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20 mph limit proposal is against the law

Max Alfert Albany
Tuesday June 04, 2002

To the Editor: 

Considering Mr. Worthington’s promotion of speed limits in Berkeley, I don’t dispute his observation that no other big city is doing this because it violates the California vehicle code (25 mph on residential streets but 15 mph near schools). But Berkeley is known for flaunting traffic laws. About 20 years ago, street barriers were installed which removed traffic from streets inhabited by “preferred” citizens, causing traffic jams and waste of fuel. Property values in the protected streets, including that of the subsequent “liberal” mayor and her husband, went up considerably. 

This scheme was clearly against provisions of the vehicle code and was instituted by an unholy alliance of the “centrist” Mayor Dean, who wanted to protect North Berkeley streets of political supporters and “liberal” City Counsel member Hancock, who wanted to close down traffic in the South campus area. The majority of citizens against this scheme had no political support. 

A popular lawsuit against the city took three years and the city lost the case in all instances, including the California Supreme Court, which ordered the barriers to be “removed forthwith.” But the city stonewalled the court decision until, three months later, a fly-by-night legal maneuver by Ms. Hancock’s husband, the venerable Tom Bates, managed to legalize the barriers ex-post-facto by promoting a slight technical change of the vehicle code in the Legislature. 

Many current Berkeley residents were not here then and they don’t know about these shenanigans that are well remembered by a refugee to Albany.