Opinion: Repairs to unsafe shortcut path must start without further delay

A story on Berkeleyside highlighted a group that put a halt to repairs on a well-used path. It was unbalanced — many locals approve of Oakland’s plans and want work to start now.

The City of Oakland should repair the unsafe shortcut path that leads from the Claremont Hotel parking lot to Alvarado Road without further delay. The path is more than 100 years old. The stone and concrete steps are broken. There are deep gouges in the steep slope which is slippery when dry, and even more hazardous when wet.

Many people have already fallen and injured themselves due to these treacherous conditions. Others are prevented from using the path because of the risk of injury.

Oakland received a state accessibility grant to upgrade the path and significantly reduce the danger to the more than 100 people who use the shortcut every day, especially those who are mobility-impaired or elderly, as well as children.

The city gathered input from interested neighborhood residents over the past 18 months. The original project design was amended to accommodate additional safety and aesthetic concerns. Especially noteworthy was the incorporation of two continuous handrails with a “baked enamel” finish to complement the coloring of the existing stone walls and coloration of the cement steps and landings. A bicycle channel was added so cyclists can walk their bikes up and down the stairs.

The construction was scheduled to begin in July but was delayed when some local residents wanted more changes to the project design. Most of their objections are cosmetic: a wooden bench instead of a metal one; different finish on the handrails, etc. Some – such as stone instead of concrete steps — would increase the cost of the project beyond the budgeted amount and could jeopardize the entire grant by delaying its implementation.

Other neighbors who live near the path have urged Oakland to proceed without further delay. As one elderly neighbor implored the city: “I have lived on Alvarado Road for some 35 years and for the past few years I have had to avoid taking the path and steps. They are not safe and without railings I’m afraid of falling. I have been looking forward to the repair work and the railings but I am now hearing that objections may derail this work. Please put safety first and move forward.”

The city’s grant focuses on the safety of the most vulnerable populations: the elderly, individuals with mobility and/or visual difficulties and children. It is in the best public interest to support the city’s efforts to complete this project without delay.

See video story on the path published on Berkeleyside on Aug. 7.

Stuart Lichter has lived in the Berkeley area for over 45 years, including over 20 years on Alvarado Road. He is a retired faculty member of Contra Costa College.