not recommend expanding the program geographically or extending parking meter hours as part of the report.

The pilot program, which included the Elmwood commercial district, the downtown area and Southside Berkeley around Telegraph Avenue, began in 2013 and was originally scheduled to end in October, but the removal of a “sunset” clause from the Berkeley Municipal Code in September 2013 enables the program to continue as long as it has funding.

Read more about parking issues in Berkeley.

City staff proposed four options for moving forward in a January work session: end the program and revert to the original rates and time limits; end the program but keep the current rates and limits; continue the program in its current areas; or continue the program and expand it to other neighborhoods.

GoBerkeley was originally supported by a grant that required close tracking of “expenses and incremental revenue,” but Daniel did not suggest continuing to fund the program through grants.  … Continue reading »

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ZAB to downtown garage developer: Step up your game

A rendering of the upgraded Center Street garage. The Zoning Adjustments Board was critical of the plan, saying it was not ambitious enough. Image: CMA
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Berkeley zoning board members told the developer of the Center Street garage overhaul at a project preview session last week that they want him to go above and beyond the submitted plans in terms of green features and physical design.

“I am dismayed by this project in a major way,” said Zoning Adjustments Board Commission Chairman Prakash Pinto on Thursday night. “It’s rather mundane. It’s got some lipstick on it as far as I’m concerned.”

Read more about parking in Berkeley.

The downtown Berkeley garage is a bit different than most that come before the zoning board because it is a municipal project and not one brought forward by a private developer. In December 2013, the city voted to pay up to $1 million to San Francisco-based Conversion Management Associates Inc. to plan and manage the overhaul. Money for the project is coming from the city’s off-street parking fund, including $350,000 last year and $650,000 in fiscal year 2015.

Pinto, who was not particularly vocal during the first several hours of Thursday’s meeting, spoke with emotion for several minutes about his disappointment in the garage proposal. He focused in particular on the green aspects of the design, saying city projects should be a model for superior environmental standards, especially when the city asks so much of private developers downtown. (Under the Downtown Area Plan, most projects are required to meet a LEED Gold standard or its equivalent.)

Pinto said, too, that the garage could be a beautiful structure with creative features without necessarily costing the city an excessive amount of money.

The other commissioners echoed Pinto’s sentiments and added their own concerns regarding the look of the structure, plans for its public restrooms, parking spaces for the disabled and electric vehicles, the possibility of open space for recreation and more.  … Continue reading »

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Open house displays plans for Shattuck Square facelift

Shattuck Ave. Image: Google Maps
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Berkeley residents got their first look at the city’s plan to redesign traffic patterns around Shattuck Square on Tuesday night at an open house in the Aurora Theater.

The room was lined with illustrations of the project plans and grids where attendees could rate the current pedestrian, cycling and driving conditions of Shattuck Avenue. Around the displays, engineers, city officials and urban designers associated with the project were on hand to answer questions and provide additional information.

Read more about traffic safety in past Berkeleyside coverage.

The Shattuck Avenue reconfiguration and pedestrian safety project is a part of the larger Downtown Area Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in 2012 and encompasses environmental goals, transit and access, community health, economic development and more.

Among the most dangerous intersections in the city for pedestrians, the corner of University Avenue and Shattuck is number two on the list for pedestrian-car collisions and near misses. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Center Street garage project gets first review

The Center Street garage project would demolish the existing structure and build an eight story garage with retail and art display space. Photo: Zoning Adjustments Board project review
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The Center Street garage project, which proposes a larger, greener and seismically safer parking structure for downtown Berkeley, is slated for discussion at the upcoming Zoning Adjustments Board meeting this Thursday.

Until construction is complete, the project is likely to cause downtown parking to become more difficult than it already is. Under the current plans, an 8-story parking garage with commercial and arts display spaces on the ground floors would take the place of the existing structure, which would be demolished.

Read more about parking in Berkeley.

The Center Street garage is one of the most heavily used off-street parking areas downtown. It operates “at or near capacity during the daytime on most weekdays, and occasionally reaches capacity during weekday evenings and some weekends,” according to the city.

Discussions about the project have been in the works for two years. Thursday night will be the zoning board’s first chance to “preview” the project. Commissioners will provide comment to the city, but otherwise no action is expected. … Continue reading »

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Housing, restaurant, garage planned at Spenger’s lot

A rendering of what 1900 Fourth St. may one day look like. Image: TCA Architects
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The owners of an empty lot on Fourth Street that’s a designated city landmark related to Ohlone Indian archeological remains have applied to build a mixed-use development on the site, adding to a burst of similar building in West Berkeley.

The move was expected after a recent archeological investigation of the property at 1900 Fourth, across the street from Spenger’s restaurant and used as a parking lot, failed to find anything of significance, according to a report commissioned by property owners, developers Ruegg & Ellsworth.

Read more about West Berkeley.

The 2014 investigation was the most recent chapter in a long, contentious debate about the history of the land and the boundaries of the well-documented West Berkeley Shellmound, a 30-foot-high hill of discarded shells, bones and other debris from years of Ohlone activity. … Continue reading »

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Officials to relax rules for Berkeley ‘granny flats’

An accessory dwelling unit on Virginia Street. Photo: Karen Chapple
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Berkeley officials voted unanimously Tuesday night to streamline the process for homeowners who want to add secondary units — sometimes called in-law units or granny flats — to their properties.

Supporters of the draft plan say it is a sustainable approach to increasing density and will allow more local residents to age in place by cutting down on the bureaucratic hurdles tied to the construction of additions, while also making those projects cheaper.

The proposal, from Mayor Tom Bates, would allow homeowners who follow certain standards to build the units “by right,” meaning they would not need to apply for an administrative use permit prior to construction. Those permits can be costly and take a long time to make their way through the approval process. Building plans would still require review by city staff, but public hearings and neighborhood feedback would be off the table. … Continue reading »

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