City officials, community members talk revitalization plans for Adeline Corridor

Kevin Cheung/Staff

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Pasting pictures of bikes and buses onto printouts of city streets, community members began imagining the potential future of the Adeline Corridor — a historically low-income area set to undergo a number of city revitalization efforts in the face of growing market pressures — on Saturday.

At the community learning session — the third in a series of workshops intended to educate residents about major aspects of the development — project directors and panelists from the city transportation division, BART and AC Transit discussed plans for public transportation, street construction and parking in the area.

According to Alisa Shen, the project’s principal director, allowing community members to design the streets themselves not only engages them in the city planning process but also is a way to gauge their opinions and priorities concerning the development.

“This is a community-driven project,” Shen said. “We want to organize and collect feedback and present it back in a way that people can make important decisions.”

Attendees used the activity to express their vision of the area with ideas such as adding more bike lanes and turning medians into small parks.

“Streets are not just for moving cars — they’re not even just about moving people,” said Jeff Tumlin, the project’s principal and director of strategy from consulting firm Nelson\Nygaard. “They’re about creating great communities.” Tumlin stressed that street planning is deeply related to business, traffic, safety and environmental concerns.

During public comment, Heather Haxo Phillips — owner of Adeline Yoga, a small business located on the corridor — noted the greater tension she sees with the development of the project.

Namely, she asked how a thriving business center on the Adeline Corridor could be created while also maintaining a comfortable community for the people who live and work there.

“It seems to me that those two things are at war,” Haxo Phillips said during public comment.

The city began plans for the development in January 2015 and has since faced criticism from South Berkeley residents who feel that the revitalization efforts could lead to displacement and gentrification in the surrounding neighborhood.

There is no such thing as a perfect planning design for the Adeline Corridor, Tumlin said, adding that every decision has its trade-off. For example, while removing traffic lanes often creates traffic congestion that inconveniences motorists, it can increase the number of bikers in the area, who are more likely to stop and shop in business centers.

Tumlin also presented street-planning methods to reduce negative environmental impacts — such as establishing a way to filter street runoff contaminated by pollutants from cars before funneling into one of “our most sensitive ecosystems,” the San Francisco Bay.

To the frustration of some community members, the learning session focused more on general options rather than on concrete plans.

“What they’re telling us is too vague,” said Marianne Sluis, a resident of South Berkeley. “I need details now, not in six months, right before it goes through City Council. We’ve been through that before.”

Project directors emphasized, however, that the meeting was designed to inform and educate residents so that they could give more informed input as the city moves into the designing process.
The city will follow up on Saturday’s learning session with a community workshop May 21, focused on building a more in-depth plan for the Adeline Corridor.

Jessica Lynn is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.