City Council to look into ways to revitalize Telegraph Avenue

Eugene W. Lau/File

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Berkeley City Council will look into recommendations Tuesday that would improve the atmosphere of Telegraph Avenue, including an increase in lighting and police patrols on the street.

At its meeting Tuesday, the council will decide whether to pass on a proposal from the Telegraph Livability coalition to the city manager for cost analysis. Drafted by the newly formed coalition at the its first meeting last fall, the recommendations aim to reverse Telegraph’s sagging sales trend, reduce its elevated crime rates and address the area’s overall uncleanliness.

The coalition was started last semester, is composed of UC Berkeley students, Southside residents and Telegraph merchants and was organized by ASUC Senators Andrew Albright and Anthony Galace with the support of Councilmember Kriss Worthington, according to Worthington.

The recommendation claims it is “imperative that the City take action to support the Telegraph residents and merchants” and refers to the specific recommendations as “noncontroversial positive steps” with “minimal” financial implications.

Among the suggestions aimed at reducing crime is a proposal to establish Walk the Beat, a program that would have UCPD and Berkeley Police Department officers patrol Telegraph on foot. The recommendation also suggests increasing pedestrian lighting at night to create a safer environment for shoppers.

Marc Weinstein, owner of Amoeba Music on Telegraph, said he has been pushing for more pedestrian lighting for years, adding that the implementation of the coalition’s proposals would be a “great development.”

Other recommendations include demarcating street vendor spaces more clearly, creating a “free speech walk of fame” on the Telegraph sidewalk to commemorate the street’s history and increasing foot traffic by expanding public parking and making transit improvements.

According to Worthington, the uniqueness of the coalition and its potential to transform goals into tangible results lies in the way the coalition brings together Telegraph’s “biggest stakeholders,” combining the efforts of students, residents and merchants.

Toward that end, Galace said he hopes the ASUC, business owners and other groups will contribute to fulfilling the recommendations, emphasizing that the revitalization of the Telegraph area is a “collective vested interest.”

Galace added that the coalition is “very pragmatic and realistic about the timeline of our goals,” which are broken up into three stages in the form of short-, medium- and long-term goals. The recommendations also aim to improve standards of living in the overall Southside environment, Galace said.

The recommendation also cites the impact of the November Haste Street fire that destroyed an apartment building and two popular eateries as an impetus for the proposal.

“In light of this year’s fire … and the resultant negative impact on Telegraph businesses from street closures, it is imperative that the City take action to support the Telegraph merchants and residents,” reads the recommendation.

In December, business owners operating in the fire-struck neighborhood said street closures and negative publicity from the blaze resulted in revenue losses as high as 50 percent.

Since its founding last semester, Albright said the coalition has raised awareness about and momentum for revitalizing and improving the Telegraph area.

If the recommendation is approved by the council, the suggestions will be sent to the city manager for a cost analysis. It will then be sent back to the City Council for final approval and possible implementation.