In an eleventh hour attempt to derail Berkeley’s first ever downtown affordable family housing project and “green” nonprofit office and meeting facility, signature gatherers appearing at Berkeley Farmer’s Markets are telling people that the David Brower Center’s underground parking facility would likely flood during a storm event or as a result of culvert failure due to its proximity to the Strawberry Creek underground culvert and that that is a reason to oppose the project. A few people have also expressed concernthat the Brower Center would make future creek restoration more difficult.
In actuality, the likelihood of Straw-berry Creek flooding the proposed garage (the creek now flows underground down Allston Way from campus) is extremely low. In addition, the garage construction includes an underground retaining wall about 30 feet from the centerline of the culvert. So chances for flooding at that particular location are already slim and are going to be much less than the many other buildings along the culvert’s pathway that don’t have underground reinforcement like the Brower Center garage will have.
For those concerned about creek restoration potential, there is a plan under discussion that would daylight that portion of Strawberry Creek on Center Street between Oxford and Shattuck Avenue as part of a beautiful public plaza. It’s a vision that is getting increasing support within the current Downtown Area Planning Advisory Committee (DAPAC). The proposal to daylight Strawberry Creek on Center Street, not Allston Way, follows the conclusions and recommendations of the ‘999 City Council funded study on creek daylighting in downtown. In a current plan being submitted by Citizens for a Strawberry Creek Plaza, the above ground channel on Center Street would be sized to carry the full flow, but initially, overflows would still go down the Allston Way main culvert. However, it is a big step in the direction of being able to abandon that portion of the Allston underground culvert altogether in exchange for a beautiful partial creek restoration and plaza in the heart of downtown, there for everyone’s enjoyment.
People who are considering signing a petition against the Brower Center project because they are worried about flooding or the project blocking future creek restoration can rest assured that neither are valid reasons to sign. In addition, the project finally brings affordable family housing to downtown, instead of the usual student sized units. We in Ecocity Builders would have preferred that the building have a view and orientation to the Berkeley Hills and the redwood tree on Haste Street that David Brower planted as a child. But overall, the benefits of the Brower Center are significant, and should garner public support, not opposition.
Kirstin Miller is the Executive Director of