Restoring Telegraph Avenue to its prime has always been a hot topic among Berkeley residents.
Last Thursday night, the iconic Berkeley street became yet again a central point of discussion, drawing more than 100 residents to a meeting at Willard Middle School to discuss how to revitalize the street. The meeting, hosted by Mayor Tom Bates, provided time and space for city officials to share with the community their plans for Telegraph and for community members to, in turn, voice their opinions.
Alex Bergtraun of Berkeley Design Advocates shared the city’s plan for the street, which aims to “bring it back to what Telegraph was supposed to be” — part of the “spinal cord” of the Bay Area.
The Berkeley Design Advocates proposed attracting more of an artsy, cultural scene to Telegraph, one that could potentially last late into the night.
This includes creating a pedestrian-centric plaza by by having the road on the same level with the sidewalk, keeping stores’ display window lights on after hours to illuminate the streets and making Telegraph a center for the arts by continuing street fairs and possibly creating a performance stage in one of the buildings.
Additionally, a campus Chancellor’s Grant is financing improvements to lighting on Telegraph with the intent of improving street safety. Money left over from the grant will go toward financing public Wi-Fi on Telegraph, according to Bates. The city also plans to ensure that its plans mesh with the campus Lower Sproul Redevelopment Project and that it is able incorporate students and their interests into its planning process.
During the public comment session of the meeting, residents raised concerns about the parking blight south of campus, ensuring that street vendors can continue to operate and improving conditions in People’s Park.
While there was a lot of excitement in the room regarding the new plans, many were still concerned that it could take several years for real progress to be seen on Telegraph. Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose district includes much of Telegraph, has held similar meetings in the past to discuss the area’s future. Worthington chided the city Thursday night for not having “stepped up to the plate” to make progress in improving Telegraph.
“I’ve seen most of the people who are in this room at one, two, three or 30 meetings over the course of last 10 years,” Worthington said. “It’s wonderful to have this meeting and going to every meeting we have to go to, but having another 30 meetings is not something to be greatly looked forward to and desired.”