Election Section

Commentary: City-UC Deal: Too Little, Too Soon By JESSE ARREGUIN

Friday June 17, 2005

The City of Berkeley recently entered into a settlement with the University of California regarding the 2020 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP). In the aftermath of this agreement, there have been many opinions expressed on this issue. As someone actively involved in the LRDP process, I wanted to offer my perspective on the settlement and the impact that it will have on the future of Berkeley.  

Many residents were optimistic that the city’s lawsuit over the LRDP would address our mutual concerns over development and transportation issues. However, in reviewing the settlement agreement there are some glaring omissions.  

Throughout the planning process, many residents expressed strong concern over the dramatic increase in parking proposed in the LRDP. Nevertheless, the plan did not proposes ways of minimizing the impacts that new parking spaces will bring to Berkeley’s already congested streets.  

UC’s New Century Plan commits to reducing the drive-alone rate by 5 percent every year. Yet, building 2,300 new parking spaces will not meet this objective. The university did not make a commitment to a zero net increase in single occupancy vehicle trips. Why could the City of Berkeley not incorporate this goal in its settlement?  

In order to minimize the traffic impacts associated with new automobile trips, the university had the ability to dedicate funding to address these problems. Local residents and UC staff suggested that the university fund a free and universal BEAR Pass program. Also, many community members advocated for a BART pass program for both faculty and students. Nevertheless, the university and the city overlooked these suggestions in the settlement.  

UC Berkeley must not only be a leader in higher education but also in transportation planning. While the city negotiated a reduction in the number of parking spaces from 1,800 to 1,275 in the settlement, there is no firm commitment that UC will not build more parking spaces in the future. Also, this is contingent on the implementation of a rapid bus service down Telegraph Avenue. If other cities or even AC Transit fail to agree to this, then the university will proceed with building 2,300 spaces.  

Additionally, the 1.2 million dollars in the settlement is a little over the 1.1 million initially offered by UC in January. While I am happy that the city and UC will also collaborate on a new Downtown Area Plan, I have two concerns. I am concerned over the scope of the development that may be proposed in this plan. Also, the plan could fall apart if UC simply rejects it.  

Also, the entire process excluded residents from having their voices heard. While there were countless public hearings, very few of the 300 comments offered by Berkeley residents and students were incorporated in the final plan. Also, the signing of a confidentiality agreement excluded the public from commenting on the settlement before it was approved. While the mayor strongly opposed this move, I urge the City Council to set a policy so that this will never happen again. 

While I want to commend Mayor Tom Bates and the city government to bringing the lawsuit to resolution, I ultimately feel that the city settled for too little and too fast. While settling this dispute is a positive step towards building a collaborative relationship between the city and UC Berkeley, ultimately the citizens of Berkeley gained very little from this agreement and UC will continue to build without bringing all sides to the table.  


Jesse Arreguin is the ASUC city affairs director and a Berkeley city official.