Council Looks at Pedestrian Plan, Military Registers

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday March 11, 2008

It could take some 20 years and $31 million for the city to fully implement the Pedestrian Master Plan, a draft of which the transportation division delivered to the City Council this week. 

The item is on the council agenda tonight (Tuesday) as “information,” which means the council can either place the study on the agenda for discussion, or not. 

Tonight’s 7 p.m. agenda also includes an appeal to council of a zoning board decision allowing construction of a home at 161 Panoramic Way, developing a graywater permit process and asking staff to write a letter to Canadian officials requesting sanctuary for U.S. war resisters. 

The council will begin meeting as the Redevelopment Agency at 6:30 p.m. 


Pedestrian Plan 

The plan, part of a $145,000 study prepared for the city by Alta Planning and Design and paid for with grant funding, puts a favorable spin on the safety of city streets, despite recent pedestrian fatalities.  

“Berkeley … ranks as the safest city of its size in California for walking,” the report says, pointing out that the number is based on the rate of injuries per walker, not per capita, with 14.9 percent of Berkeley residents who report walking to work. 

Still, traffic injuries and deaths in Berkeley are significant. Four of the five traffic collisions in Berkeley in 2007 involved pedestrians, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, police spokesperson, speaking to the Planet in January. 

Sandra Graber was the latest fatality. The psychiatrist with the city of Berkeley was struck and killed in January by a car as she was crossing Marin Avenue at Colusa Avenue. Erica Madrid was struck and killed while crossing Solano Avenue at Fresno Avenue the month before. In June Betty Jean Kietzman was also killed while crossing Solano at Fresno. Also in June, a pedestrian was struck at Telegraph Avenue. and Blake Street and died about 10 days later. 

Among the traffic elements addressed in the plan are improvements to the 30 most dangerous intersections in the city. University and Shattuck avenues ranks as the most dangerous, as it had in a previous study almost 10 years previous. 

Principal Planner Matt Nichols said this study, unlike previous ones, looks comprehensively at the city’s pedestrian needs. “It puts the information in one place and ranks the most important places to do the improvements,” he said. 

Some improvements have been done to the intersection over the last few years, Nichols said, such as adjusting the timing of the lights and the installation of a red-light camera. 

More could be done, possibly even turning the west side of Shattuck Square into a two-way street. 

Other priority intersections on the list include University Avenue from San Pablo Avenue to Seventh Street, which ranks No. 2 and the Ashby BART Station, which ranks No. 3. Corridor improvements to Solano Avenue ranks No. 20 and intersections at Telegraph and Parker and at Ashby and Telegraph rank Nos. 18 and 19. 

While the list is prioritized, rankings are flexible and improvements will not be made strictly following the ranked order, the report says. 

There’s a great deal of attention paid to intersections without traffic lights. Nichols pointed out that signalizing intersections is too expensive at $25,000 per signal, and does not solve the problem. Some possibilities are adding flashing lights, creating bulb-outs so that streets become narrower, improved signage and more. 

Some $7.5 million is available over the next 20 years to implement the program. However, staff is working to obtain more grant funding. 

The Berkeley Pedestrian Master Plan, available in libraries and on the internet at www.altaplanning.com/berkeley pedeestrianplan, will be discussed at a public workshop at the March 20 Transportation Commission meeting. Comments on the plan can be made in writing to Kara Vuicich, associate planner, City of Berkeley Transportation Division, Public Works Dept., 1947 Center St.  

The Transportation Commission will hold a workshop on the plan March 20 at its regular meeting. 


Resisters in Canada 

Often, progressive measures to support peace and justice issues are adopted by council on the consent calendar with no discussion.  

Several weeks ago, however, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak pulled an item written by Councilmember Kriss Worthington off the consent calendar and scheduled it for full council discussion, which will happen tonight. 

The item asks the council to send a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other Canadian government officials, asking them to provide sanctuary to some 200 military resisters living in Canada. 

Worthington told the Planet that just because there was one badly stated council item—the one from the Peace and Justice Commission talking about the Marine Recruiters as “unwelcome intruders,” that the council later changed to support of the troops—it seemed that some councilmembers are overreacting to other social justice measures.  

“We shouldn’t be ostriches because there was one poorly worded item,” Worthington said, adding that authoring this item did not stop him from working on strictly Berkeley issues such as economic development and transportation. “The lesson is not to abandon peace and justice measures,” he said.