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Friday October 20, 2000

Bulbouts: a dangerous idea in the name of safety 



The City of Berkeley is considering some traffic plans – presumably to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians.  

In spite of these good intentions, some very dangerous ideas have surfaced. The new traffic “bulbouts” at some intersections, which force cars and cyclists into the same space at an intersection, are notorious examples. 

Another poor idea is the proposed traffic “circle” at California and Channing.  

It’s not a true traffic circle, like the Marin Circle, but, instead, a round barrier in the middle of a right-angled intersection. 

California St. presently has Class II bicycle lanes. It is one of the few streets in Berkeley where there is sufficient space for a cyclist to ride a safe distance from the parked cars and for moving cars to still pass unimpeded. 

The proposed “circle” extends across both car lanes and into both bike lanes. It forces two lanes of traffic – one for cars and one for bikes – not one lane in the middle of an intersection, the place where most bicycle collisions occur. It defeats the very purpose of a Class II bike lane – adequate space for bikes and cars. 

I encourage cyclists and motorists to view this intersection and the temporary markers that designate the new “circle” and observe how it squeezes cars and bikes into a narrow space. Then let your councilmember know what you think of this idea. The Transportation Committee meeting was to hear it yesterday.  

There are many excellent ways to encourage and facilitate safe cycling.  

Palo Alto has a Bicycle Boulevard with mid-block “filters,” barriers which allow only bicycles and emergency vehicles through.  

Stop signs are turned so that this becomes a through street for cyclists. Almost no street parking is lost to the filters. Berkeley should adopt this safe, proven approach instead of these other dangerous ideas. 


Ric Oberlink 




Transit first, and not parking should be city’s priority 


The Daily Planet received this letter addressed to Mayor Dean and Councilmembers: 

It has come to my attention that at Tuesday’s Council meeting the issue of parking for city and school employees came up.  

I was astonished to see Mayor Dean quoted in Tuesday’s Daily Planet urging the council to recognize that “parking for city employees is our priority.” Thank you Kriss for encouraging the City to prioritize encouraging public transportation and alternative modes of transportation.  

If the city doesn’t even work to promote alternative means of transportation among city staff-- how can the city expect Berkeley residents to begin to think about driving less? What city employee will be encouraged to take the bus if a “Class-pass-type” pass ever materializes for Berkeley residents if they know they have a free parking spot at work waiting for them?  

I feel this matter at hand has huge implications for the livability of our City. What direction do we want to move in in Berkeley?  

Back to the 1950s, where we accommodated the car at the expense of everything else, or into the next century where we work together to create viable, safe transportation alternatives to the automobile?  

At the recent Transportation, Housing, and the Environment Election Forum, which the Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition co-sponsored – each candidate’s answer to the question “What is the worst thing you do in your daily life for the environment?” was the same: “I drive my car.” The candidates seemed to be seriously apologetic, but also conveyed the message that it was a innocent enough vice, because after all everyone else is driving everywhere too.  

The city has been right on in supporting eco-friendly businesses like Pedal Express to reduce reliance on the automobile.  

I hope that Berkeley will extend this common sense to the matter at hand.  

It would be great if the city did a pilot program on “Parking Cash-Out for Employees.” Each month, employees would be given a check from the city which equals the amount the city incurs providing their usual parking spaces. Then the employees have the option of using the money to pay for parking, or for using the money to buy a bus pass, or for pocketing the money and deciding to walk or bike instead.  

Parking Cash-Out opportunities get the message across that parking is not free, and let employees make informed decisions about how they want to get to work.  

In addition, the city could implement a “Guaranteed Ride Home” program which involves contracting with a local taxi service to ensure employees can catch a taxi if necessary.  

The Daily Planet article also has Mayor Dean stating that no city has ever achieved a 100 percent transit policy. I don’t think that is what Kriss Worthington was proposing. There is a lot of middle ground between providing free parking for all city employees and insisting that 100 percent of employees will take transit to work.  

