I appreciate that Mayor Shirley Dean is trying to get people to shop in Berkeley through a special holiday incentive program. To me it seems more than a little ironic, however, that the message seems to be “Buy in Berkeley for the holidays.” Instead, it should be “Buy in Berkeley as much as you can all year round.”
For many years, and long before the mayor developed a special incentive program, I have had a firm policy of making as many purchases as I can in Berkeley in order to keep my sales tax dollars here at home. That includes groceries, clothing, entertainment, and every other form of spending over which I have some control.
It’s not just loyalty to Berkeley that makes me shop here. Nothing turns me off more than suburban malls (and I include car-choked Emeryville in that category). In contrast, here in Berkeley we have walkable shopping and attractive, interesting commercial neighborhoods. Unlike suburban malls, those neighborhoods didn’t come from a giant cookie cutter.
Furthermore, although my primary means of transportation is a bicycle (I’m 61), occasionally my wife and I drive in Berkeley to shop or to attend plays, movies, and concerts. When we do, we never – I repeat, never – have a problem parking. A lot of the people who want more and more parking downtown seem to be thinking that if they just yell loudly enough they’ll be able to turn Berkeley into a sprawling suburb. I hope the City Council has the guts to hold the line and maintain the qualities that make Berkeley such a wonderful and unique place.