Opinion: South Berkeley needs safer streets and more neighbors

Berkeley should revise the Adeline Plan and Draft EIR to include a two-lane option on Adeline Street and more housing along the corridor and at Ashby BART.

South Berkeley Now!  — representing 173 members — respectfully requests the Berkeley City Council to allocate supplementary funding for the Adeline Corridor Plan and its accompanying EIR to study 1) a two-lane option for Adeline Street from MLK Way to Ward Street, and 2) a second housing scenario for up to 2,500 units along the Adeline Corridor including the Ashby BART station parking lots.

As currently written, the Adeline Plan will result in more of the same for South Berkeley — speeding traffic, a lack of affordable housing, displacement of our neighbors, and struggling local businesses. Instead, we envision a mixed-income transit village for the BART station with a thriving Flea Market, a greenway with parks and bike lanes, housing for all — especially our lowest-income residents — and slow streets made safe for our elders, children, drivers, transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists.

By narrowing Adeline Street to two lanes in front of Ashby BART station, Berkeley can build a public plaza for the Flea Market — a Berkeley institution that must be permanently preserved and strengthened. Narrowing Adeline Street from Ward to MLK will not only free up public community space at the BART station; it will also allow significant pedestrian and bicycle improvements along the entire corridor AND creation of a new linear park along Adeline from Ward to Ashby.

Ashby BART and Adeline Street as imagined by Alfred Twu

Building more housing along the Adeline Corridor and at BART is an essential step toward solving our intertwined housing and climate crises. Worldwide carbon emissions must be reduced by half in the next decade if the planet is to avoid climate chaos. Increasing South Berkeley’s population near our significant transit resources will allow Berkeley to do its part by beginning to reduce our transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions — 60% of Berkeley’s total and currently rising.

As an added local benefit, more neighbors in South Berkeley will allow our languishing local businesses to thrive. Lastly, more housing is absolutely necessary if Berkeley is to qualify for the regional and state grants necessary for pedestrian and bicycle improvements in our neighborhood.

The Adeline Corridor and the Lorin Business District south of the Ashby BART station have basically served as a freeway on-ramp to highway 580 for the last five decades. No wonder we have so many pedestrian and bicycle crashes in South Berkeley.

Our neighborhood deserves better. Instead of being a place that most people drive through at top speed, we need to become a thriving transit-oriented, mixed-income neighborhood and commercial hub. We call on the city to make this happen by revising the Adeline Corridor Plan and DEIR.

We recognize that developing and analyzing these additional scenarios will require additional money and time, including potential DEIR recirculation for comment. We believe it is worth the effort. South Berkeley has been neglected for decades. Let’s get it right this time.

SBN! Steering Committee

Ariella Granett is an architect, BUSD parent, and bicycle commuter. Betsy Thagard is a real estate agent and Berkeley homeowner. Deborah Matthews is a former chair of the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board and Berkeley Housing Advisory Commission, a former vice-chair of the Berkeley Planning Commission, and a Realtor. Jodi Levin works in the software industry and has lived in South Berkeley since 2001. Jon Lau is a local economic development professional who lives in south Berkeley with his wife and preschool-aged daughter. Matthew Lewis is a climate, energy, and urban policy consultant who lives in South Berkeley. Peter Waller is an architect whose firm specializes in designing housing for non-profits. Teresa Clarke is a commissioner on the Zoning Adjustments Board.