Tens of thousands visit Berkeley’s Sunday Streets on Shattuck Avenue

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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More than 40,000 Bay Area residents took to Shattuck Avenue on Sunday in celebration of Berkeley’s second Sunday Streets event.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Shattuck Avenue closed to cars and welcomed pedestrians and cyclists instead. Between Haste and Rose streets, participants could engage in a variety of activities, including live art and salsa dancing, as well as watch various performance groups.

“It’s about getting people to experience their urban environment in a totally different way and appreciate Berkeley in a new way,” said Sunday Streets Berkeley director Emunah Hauser.

The event is organized by Livable Berkeley, a coalition which strives to make Berkeley a more sustainable place, and a few partner organizations. According to Hauser, more than 150 organizations and activity leaders, including several UC Berkeley clubs and organizations, participated in Sunday Streets.

Sunday Streets drew people not only from Berkeley but from surrounding cities as well.

“It’s a really special feeling to have so much of a main street shut down,” said Oakland resident Tina Marie. “People look at each other differently. You’re taking people in.”

Because the street was closed off, several bus lines scheduled detours and added temporary stops near University Avenue and Oxford Street.

For Berkeley resident Michael Marchant, the absence of cars created a safer environment for his children.

“We look forward to any of these events where they block off streets to cars,” he said. “It makes it easier as a parent if you don’t have to worry about traffic.”

Hauser said this year’s Sunday Streets had a larger focus on transportation outreach than last year’s. Bay Area Bike Share allowed people to test bikes, and goBerkeley, a pilot program aiming to improve transportation in the city, asked for feedback from residents about public amenities.

To focus on physical activity and active transportation, Livable Berkeley does not invite street vendors to set up booths. Instead, many stores along Shattuck set up tables themselves, providing free samples or selling smaller store items.

Belli Osteria, a restaurant which does not normally open on Sundays, set up a pasta-making demonstration. Its co-owner Damien Morrison said Sunday Streets increased the restaurant’s exposure.

While some businesses had lines out the door, others saw a decrease in customers.

“There are plenty of distractions, so probably not as many people want to hang out in the comic book store,” said Mike Courtright, an employee at Fantastic Comics. While Courtright saw some new faces in the store, he saw fewer of his regular customers.

Sunday Streets, however, does not come without cost for the event’s organizers. Hauser estimates the event cost about $65,000 this year.

Although fundraising and private sponsorship cover a large part of this cost, Berkeley City Council pledged in January to provide Sunday Streets about $59,000 to split between 2013 and 2014.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington predicts the council will continue funding the event for subsequent years. Still, he feels the city’s contribution is a little high.

“It’s unfortunate that the other longtime community events don’t get more funding,” Worthington said. “This event gets as much as 20 other city events, so there’s a degree of unfairness.”

But for Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, Sunday Streets is “money well spent.”

“Everything shouldn’t be business,” Capitelli said. “Sometimes we should just celebrate as a community, and that’s important.”

Contact Tahmina Achekzai at [email protected].