Berkeley opens garage downtown to alleviate parking issues

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

The city of Berkeley opened a new parking garage Downtown with space for 720 cars and 350 bikes Nov. 2.

The Center Street garage is located at 2025 Center St. near the Downtown Berkeley BART station and can be accessed from both Center Street and Addison Street. Along with Berkeley’s Streets and Open Space Improvement Plan, the garage was created with the goal of transforming streets and addressing transportation and parking issues.

The garage includes a BART Bike Station, bike repair equipment, art exhibits, electric vehicle charging stations and a café. The design of the building features light displays and sustainable aspects, such as rooftop solar panels and rainwater collection gardens.

“All of the different elements reflect the values of our community,” city spokesperson Matthai Chakko said. “We want to create ways where other people can move around.”

The structure replaces a garage that was deemed seismically unsound, and the parking capacity of the new garage increased by 71 percent compared to the former one, according to the city website.

Because of the additional parking spaces, Chakko said the garage will reduce the amount of time “people are circling around looking for spaces.” Chakko said the garage will discourage curbside parking, freeing up the sidewalk for pedestrian benefits.

The $38 million project cost is paid for through a bond that will be repaid through the garage’s parking revenues, according to the website. Parking rates include $3 per hour for the first four hours, a daily flat rate of $25 and a monthly rate of $250. These rates are priced to be cheaper than the street parking in the area, according to Chakko.

Melanie Vose, who was visiting Berkeley from San Francisco, said she appreciated the bright look of the parking garage. Vose and a friend were on their way to a class and were grateful the garage was open.

“It was the only garage open,” Vose said. “If it wasn’t here, we would’ve been late.”

Berkeley City College student Kylie Kovac said she appreciated the garage because she would previously park across the street, which was always highly crowded. Kovac’s friend, Berkeley City College student Rubi Ramirez, said the café in the garage was not worth the construction costs because there are so many in the area.

Other projects within the Streets and Open Spaces Improvement Plan include street trees, sidewalk widening and water features. The garage’s bike services also fit into a larger city effort to expand the city’s biking infrastructure.

“This past two years, we’ve established protected bike lanes around campus, the new BART station opened and we’re going to reconfigure Shattuck,” Chakko said. “All of this is trying to create a place to make it easier for people to get Downtown, and the garage is central to that.”

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.