The Berkeley School Board president and her wife were struck by a car while walking in Berkeley just after midnight Friday and are in critical condition at a local hospital, according to police and community members.
School Board President Judy Appel and Alison Bernstein were just a block from their South Berkeley home when the crash took place Saturday at 12:02 a.m.
Officer Byron White, Berkeley Police spokesman, said there was a collision between a northbound vehicle and two pedestrians who were crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Way at Stuart Street. The driver, an 81-year-old man who lives in Berkeley, remained at the scene and is cooperating with the investigation. There were no arrests. White said police have not determined the cause of the crash.
White said both women, ages 53 and 54, were seriously injured and are in critical condition. They were taken to a local hospital for treatment, he said.
BPD did not release the names of the involved parties. But multiple people who know the women alerted Berkeleyside to the collision.
Appel just began her latest term as Berkeley Unified School Board president in December. She has been on the board since 2012 and has championed mental health and LGBTQ rights in the school district during her time on the board. She is the director of special projects at the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation in Oakland.
Bernstein is a lawyer with the Habeas Corpus Resource Center and formerly worked at the state public defender’s office. She was a longtime Berkeley Police Review Commission member and has lived in Berkeley since she was a small child.
Appel and Bernstein have been together for nearly three decades. They have two children, one in college in New York state and one at Berkeley City College. Over the years, they have spoken repeatedly to the media to share the story of how they became parents during a time when the state made it difficult for lesbian couples to do so.
They have also been strong supporters of gay marriage and were married three times over a period of 20 years: “once in a private ceremony, again by Mayor Newsom in his historic action on the steps of San Francisco City Hall and finally, in 2013, during the Proposition 8 window,” according to a 2017 campaign statement from Appel, who ran for the District 15 State Assembly seat now held by Buffy Wicks.
BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans said Saturday that the district is working to learn more about how the women are doing and what can be done to support their family.
“We are deeply distressed to receive a report that Berkeley School Board President Judy Appel and her wife Alison Bernstein were seriously injured this morning, January 5, shortly after midnight, when they were struck by a vehicle as they were walking in Berkeley. They were rushed to a local hospital, and the driver is cooperating with police,” Evans said in a prepared statement. “We are in the process of obtaining more information about their conditions. We will be offering whatever support and assistance we can to the Appel-Bernstein family and invite the community to join with us in hopes and prayers for their recovery.”
The district will provide updates when that is appropriate, he said.
Jonathan Logan, founder and CEO of the Logan Family Foundation, spoke to Berkeleyside from the hospital Saturday: “Judy and Alison are two of the most wonderful people I know. They will get better. People should send their prayers … or do whatever they can do.”
Berkeleyside Managing Editor Tracey Taylor contributed to this story.