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Neighbors flex muscles, ready for fight with corporate giants

John Geluardi Daily Planet Correspondent
Saturday October 21, 2000

Carl’s Jr. and Shell Oil team up to develop complex in area where few services are available 


A group of West Berkeley neighbors who have spent years improving their community are now taking on Shell Oil and Carl’s Jr. The two giant corporations are planning to raze the gas station at the corner of Ashby and San Pablo avenues and rebuild a gas station-mini mart-fast food complex. 

“We fought every day to change this neighborhood and now they want to ruin it with another liquor store and 24-hour fast food place,” said Daniela Wooton, a mother of four who moved to the neighborhood five and half years ago into what she said had once been a crack house.  

ARC Inc., an architectural firm based in Benicia, has requested permits from the city for a 10,000 square-foot building on the site of the existing gas station and the empty lot at Carrison Street and San Pablo Avenue. 

Residents who live on Carrison Street, a quiet, tree-line street with rows of well-kept single family homes, say the proposed development will erode the quality of life they have worked hard to create. Mike and Vicki Larrick and their two children moved into the neighborhood eight and half years ago when the street was overrun with drug dealers and prostitutes.  

The Larricks began the fight to take the neighborhood back and now, almost nine years later, Vicki Larrick said she doesn’t get her life threatened so often. 

“We’ve worked very hard over the years to improve things and they are finally getting better,” Larrick said. “Now families are moving in here and there’s more concern for the neighborhood.” 

Neighbors pointed out that within three blocks of the proposed project site, there are already three liquor stores, one at San Pablo Avenue and 65th Street, one at San Pablo and Haskell Street and one at San Pablo and Murray Street. 

Residents said there are enough liquor stores and burger joints in the neighborhood already and that any more would deteriorate the quality of the neighborhood with garbage, traffic and customers with no connection to the community. 

“If you put in a phone booth down there it will attracts scum bags,” said Mike Larrick. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what it’s going to turn into with an all-night store.” 

The architect for the project said he has withdrawn the plans after getting input from city planners and the community and that he will try to make changes to the design that will be acceptable, although he did not know at this time what those changes might be. 

“We’re not sure what we need to do but it’s clear we weren’t ready to submit the plans,” said Timothy Boe, one of the ARC partners. “We’re limited on what changes we can make because my clients are a gas station and quick service restaurant.” 

There is already a moratorium on fast food restaurants in the downtown area and special restrictions for fast food restaurants along sections of University, Shattuck and San Pablo avenues.  

The moratorium along San Pablo, however, does not extend south of Dwight Way, about nine blocks north of the proposed site. 

A recommendation is coming to the City Council to extend the prohibitions against fast food restaurants along San Pablo to the Oakland border, which would include the proposed site.  

District 2 Councilmember Margaret Breland said she is concerned with the health ramifications of fast food consumption. The recommendation is currently being reviewed by the Planning Department and the Health Department after which the council will vote on it. 

“There’s so many things that could put on the site that would encourage small businesses and be a real benefit to the neighborhood,” said Cynthia Scheinberg, who just moved into the house directly across the street from the site with her husband Eliahu Klein and newborn baby. “They shouldn’t make this the fast food strip for all the businesses nobody else in Berkeley wants.”