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Speech stirs up parking controversy

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Thursday May 03, 2001

Mayor Shirley Dean’s unveiling of a plan to construct a 500-space parking garage under Civic Center Park was barely unveiled before controversy erupted. 

No sooner had the mayor announced the plan, which had been kept tightly under wraps, than several placards denouncing the concept rose above the heads of about 100 people in the City Council Chambers Tuesday night. 

“This is a nightmarish vision for the heart of Berkeley,” said Councilmember Dona Spring on Wednesday. “I was aghast at the repeat of this whole  

scenario. This is an old idea that we dispensed with six years ago.” 

Rauly Butler, vice president of the Downtown Business Association was so inspired by the mayor’s announcement he showed his gratitude by giving her a kiss on the cheek after the speech.  

Butler said there are only three garages downtown, one will be closing and another has been deemed seismically unsafe. He said downtown businesses will suffer if no garages are built.  

“The adage that if you don’t build parking they won’t drive in. Not true,” Butler said. “If you don’t build parking, they won’t come.” 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he was so upset by the address overall that he began work Wednesday morning to present a People’s State of the City Address. 

“The mayor’s address is so unreflective of what’s really going on in Berkeley, I’ve decided to put together a team effort,” he said. “We’ll have representatives from the environmental, housing and disabled community who will put forth their vision for the city for the next 10 years.” 

Worthington said the $20 million proposal to build the garage under Civic Center Park was “outrageous.” 

“To divert millions and millions of dollars from important city programs to build a parking garage that will fill the coffers of downtown corporations is an unsound proposal.” 

Worthington said the People’s State of the City Address would likely be presented on May 29 or the following Tuesday, June 5.