Here is another voice – and vote – in favor of being able to park a car in downtown Berkeley. At the very minimum the number of parking places should stay at the current level. A better solution is a prompt and professional study of the short term parking needs in all of Berkeley’s retail and commercial districts.
That study should include an analysis of the changing demographics of Berkeley. The U.S. Census shows that between 1990 and 2000 Berkeley has had:
• An 8 percent increase in the number of children under 5 years of age. Getting around Berkeley by bus or bicycle when you have an infant or toddler is at minimum difficult. It can be dangerous.
• A 60.6 percent increase in the number of residents between the ages of 45 to 64 years of age. While some of these folks probably take public transportation regularly, it’s unrealistic to expect them to ride bicycles to Safeway or the Berkeley Bowl.
• A 9 percent increase in the number of residents over the age of 65. These are people who know they are no longer as strong or vigorous as they were a few short years ago. Their increased concern about their physical safety can make a bus stop appear very dangerous. Yet these are the very people who are natural patrons of, and donors to, Berkeley’s Arts District.
If you endorse the Planning Commissioner’s view of Berkeley you are voting to make life harder for all of the mothers and fathers of young children, all the seniors, all the disabled in our city. Or does our Planning Commissioner want a city made up only of 1) people young and healthy enough to ride bicycles everywhere and 2) people who have plenty of extra hours in their days so they can take the bus to the grocery store?
The Parking Needs study should also take note of an increase in the population of Berkeley. These additional people are probably the reason so many of us find it harder to find parking places when we want to visit the YMCA, go shopping or eat in a restaurant in the downtown area. If the city government wants Berkeley residents to continue to buy their groceries, their medicines, their clothes, their books, and get their haircuts in Berkeley then it needs to recognize the genie is out of the bottle. And until there are millions of “extra” dollars to radically upgrade public transit in this area the genie will stay out of the bottle.