New Planning Process for South and West Berkeley

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday July 18, 2006

As the city prepares to fund one planning process in South Berkeley, the county and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) are launching another on Thursday night. 

Meanwhile, participants in a third planning process—the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee—will be meeting Wednesday night. 

While the dust is still rising from the battle over the future of the Ashby BART station, the MTC and the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency (ACCMA) are launching a plan of their own. 

As one of 25 community-based transportation plans proposed by the MTC for the Bay Area, the effort to be launched Thursday will focus on the lower-income areas of South and West Berkeley, said MTC spokesperson John Goodwin. 

The Berkeley plan will encompass a large L-shaped area of the city, from the Albany border along the shoreline south to the Oakland border, with the east border running along San Pablo Avenue south to Dwight Way, then east to Fulton Street and then south to Oakland. 

ACCMA Senior Transportation Planner Diane Stark said the plan could include transit-oriented development (TOD) at the Ashby BART site—“which is already a TOD site because of the Ed Roberts Center.” 

That center—which will provide offices and other facilities for organizations serving the disabled community—is planned for the station’s eastern parking lot. 

A city request for state funds to plan a housing and commercial development on the main, or western, lot was denied, but the City Council has reserved $40,000 for developing a plan in the immediate area. 

The fight over plans for the site—at one time listed as the proposed home of more than 300 condo units and a shopping complex—provoked a battle with worried local residents and Berkeley Flea Market merchants. 

Neighbors feared increased congestion whereas the vendors feared the loss of the parking lot where they have sold their wares for decades. 

The new so-called South/West Berkeley Plan will be developed under the direction of a Berkeley firm, Design, Community, and Environment (DCE), working with Nelson\Nygaard, a San Francisco-based transportation planning firm. 

DCE was the firm hired by UC Berkeley to prepare the 2020 Long Range Development Plan, and the firm crafted the West Campus Plan for the Berkeley Unified School District—a document subsequently discarded by the school board. It is headed by David Early, founder of Livable Berkeley, a group that supports infill development in the city. 

The $60,000 cost of the project is being funded by the MTC, which has allocated $1.2 million to prepare a total of 25 such plans in the Bay Area, Goodwin said. 

Plans typically take between nine months and a year to complete, he said. 

“The plans identify needs, what they cost and possible funding sources,” said Stark. 

While transit-oriented development could be one focus of the planning process, she said, a wide range of issues will be examined, ranging from pedestrian travel and stoplights to bicycling and BART. 

“Typical goals could take from three to 20 years to complete,” she said, noting that a recently completed plan for West Oakland called for undergrounding BART in that community. 

Early will be present for Thursday night’s inaugural session, said Ted Heyd, a DCE planner who will also be working on the plan. Stark said Principal Transportation Planner Matt Nichols will represent the city. 

The meeting is being conducted as part of the regular meeting of the city’s Transportation Commission. Among the topics to be discussed are BART access, AC Transit bus schedules and pedestrian safety. 

“This is really an opportunity for people who live in the community to address the transportation concerns,” Goodwin said. 

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. 


DAPAC meet  

Members of the panel working on the new downtown plan—a process created in the wake of a lawsuit filed by the city over DCE’s plan for the university—will meet Wednesday night to share their own visions for the future of the city center. 

DAPAC members will also look at the existing downtown plan, which was created in 1990. The new plan will encompass a larger area than the earlier plan. 

Their meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave., at Martin Luther King Jr. Way.