As far Mayor Dean’s concerns for women employees who “will have to walk many blocks in the dark” – I was also a little perplexed. Most city employees work near downtown Berkeley, correct? Downtown Berkeley is pretty darn safe to walk through (except for the speeding deadly cars), in my opinion – and one never has to walk too many blocks to get to the bus stop or BART station.  

I personally feel much more in danger walking in a parking garage at night than I do on the street or riding my bike.  

I support the Maio/Spring/Worthington alternative to wait for the release of the Trafic Demand Management Study on Tuesday’s council agenda. 

I encourage any other citizens who share my feelings to attend next Tuesday’s Council meeting.  


Sarah Syed  


Safe Routes to School Project Director  

Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition  



Measure Y could cost owners $4,500 to go home again 



Thank you for covering Berkeley’s District 2 candidates (Oct. 16). 

In the past few months our organization has reached out to City Councilmembers to seek common ground, mend fences and attempt a dialogue that could lead to a solution to Berkeley’s housing crisis. 

We contacted Councilmember Margaret Breland, the District 2 incumbent, currently being challenged by moderate Betty Hicks. At the meeting with Ms. Breland, I first raised my concern about the results of rent control on Berkeley’s housing stock.  

Ms. Breland commented: “I thought rent control was over.” I was shocked to hear this from a member of the City Council, given that they were soon to decide the fate of what became to be known as Measure Y, a draconian modification of Berkeley’s eviction ordinance. 

Here we have a city council person who is totally unaware of the current status of a law she is about to amend. As expected, Ms. Breland aligned herself with the BCA and cast one of the decisive votes placing Measure Y on the November ballot.  

Measure Y should deeply concern all Berkeley voters. It is billed as a device to protect elderly and disabled tenants from being driven out of their homes. the Measure paradoxically contains a loophole exempting owners from this portion of the measure if they own three or fewer units. Clearly these would be the most desirable properties as risk for owner occupancy.  

Measure Y gives no eviction protection to elderly and disabled tenants living in buildings of fewer than four units. 

However, this provision was no concession to small property owners. It was not part of the original text considered by the council. 

Measure Y covers all owner occupancy evictions, not just those in rent controlled buildings.  

What if you went on vacation, a sabbatical, or took a temporary job out of the area, rented your home to a young able bodied person who refused to leave when you returned? Under Measure Y you could be liable for paying the tenant a $4,500 relocation fee; and if you lost the owner move-in eviction action on a technicality, you would be compelled by Measure Y to pay the tenant’s attorney’ fees as well. 

You would not be awarded anything if you prevailed, however. 

Measure Y’s prohibitions, penalties, and legal traps to thwart owners to move into their own properties are not targeted at big landlords.  

They affect middle income folks - many of them tenants themselves - who cannot afford the price of a single family home; people like teachers, policemen and firemen who must settle for purchasing a small rental, occupy a unit and have the rents from the other apartments help out with the mortgage.  

Measure Y is specifically designed to prevent middle income renters from becoming homeowners in today’s overheated economy. 

Berkeley does not need laws that further deplete its housing stock and put people in the streets; it must strive to find inclusive solutions to its housing problems that involve the entire community.  

It also needs leaders that are well versed with the issues and are creative enough to chart a course for Berkeley that works, rather than emulating San Francisco’s failed housing policies. 


Robert Cabrera 


Berkeley Property Owners Association 




































letter to the editor 


Thu, 19 Oct 2000 10:21:59 -0700 


“Steve Finacom”  






Dear Editor: 


I was disappointed to read that Berkeley police officers attending a City 

Council meeting criticised Carrie Sprague for her efforts to enforce 

residential permit parking in the MAGNA neighborhood next to City Hall. 


