Sunday Streets Berkeley takes over Shattuck Avenue

Katherine Chen/Staff

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Berkeley community members took to the streets Sunday for an event that closed off 17 blocks of Shattuck Avenue for pedestrian and bicyclist usage.

Thousands of citizens attended Sunday Streets Berkeley — an event that emphasizes open space and community engagement — to explore the streets and businesses on Shattuck.

“There are no vendors,” said Livable Berkeley Executive Director Erin Rhoades, the main organizer of the event. “It’s not a street festival … the streets are open for the community and local organizations to participate. At the heart of it, it’s really about physical activity, and biking and walking more than you (normally) would in your city.”

The event was modeled after the similarly-themed Sunday Streets San Francisco, now in its fifth year. Both were inspired by the Open Streets movement, which encourages bicycle and pedestrian traffic and community use of public space.

The event — which spanned between Rose and Haste streets — was organized by Livable Berkeley in collaboration with community organizations and the city. The Ecology Center and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition were also sponsors of the event.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, whose district encompasses the main area taken over by Sunday Streets, said there were negotiations with neighbors and business owners about shutting down traffic on Shattuck. For the event, bus service in the Downtown area was rerouted.

“At first there was a general concern about closing most of Shattuck Avenue,” Arreguin said. “But I think part of what was done is explaining to these businesses the exciting plans for this event and how successful it has been in other cities.”

Brazil Cafe owner Pedro Robin placed tables on the street and opened his restaurant’s doors for the event, though the store usually remains closed on Sundays.

“I love the whole community, the music,” Robin said. “I hope there’s one (Sunday Streets) per month.”

Sunday Streets is just one in a series of Berkeley events that fills the streets with pedestrians at points throughout the year. The Solano Stroll took over 26 blocks in Albany and Berkeley in early September, and LastSundaysFest last closed off Telegraph Avenue in August.

“The wonderful thing about Sunday Streets versus street fairs is that it’s all about the existing merchants coming out onto sidewalks and being engaged with the communities,” said John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association.

Livable Berkeley and other organizers are already discussing the next steps for the Sunday Streets Berkeley movement, including when it will come to the city next.

“Hopefully this is just the beginning,” said Joe DiStefano, vice chair of the Livable Berkeley Board of Directors. “The most common question I’ve gotten is, ‘Is this going to happen again?’”

Contact Libby Rainey at [email protected].