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Grant Denied, Ashby BART Plan On Hold

By Richard Brenneman
Friday June 02, 2006

Caltrans last week denied the city of Berkeley’s request for a $120,000 grant to fund a transportation plan to be used in shaping the development of a project that would feature about 300 units of housing over commercial space and parking at the Ashby Bart Station. 

Late on Thursday, project promoter Ed Church sent this email message to members of the task force recently appointed to plan the project, telling them to call off their Monday meeting: 

“I just met with Mayor [Tom] Bates and Councilmember [Max] Anderson. They suggest that you cancel your meeting scheduled for this coming Monday, June 5, and await a rescheduling date until after the City Council has had an opportunity to re-evaluate planning efforts along the Adeline Corridor.” 

Just because the state denied Berkeley’s request for a grant to plan a housing and commercial development at the Ashby BART main parking lot doesn’t mean the project is dead, however. 

The city-sponsored task force created to handle the project’s early stages had planned to meet Monday night, according to Chair and Berkeley Unified School  

District board member John Selawsky. 

“There still needs to be some sort of community process,” Selawsky said. And before the Church email was received, Bates told the Planet development there remains a top city priority.  

“In some ways it’s a blessing in disguise,” said Bates, one of the project’s leading proponents. “Obviously, we would’ve been pleased to get the money, but this gives us a way to come back to the community in a way that everyone’s comfortable with.”  

Selawsky was not available for comment after Church’s letter was forwarded to the Planet on Thursday night. 

The city’s standing policy for a number of years has been to build affordable housing on the site, Bates said, “and now we need to decide how to do it.” 

On Feb. 13, 2001, the council adopted a resolution making housing development at the site “a top priority,” with prices affordable “to the extent feasible” by public employees. 

On Dec. 13 last year, the City Council appointed the South Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation (SBNDC) as their agent for the project in the same vote in which they approved the SBNDC’s grant application. 

The plan ran into immediate well-organized and highly verbal opposition, both from alarmed neighbors and from the vendors and supporters of the Berkeley Flea Market, which occupies the parking lot on weekends. 

Selawsky said the task force had planned to take up the issue of what to do next when it met Monday night at 7 p.m. in the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. 

The group’s last meeting, held at the senior center on May 26, was interrupted repeatedly by shouting from an audience that had been stirred into action by a half-hour-long rally held outside before the meeting began. 

The project has roused considerable suspicion, in part because it was presented for approval to the City Council a month after the grant application had been filed in the city’s name. 

Flea market activists are opposed to any changes at the site, and have derided a city plan to relocate it to Adeline Street between Ashby Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The city has retained an engineer to look at the implications of the weekend closure. 

One critic, former City Council candidate Laura Menard, said project opposition was divided, with one group opposed outright and another faction hoping that the task force will sever ties with the SBNDC and steer an independent course. 


Denial reasons 

Caltrans spokesman David Anderson said the agency rejected the city’s application for a Community-Based Transportation Planning Grant “because the application received a low score.” 

Applications were judged on their ability to fulfill the agency’s seven criteria, including: 

• Support of livable community concepts. 

• The ability to address a deficiency, conflict or opportunity in coordinating land use and transportation. 

• Relevance to a study where considerable community benefit would come from addressing a deficiency in balanced multi-mode transit planning. 

• Leveraging resources for use in future developments. 

• Support for increased residential development or rehabilitation, including revitalization of an area. 

• The presence of synergistic effects that would lead to other benefits. 

• Innovation combined with an emphasis on community-based grassroots involvement.