Few experiences can match visiting a bustling, vibrant marketplace. While Telegraph Avenue may not today inspire cosmopolitan visions of a coursing hub that attracts Berkeleyans and outside visitors alike, proposed changes to city rules governing street vendors may bring that dream closer to reality.
If approved by Berkeley City Council at its meeting tonight, a pilot program allowing store owners on Telegraph to set up a street presence in front of their businesses could make way for a more active community along the avenue. Proposed by District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington, the program is modeled after a similar law in San Francisco and may expand to other parts of Berkeley if successful. Worthington’s idea is a positive step for Telegraph and the city.
While seeing Southside’s main thoroughfare clogged with consumers obstructing student and resident traffic would be lamentable, a more alive, active Telegraph only boosts the city’s economic well-being. Yes, store owners are encouraged to embrace the new freedom they will be afforded if the program is passed, but they must remember the constraints of the area. They must walk a fine line between being a nuisance to commuters while taking advantage of the opportunity to improve the community around them.
The council should let the pilot program pass and permit city staff to move forward with its implementation. Little is lost by letting Telegraph business owners join existing street vendors — both groups share interest in and can benefit from an increased commercial presence in the area. Allow the avenue’s business community to work with greater freedom, and let the results of their collaboration decide if this plan is good for Berkeley.