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Letter to the Editor

Monday March 05, 2001

‘Park on the street plan’ will add to Berkeley High School teacher frustration 


At the last meeting of 2000, the Berkeley Unified School District administration asked the City to provide 180 daily parking permits for residential parking areas near the high school.  

Before approving this request on a 4-1 vote, the Board heard from teachers and parents who are also nearby residents at 11:30 p.m. 

As one parent testified, although he and his children already bike to school, if he drives them, he cannot return home before 5:30 p.m. as he has nowhere to park, even though he purchased a permit to park on a residential street. 

A second parent, who is a teacher, reported that she bought her Central Berkeley home so that as soon as her young child was in school, they could walk or bike to school. With no empty parking spaces in her neighborhood, a permit would be an empty promise to teachers, not a solution.  

A neighborhood resident who is an Oakland teacher carpools to her school. Transit incentives make this financially attractive and cost a public institution little or nothing.  

Another parent moved to this neighborhood so her child could walk to high school. Should she be unable to park close enough to her home to unload groceries so that a teacher can unload school supplies? There are better “solutions” than this untenable choice. 

Locating Berkeley High at a public transit hub is supposed to facilitate access. Unfortunately, the failure to encourage transit use has created a situation where BHS daily draws several hundred vehicles driven by teachers, staff and students. Over many years, BHS found spaces on campus to park these cars, further encouraging driving. In 1996 the District decided to remove cars from BHS campus but never developed a transportation program.  

Even the new buildings will have no parking although the Environmental Impact Report required it and many urged it. Instead of facing its transportation needs, historically those associated with BUSD have ignored them. 

The District could have acted on transit alternatives and planned for appropriate future parking since it knew it would have no on-campus parking by 2001. We are deeply concerned about the lack of responsibility and poor role-modeling for our children by an education system which “solves” problems only by foisting the burden on others at little impact or expense to itself. It is unfortunate that although the city and school district staff  

have had many meetings, they never consulted with neighboring residents or transit experts to address these issues. Now too little time is left for appropriate planning or development of environmental alternatives.  

Since BUSD’s only action, before making the staff permit proposal, was to spend over $80,000/year for parking garage spaces – shouldn’t BUSD spend at least that amount on transit alternatives? To his credit, Board President Terry Doran moved to provide Berkeley High’s teachers a public transit subsidy but could only get a second. The idea was referred for “study on the costs.” 

New construction at Berkeley High School eliminates the temporary teacher parking lot. This loss of available spaces moves that number of vehicles out into the already crowded surrounding commercial and neighborhood streets, displacing existing uses. 

The only “plan” BUSD proposed is to commandeer the city’s public parking spaces by asking the city to issue parking placards for teachers. This is not a “plan” for a simple reason: THERE ARE NO PARKING SPACES.  

“Permits were already issued to residents with a few remaining spaces for short-term use (less than two hours in one day). This request will displace current uses with no “plan” to address those displaced needs. The district/union argue that there are many available spaces within area C. 

Where adequate availability exists, at the outer reaches of the C area, is many blocks from the High School and as far or farther than BART or the bus. 

One purpose of controlled parking is to allow access to downtown and Civic Center by residents who come to the downtown area to go to the Y, Library, movie theaters and downtown businesses, as well as city and district offices. One of the intents of the residential parking permit program is to ensure that some parking spaces will be available to people who need short-term (less than 2 hour parking.) An increase in the number of permitted cars on our already congested streets only takes parking away from Berkeley residents without area C permits who need short-term parking downtown. 

Currently in our RPP area, three cars park in each two parking spaces. Since RPP was enacted in 1986, resident density has noticeably increased and thus the number of cars increased beyond off-street capacity. With our streets already over-parked by 30-50 percent, residents are understandably concerned by a proposal to increase the number of non-resident permits.  

So the proposed park on the street plan’ will only add to teacher frustration — a permit to use something nonexistent is only an empty promise which results in increased numbers of cars madly circling blocks, increased collisions, and more noise & air pollution. Further reduction in quality of life for teachers and residents is the most probable outcome of the BUSD “Plan.” This becomes a “crisis” unless the residents of this community, city, school district administration and staff, teachers, students and parents work together to solve the problem of how teachers, staff & students get to work/school. 

Berkeley residents overwhelmingly supported the recent bond measures because we support Berkeley schools. We support improving the schools, including school access and adequate teacher salaries. These ARE OUR SCHOOLS.  

We must not be asked by our leaders to choose between our schools and our homes. We all must struggle for ways to do both well.  

Wendy Alfsen  

Victor J. Lab  



Wait a minute Mr. Postman 


Ms. Miller's mail problems are all too familiar; on our block of upper Shattuck, we have been fruitlessly complaining to the post office over a year. My experience is typical; among periodicals at least ten percent never arrive; of my regular mail, a similar ratio seems applicable; several times a week I get mail for my same number house, on Mendocino Street unfortunately, and occasionally for other people; daily I get from one to five or six pieces of junk mail: the average American now gets more than a dozen unsolicited credit card applications yearly, including children and many deceased; these proliferate, so they come for Mr. Hartor, as some computer has condensed “Hart or current...” into a new name. And then there's the flood of Safeway and Long's and other Postal Patron crap, unwanted, unused, and costly to produce, distribute, and recycle. 

Two reasons readily explain these problems: the Postal mentality, usually referring to violence in Postal Service (a misnomer if ever...) employees, reflects a bureaucracy stolid and insane enough to bring any Byzantine to his knees; add to this the vastly increased volume of mail in recent years, mostly due to imbalanced rate structures, so that first class fees subsidize the five- or more-fold greater number of commercial/mercantile mailings at low cost, which in turn flood and choke the system. True mass marketing (which in Europe is known as The American Disease) it represents the sad hypercommercialism rife in this country. 

Not rocket science: most European countries, and many more, have postal service with reasonable fees, not favoring business; employees who render service; and responsible governance. The smart money, however is not on improvement; carrier pigeons, anyone? 


Stephen Hart