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The grand vision for downtown requires parking

Bob Dixon
Saturday November 03, 2001

The Daily Planet received a copy of this letter written to the City Council: 

I live downtown. I walk to most things, including work. In the nearly eight years I have lived in downtown, I have seen it change dramatically from a place people avoided at night to a vibrant destination.  

Things happen all day in downtown Berkeley. It is more than commuters (whom the General Plan doesn’t like), downtown is shoppers, families, the regular “crazy locals”, the Berkeley High kids, Y members, seniors, diners, movie goers, theater goers, library users, and commuters. 

I’d like to see even more people use downtown, so the idea of greater density is a plus to my thinking. The idea of a parking moratorium, however, doesn’t sound like a good idea. Has anyone actually tried to park in downtown recently? The new time limited parking meters are already a major irritation for my friends when they visit. And, I cannot suggest that they take alternate transportation as many do not live near BART or AC Transit, and some are too fragile to bike. 

As I understand the grand vision of good intentions, more people will live downtown and they will supposedly receive incentives not to have cars (I suspect they will take the incentives and park in the neighborhoods). In this vision, the city with a derring-do rivaling that of the Flying Wallendas declares a moratorium on new parking just as the Kittredge garage comes down and Vista College takes its lot out of service to build its facilities. But the City Wallendas are fearless and want people out of cars. 

Something doesn’t line up here! Didn’t those of us who live in Berkeley agree to tax ourselves to improve downtown? Didn’t the Council give a loan or grant to Berkeley Rep to expand in order to develop the Arts District? Wasn’t the idea to encourage people to come to downtown? Did someone give BART and AC Transit pots of money? Did the Council fund a transit pass? Isn’t Cal planning on taking more students and thinking of a year round schedule? What have I missed? When did John Ashcroft approve the alternate transportation check points?  

After all is said and done, if the Council doesn’t change the General Plan, the grand vision of good intentions will make it impossible for current users of downtown services from doing anything but circling the area; viewing former garage sites; watching the parking Taliban issue tickets to the (un)lucky few parked at meters; and, if there is a space, parking in the neighborhoods.  

The boycott that didn’t happen in response to the Council’s Afghanistan resolution may just come about through frustration. 

Just as actions have consequences, so can overly zealous good intentions. And even the best of intentions. 

Bob Dixon