Picture Adeline Street converted into a narrower, park-lined roadway with protected bike lanes on either side. Imagine the Ashby BART station relocated underground, making way for new development and a public park up top.
These and other ideas for the future of Adeline Street and its surroundings have been made manifest in the form of miniature foam models, on view this week at the Ed Roberts Campus. The exhibit, “Re-Imagine Adeline,” is the city of Berkeley’s latest step in drafting a long-term plan for the redevelopment of a 100-acre stretch of Shattuck Avenue and Adeline between Dwight Way and the Oakland border.
After receiving a $750,000 planning grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in 2014, the city and Berkeley-based consultant MIG hosted a number of public workshops and analyzed initial possibilities for the roadway and public lots. Since the last public meeting in May 2016, the city has decided to stop working with MIG and is in the process of selecting a new consultant.
After a pause in the public engagement process, the Adeline Corridor project has resurfaced in 2017 with the exhibit, first open in January and now back through Friday, March 31. Visitors can provide feedback at the exhibit or online.
The ideas put forth in the exhibit are broad and do not drill down to design details.
“We’re showing some pretty high-level concepts to see if there’s consensus on a long-term plan for our open space,” said Alisa Shen, the principal planner. The draft plan, initially expected to be completed this spring but now slated for 2018, will also address housing and economic development, both dominant themes in public feedback so far.
Re-Imagine Adeline presents three possibilities for the roadway and surrounding public space. The 180-foot-wide street — a vestige of Adeline’s past as a street-car line — is not as safe or friendly to pedestrians or cyclists as it could be and leaves ample room for other improvements, city planners say.
Each option in the exhibit includes narrower lanes and parallel parking along Adeline, providing a buffer for continuous bike lanes. In each, some car lanes are eliminated and Ashby BART parking is moved below-grade, opening up the lot for new development and other uses.
In one option, there is a linear park to the west of the roadway. In this proposal, two-thirds of the BART parking lot is occupied by new development, with a park — including one acre designated for the flea market — covering the rest. There is another park at Adeline and Stanford for the farmer’s market.
Another option puts car traffic in the middle of the road with green space flanking it. The flea market gets a one-acre paved plaza on the current BART parking lot, and the farmer’s market gets a new designated site too, at Adeline and Stanford.
The third option extends the existing median on Adeline, envisioning it as a site for community events. In this option, which creates the least green space, part of Adeline is closed off on weekends to hold the flea market.
Residents have said they fear the Adeline Corridor plan will displace the flea market, which occupies most of the BART parking lot every weekend. During community input events in 2015 and 2016 neighbors said the market is a cultural institution and a source of income for the vendors.
Another section of the exhibit features “What If?” ideas — images of kiosk stations, canopies and other “out-of-the-box” ideas for various sites along the corridor.
On Saturday afternoon the exhibit brought in a handful of neighbors and passers-by.
Jay Castle, a North Oakland resident who lives right across the border, said it was helpful to see the ideas in 3-D. He said he spends a lot of time in South Berkeley with his young son and sees room for improvement.
“I’m glad this is happening,” he said. “For me, the biggest thing I’d like to see is traffic slowed down through the neighborhood. I’m as fearful when I’m driving as I am walking.”
Others were less impressed with the display.
“This is not my fist rodeo,” said Richie Smith, who has lived in South Berkeley since 1949. “I have files of plans that come through here and they never get the money and it never comes to fruition.”
She said she worries the plan could invite development that pushes out residents of color and neglects the neighborhood’s history.
South Berkeley has changed tremendously since the 1940s. First home to a large Japanese-American population, many of whom were forced to abandon their homes when they were sent to internment camps, the neighborhood became home base for many African Americans, like Smith and her family, who moved to the area during and after World War II. In 1990 nearly half of the Adeline Corridor’s residents were Black, according to the city, but the population had plummeted to 20% by 2013.
Although it used to be much cheaper than other nearby neighborhoods, South Berkeley, like all of the Bay Area, has grown far less affordable in recent years. Analysis by MIG in 2016 found the median house price in the project area was $759,000. The study found that two-thirds of the units in the area were rentals, and two-thirds of those were rent-controlled. The remaining market-rate units were $400 more on average than others.
Earlier this month, a project that would add a six-story complex with 50 mostly market-rate units to the corridor was put on hold after a potential deal between the developer and neighbors fell apart.
At community input meetings, residents implored the city to include measures in the plan to prevent displacement and honor the corridor’s legacy of diversity.
One of the reasons the city is seeking a new consultant is to find a group especially equipped to engage residents of color in the planning process, Shen said.
The city is also looking for a consultant who “can better translate feedback we’re getting into actual recommendations,” she said.
The new consultant, likely selected in April, will consider feedback from the Re-Imagine Adeline exhibit and previous analyses to come up with a single proposal for the roadway and public lots. The group will also focus on housing, land use and economic development policy, ultimately developing the draft plan and conducting an environmental review. There will be additional community outreach events.
The draft plan will include a possible financing plan but the grants funds only cover planning.
“We tell the community it’s still worth it to have a plan to serve as a blueprint in terms of stating to city decision-makers what the community’s vision is,” Shen said.
Re-Imagine Adeline is up through Friday, March 31. The city will collect feedback questionnaires through Saturday, April 8. The questionnaires and more information about the Adeline Corridor are available on the city’s project webpage.