I’ve always had the impression that one of the unspoken rules of American 

law enforcement is to avoid publicly attacking citizens by name (convicted 

felons an exception). Confidence in the police depends on both 

presumption and evidence that they will act impartially. When individual 

police officers publicly criticize even one citizen who has broken no laws, 

that faith is undermined. It’s worse when that citizen is actually trying 

to get the City to enforce one of its own laws. 


I’m also personally sympathetic to the frustrations of the MAGNA residents 

like Sprague, since my own Berkeley neighborhood is similarly sandwiched 

between large traffic-attracting facilities--in our case, a public school, 

and a hospital--which attract endless numbers of staff and visitors who 

“must” drive, and who circle the adjoining residential streets looking for 



That said, it’s probably a good thing that the City Council is hearing 

complaints about parking from public employees because it brings home the 

reality facing all public agencies in Berkeley. The Council is quick to 

criticize the University and other big local employers for traffic and 

parking impacts, but if statistics were to be calculated on who drives to 

work and who doesn’t, City employees--and perhaps even a majority of City 

Councilmembers--may be among the least “transit friendly” groups of 

commuters in Berkeley. 


I saw this attitude first hand while working on a committee helping to plan 

future renovations to Civic Center Park. From the point of view of almost 

all of the citizen participants, removal of the little City Council / City 

staff parking lot just behind City Hall was an unquestionable benefit for 

the community. Land would be added to the park, and the park and City Hall 

would be reconnected. If the parking “needed” to be replaced, it could be 

done in the City-owned garage half a block up the street. But time and 

again some City staff kept raising the issue of carving out a new parking 

lot from another part of the green space--parking that would have been 

reserved for free for Councilmembers and senior City employees. 


In this area the City could learn something from the University, which has 

consistently pursued policies to reduce single-driver commuting. You 

almost literally have to win a Nobel Prize to get a free parking space on 

campus (in contrast, I’ve been told that many City employees have free 

parking guaranteed by their union contracts). Nearly two decades ago the 

University pioneered the Berkeley TRiP program which promotes and provides 

transit alternatives. Parking spaces are set aside for carpools and van 

pools. Recently, the University and students negotiated with AC Transit to 

arrange the “Class Pass” which allows students to ride the bus without 

paying fare, in exchange for a surcharge on their registration fees. 

Thousands of students now regularly use that option. 


Even with transit options, however, there will still remain an issue of 

public employees who have to drive because they have odd schedules or live 

in distant places not well served by public transit or have physical 

disabilities. That’s a legitimate need. One way to address it would be 

through the development of affordable housing in Berkeley for those who 

work in public agencies. 


The City could take the lead in this area. In downtown Berkeley the City 

owns two large tracts of land--the surface parking lots at Oxford and 

Allston, and on Berkeley Way between Shattuck and Milvia. Instead of 

emphasizing the income that it could earn by leasing those sites to private 

developers to build for-profit housing above parking, perhaps the City 

should look at ways to develop the housing components on those sites as 

affordable apartments and limited-equity condominiums that would rent or 

sell to public employees like police officers and firefighters and public 

school teachers who can’t currently afford to live close to their 

workplaces. (This could be similar to UC’s University Terrace faculty and 

staff condominiums which are, ironically, located just a few blocks west of 

City Hall). 


This is not a new concept. Many public agencies in the Bay Area are going 

in this direction. Every month I read of another school district or 

municipality looking at ways to develop this sort of housing. Why not 

Berkeley? There are even non-profit developers, such as BRIDGE Housing, 

that specialize in affordable housing for the middle to lower income 

workforce in the Bay Area. Groups like those could be invited to Berkeley 

to help structure a program. 


How about it, City Council? Will you consider “acting locally” with the 

resources you have on hand--City owned development sites Downtown--to 

directly address affordable housing issues for those who police Berkeley’s 

streets, teach its children, maintain its parks, and staff its government 






Steven Finacom 


2308 Russell Street 

Berkeley, California, 94705 


(510) 845-3203