Many of us know the YMCA as a positive place which brings together the diverse communities of Berkeley like no other, a sort of town square with walls. However, I am saddened to see the role the YMCA is playing for the parking lobby, despite its mission of building strong and healthy communities.
The YMCA already heavily subsidizes parking, and not just parking for those with special needs – the YMCA gives out a parking validation system which for the casual user more than pays for YMCA membership. Yet extensive efforts over the past two years to bring the Y around to embracing and encouraging the healthier, gentler modes have been very frustrating.
It is one thing to subsidize low-income, children’s, women’s, disabled, and other programs. It’s quite another to take the position that driving is not only to be subsidized, but is all that will be supported. Watching the Y’s director (whose position in the parking-heavy Downtown Berkeley Association may direct his shunting of the Y’s mission) campaigning for more taxpayer-subsidized parking is appalling. When Y employees were the most prominent speakers at one hearing I had to wonder, were they paid? Were they pressured? Or just misinformed? Misusing the Y’s influence this way is truly harmful to Berkeley.
For the Y to be true to its members, it needs to be true to its mission and support a healthier, stronger community. That means supporting a vision of Downtown where it’s safe and convenient to walk, roll and enjoy transit, and actively helping its members embrace those modes.