Berkeley City Council discusses city accessibility, UC Berkeley development

Photo of Special City Council Meeting
Lisi Ludwig/File
During a special meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council members discussed the need to improve the city’s sidewalk conditions, sharing their personal observations and experiences. The meeting also included a discussion regarding UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan, which was reported to be halfway completed.

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Berkeley City Council held a special meeting Tuesday evening to discuss a proposed “navigable cities” framework and UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan, or LRDP.

The framework is Berkeley’s outline on ways to increase accessibility for people with disabilities in the city. The LRDP is UC Berkeley’s plan for its future infrastructure needs, including housing and parking, based on potential enrollment.

“When it comes to the framework, the overarching goal is to create a fully navigable and inclusive city for people with disabilities,” said Alex Ghenis, Berkeley’s Commission on Disability chair. “Disability is a very broad spectrum, so when we look at a fully navigable and inclusive city, we need to keep in mind the breadth of disability.”

According to Ghenis, principles of the plan include people in Berkeley having the right to “convenient and barrier-free” movement on public transportation or sidewalks.

During the meeting, a number of Berkeley City Council members discussed the conditions of sidewalks and wanted them to be improved.

City Councilmember Kate Harrison said a section of sidewalk she noticed in the arts district was “dangerous.” According to City Councilmember Rigel Robinson, he saw a person in a wheelchair use a bike lane because the sidewalk had “ruts” in it.

“I went with a constituent in a wheelchair to try to navigate the sidewalks myself and it was incredibly challenging,” said City Councilmember Lori Droste during the meeting. “That experience was eye-opening in trying to navigate our shoddy sidewalks, so we really need to make sure that we are prioritizing the sidewalk repairs.”

Berkeley City Council members then moved onto the next agenda item, UC Berkeley’s LRDP.

According to Wendy Hillis, campus architect and assistant vice chancellor, the planning process for the plan is halfway done.

Hillis added that with the campus population expected to continue increasing, the LDRP details two new housing projects aimed at increasing the number of beds available to students and also outlines locations for parking structures.

City Councilmember Ben Bartlett expressed concerns about the housing projects’ impact on Berkeley residents, pointing to “a great number” of South Berkeley residents being displaced to make way for students.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín also discussed the plan’s environmental sustainability, encouraging UC Berkeley to consider “real alternatives” to driving to reduce the need for new parking lots.

“Enrollment growth is good in many ways — this community is learning that right now with students missing,” Robinson said during the meeting. “I continue to be offended by assertions that the campus should cap enrollment. Providing education to more Californians and more people is a net good for the country, for our state, for the community.

Contact Robson Swift and Lauren Good at [email protected].