Art Goldberg’s complaints (“Myopia, Not Vision, in North Shattuck Plan,” Daily Planet, Oct. 20) about the proposed North Shattuck Plaza amount to a cry of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
But take a look at the east side of Shattuck between Rose and Vine: it is a triple roadway of pavement, parking and traffic. Many people agree that this sea of pavement has been broken for a long time. It is both ugly and wasteful AND as un-green as it can be—why should we have such in our city?
To replace that ugly, wasteful feature, the current design for North Shattuck Plaza proposes the development of a park (we’ll get to parking later) in an active market, a very active shopping area, a park where people could stroll, go shopping, relax, sit in the shade, bring their children, meet their friends. This pedestrian zone would be built following the principles of greening by the use of permeable surfaces, and ample plantings of native species of trees and plants. It could serve as a prime example of how existing overly paved areas can be made into attractive green pedestrian friendly locations.
Mr. Goldberg makes a lot of assertions that are simply not true:
Assertion: The plaza is a stalking horse for a major high-rise condo development.
Response: We are flabbergasted at this off-the-wall and untrue assertion. The plaza is proposed to be built exclusively on a public right-of-way that will need the approval of the City. It will be a purely public amenity built with appropriate public input and approvals.
Assertion: People involved in planning the plaza don’t live in the area.
Response: Another absolutely untrue assertion. Eight out of the 10 North Shattuck Plaza, Inc. board members are long-time North Berkeley residents. Others are local business people who own, lease, or manage the businesses along the proposed park or close to it. We are neighbors, not developers. Learn more about us: www.northshattuckplaza.org
Assertion: there will be two treeless, barren parking lots.
Proposal: A new parking lot would be built where there is now paving and parking (the Farmers Market area). This new lot would be separated from the Long’s parking lot by a wide area of 20-25 new trees and many other green, growing plants. There would also be café/patio- style chairs and tables.
Assertion: Three buckeye trees will be torn out.
Proposal: While these trees will be lost, the proposal calls for planting a total of approximately 50-60 new trees (including the 25 adjacent to the new parking lot) to grace the new plaza—including additional trees in front of Bel Forno and the health food store. Our landscape designers tell us that these trees will be healthier because the plan provides for adequate soil depth and drainage.
Assertion: Traffic problems connected with Long’s parking lot will be made worse.
Proposal: The plan will actually improve the situation at Long’s. North-bound cars will have more parking spaces within easy walking distance of Long’s entrance.
Assertion: Traffic needs to slow down as it passes through the new parking lot.
Proposal: True. This is intentional in order to encourage through traffic to use alternate routes to go north and east.
Assertion: Plaza supporters refuse to do a traffic study.
Response: Such a a traffic study was done for an earlier version of the plan, which was found to have no significant negative traffic impact. The plan now being prepared will be reviewed by the city which may decide that additional traffic studies are necessary. Overall, there will be no net loss or gain in parking.
Assertion: The kiosk that is proposed to be located on proposed for the plaza is to store benches that are to line the walkway.
Proposal: The “benches” referred are presumably the ones visible in the proposed design. Those ‘benches” are actually stone planters which would be of sitting height, permanent features of the park. The kiosk will store any light-weight chairs and tables that may be used in the park. By the way, this is only one function of the kiosk, which may include a food vendor, public restroom and community information center.
Assertion: A 50-foot wide pedestrian area is not necessary to obtain the benefits that the plaza would bring.
Response: Fifty feet would provide space for a range of activities - sitting, walking, restaurant tables, children’s play - and for sufficient green area to make a visual and environmental impact. Anything less would amount to a sidewalk widening, which might be worth doing but would not yield the safety and the graciousness that Plaza supporters, including virtually all of the store operators facing the Plaza, feel would result from something close to the current proposal.
We held a very productive community meeting last month and plan other community work sessions and tours. We urge everyone desiring to participate in improving our neighborhood to find out more at www.northshattuckplaza.org and/or get on our e-mail list by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chair, North Shattuck Plaza, Inc.
Helene Vilett, Vice Chair
Mim Hawley, Secretary
City Council District 5, Board Member
Judith Bloom, Treasurer
Lloyd Lee, Board Member
Judith Lubman, Board Member
Peter Levitt, Owner, Saul’s Deli, Design Committee Member