In a process to develop an area plan for Berkeley’s Adeline Street corridor, the city held a Saturday meeting to discuss community involvement in the project.
The plan, which could take more than two years, is supported by a grant financing a detailed study of the area and the development of recommended social programs and infrastructure improvements. The meeting, held at the South Berkeley Senior Center and attended by more than 120 people, marked the beginning of community involvement in the plan’s development.
The Adeline Street corridor — which stretches down Adeline Street from Ward Street to the Oakland border, as well as a small southern section of Shattuck Avenue — includes commercial areas, car dealerships, performing arts venues and small, independent retail stores. The area is also the historic heart of the city’s black community, Councilmember Jesse Arreguin said.
In May, the city received a $750,000 Priority Development Area planning grant from the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
Carol Johnson, a land-use planning manager for the city, said about $500,000 of the grant will finance area studies of existing infrastructure, housing and accessibility, with the rest devoted to analyzing the environmental impacts of the plan. In November, the city selected urban planning firm MIG to work on the project.
Besides presenting the project’s purpose at the meeting, city officials held a community forum to ask how best to involve the area’s residents and business owners.
“The primary purpose of the meeting was (to learn) the preferred ways the community wants to be contacted and engaged,” Johnson said. “We don’t have any preconceived notions … other than to have (the plan) be as inclusive as possible.”
Some, however, are concerned that the plan could push out existing businesses and homeowners who find their rent prices skyrocketing as a result of renewed development in the area.
“The real concern is that if this isn’t done the right way, it will exacerbate the gentrification that’s already happening,” Arreguin said. “Unless the plan is done right, it’s just going to result in us losing more of our black and working-class population.”
To Arreguin, the solution is greater community involvement through the creation of a task force to involve area representatives in the development of the plan.
In the wake of the Saturday meeting, business owners in the area are currently trying to determine what they would like to see in the plan, according to Shirley Mitts, the owner of Jack’s Antiques. The store has been located on Adeline Street since 1946.
“Interesting businesses is what we want,” Mitts said. “But it’ll take a lot of thought.”
Johnson said the process is just beginning, but significant activity is expected to begin in March. She added that the city’s planners are grappling with how to avoid gentrification and displacement.
“People benefit from reinvestment in their neighborhood,” Johnson said. “But how do you manage that so it doesn’t get overheated and prices don’t force people out of the area?”