The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
NOV. - DEC. 2004
UC Berkeley proposes socking city with lots more traffic
Sierra Club urges less parking, more housing
The draft UC Berkeley Long Range Development Plan could have massive impacts on Berkeley. The Sierra Club believes that this great university can do a better job of planning its future.
With the appointment of Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Plan have been delayed to allow for increased discussion with the city of Berkeley. The plan as originally proposed, however, could allow an increase of about two million gross square feet of office and instructional space, 2,300 units of student housing along major corridors in Berkeley and Oakland, and 2,600 new parking spaces in addition to over 600 spaces which have already been approved but not yet built. Specific sites are not yet determined, but the institutional space and parking would be in downtown and Southside, while the housing would be within a 20-minute bus ride of campus.
According to the university's own Draft EIR (DEIR), the project could impede Bay Area compliance with the Clean Air Act. The DEIR indicates increased delays at major intersections throughout downtown and the Southside and as far as San Pablo Avenue. The report proposes mitigating some delays with traffic signals, but does not spell out the impact of these delays on the city's major bus lines. In particular, the increased parking and congestion would complicate implementation of a Bus Rapid Transit line along Telegraph Avenue (running also along East 14th Street and Broadway) from San Leandro to downtown Berkeley.
The university has better alternatives. A lower-impact way to facilitate access to campus would be by providing free transit passes to faculty and staff. Currently, the university charges employees $240 per year for an AC Transit pass, and it offers no pass for BART riders. Meanwhile, it charges employees well below market rate for parking. A 10% increase in parking prices could provide a permanent source of funding for free transit passes. The university needs to show that transit is a priority for preserving the environment and quality of life in Berkeley.
The Sierra Club, the city of Berkeley, the Urban Creeks Council, and many others have submitted comments criticizing the DEIR's impact analysis and mitigations. Later this winter UC will respond to the comments and send a final EIR to the Board of Regents for certification.
What You Can Do
Help encourage the city to use its powers to prevent this traffic jam for Berkeley, and urge the university to negotiate. These issues are a priority for the Sierra Club's Northern Alameda County Group. To get involved, contact Group conservation chair Andy Katz at (510) 540-5921 or email Andykatz -at- cal.berkeley.edu
© 2004 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
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