Students may want change in Downtown, Telegraph areas

A study indicates students would prefer a cleaner and safer Telegraph Avenue.
Amir Moghtaderi/File
A study indicates students would prefer a cleaner and safer Telegraph Avenue.

UC Berkeley students might frequent Telegraph Avenue and the Downtown area more often if the areas were safer, cleaner and more inviting and possessed fewer panhandlers and people sitting on the sidewalk, according to a recent survey.

Conducted by the Graduate Assembly and other components of the ASUC, the online survey was sent out to students, faculty and staff in April and received about 1,800 responses. Of the respondents, 65.9 percent were women, 52.5 percent were undergraduates and 38 percent were graduate students.

Additionally, while 40.3 percent of the respondents said they frequented Telegraph Avenue weekly for dining, a majority of students said they came less often — the least frequent option in the survey among daily, weekly and monthly — for nightlife, work, entertainment, personal services and professional services, and 44.8 percent said they went to Telegraph Avenue less often for shopping. Numbers for the Downtown were similar.

“The purpose of this survey is really to see how Berkeley can bring in the most dollars … and how it can become a more vibrant city where students, faculty and staff want to be,” said Clara Botstein, Graduate Assembly legislative director for city and community  affairs, who coordinated the study.

According to Botstein, the survey came about as the result of a student government-run forum held in March to assess students’ interests.

A plurality of survey respondents said they would visit Telegraph Avenue and the Downtown if there were fewer panhandlers and people sitting on the sidewalk. In recent months, this issue has been a topic of discussion as the idea of instituting a sit-lie ordinance in Berkeley has been discussed.

But City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, whose office was involved in the survey, said he did not think the survey results indicate that students wish to see a sit-lie ordinance take effect. The council is currently not considering any drafts of such an ordinance.

“My impression was that the university and community of students had some clear preferences for even the kinds of businesses, and that has nothing to do with a sit-lie ordinance,” he said.

Roland Peterson, executive director for the Telegraph Business Improvement District, who has been a proponent of a sit-lie ordinance, said he felt it could address some of the issues highlighted in the survey.

“In my view, a sit-lie is not really a threat to anybody,” he said. “It’s really a statement of saying ‘this is not OK, and you ought to be doing something better with your life.’”

Another idea Peterson said he thought could draw more students to the Telegraph area would be the establishment of the area as a 24-hour district, which he said would appeal to the student lifestyle.

“The Cal community is, by and large, a 24-hour community,” Peterson said. “It is not a 9-to-5 community anymore — those days are over. … It seems so utterly logical to me.”

J.D. Morris is an assistant news editor.