Public Comment

Commentary: Who Really Wants a North Shattuck Plaza?

By David Stoloff
Tuesday March 06, 2007

Many people are attracted by North Shattuck Plaza, the idea of a park-like area where people can sit and eat, have coffee, or read a book or meet their friends in the heart of our neighborhood shopping area (the proposed location would be on the east side of Shattuck between Vine and Rose streets). Some opponents to the plaza idea are so aggressive that they forget or discount the history of the concept. When they do this, they ignore or twist facts. In addition, they make personal attacks on the supporters of the North Shattuck Plaza concept. 

Here are some facts in chronological order.  



The Berkeley City Council approved a schematic design, done by a planning firm, that included a small park/plaza in the area adjacent to Longs blank wall. The advisory committee to the firm included neighborhood residents, merchants, and property owners. No funds were allocated for development of the idea, which was part of a study of ways to improve the appearance and pedestrian portions of the public right-of-way of Shattuck Ave. between Hearst and Rose Streets. The “North Shattuck Urban Design and Circulation Report” can be found at: 



North Shattuck Business Improvement District (BID) was created by agreement of a majority of the property owners, many of whom operate businesses along Shattuck Avenue between Delaware and Rose streets. The owners agreed, in most cases with the agreement of their commercial tenants, to a special property tax assessment, the proceeds of which are used to make physical improvements and conduct activities that enhance business in the area. 

North Shattuck Association (NSA) was formed to administer the Business Improvement District. NSA established a budget that included the implementation of the plaza and other pedestrian safety improvements identified in the 2001 study. 



NSA was convinced that the improvements proposed for the East side of Shattuck between Vine and Rose Streets would attract more people and improve the business climate in the area. Based on this belief, NSA agreed to use a portion of its income to fund schematic drawings for the North Shattuck Plaza concept. 


January 2006 

North Shattuck Plaza, Inc. (NSPI) was formed to collaborate with NSA in continuing the planning process, fund raising and working with the city to implement the 2001 concept of creating a sizable area for pedestrian use along the east side of Shattuck between Vine and Rose. 

Following a traditional urban-planning concept of weaving public and private efforts, a board of directors was formed consisting of a City Council member, six non-official neighbors, and three NSA members. The Business Improvement District agreed to fund the project through schematic drawings and then seek public input.  

A design firm was hired to oversee a land survey and review the 2001 schematic design. A design committee made up of additional business owners and local design professionals was organized to assist in the design review 


Autumn 2006 

In October, following completion of the survey, proposed revisions to the 2001 schematic drawings were the subject of a public meeting sponsored by NSA and NSPI at the Jewish Community Center. 

The meeting, widely advertised in advance, was to elicit public comment, input, ideas, and reactions to the schematic ideas. 

There were several objections to the ideas: 

• Parking problems were foreseen. 

• An increase in panhandlers was feared. 

• Loss of business during construction was a concern. 

• Responsibility for maintenance of the area was also a concern. 

Despite the fact that the meeting had been called to get public input, there were many complaints that the process did not include public input. This was because of the mis-conception that the schematic drawings constituted a plan—a fait accompli—which was not the case. There was also skepticism that a public-private effort could represent the needs and wishes of the public. 


Where do we go from here? 

NSA and a number of business owners remain committed to implementing the concepts contained in the 2001 study. Also, there are many in the Live Oak Codornices Creek Neighborhood Association (LOCCNA) as well as the larger community who are interested in improving the area. The most recent positive development is that NSA, NSPI and LOCCNA have agreed to appoint representatives to a newly formed committee that will attempt to find areas of agreement and draft a process for a broad based community effort to move the project forward. 

For anyone interested in being on our mailing list or volunteering to work on this effort, contact us at or visit our web site at 


David Stoloff is the chair of  

North Shattuck Plaza, Inc. and of the Berkeley Planning Commission.