Sunday Streets Photo- Alan Tobey
Berkeley’s first Sunday Streets, which was held on Oct. 14, was deemed a big success. Photo: Alan Tobey

Last October, Berkeley held a Sunday Streets event for the first time, and an estimated 40,000 people flocked to Shattuck Avenue to stroll, bike and skate the length of 17 blocks enjoying the car-free environment, al fresco eating, music, yoga and chess playing. By most accounts, the event was a success, but to make it happen again this year and going forward, the organizers are asking officials to stump up the funds to cover city costs.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, officials expressed their support for the event, but were hesitant, given Berkeley’s tight budget, to commit to the full amount needed to cover city costs for a 2013 repeat performance, as well as funds for future years. They also said they were uncomfortable making financial decisions separate from the context of the rest of Berkeley’s events.

In the item set before the council, Councilman Laurie Capitelli asked his fellow officials to make a cash grant of $7,500 to Livable Berkeley, the event’s main organizer. He also requested that the council commit to $22,100 of in-kind support toward the October event.

The lion’s share of Sunday Streets funding to cover city costs remains to be decided as part of the next city budget vote in June, although several council members have pledged initial financial support toward the next festival through their discretionary funds. (They’ll determine the exact amounts at the Feb. 19 council meeting.)

The council agreed to discuss an annual appropriation of $59,098, to cover two events, for 2013-14. That would include $44,224 for in-kind services and permit fees, along with a $15,000 cash grant for city-required signage, materials and related labor.

This year, 2012-13, the city’s total adopted budget for events is $57,4440 in cash for 16 events and one miscellaneous line item (see chart, below); the city also has $35,550 allocated for in-kind expenses such as overtime, portable toilets and insurance, according to the city’s budget book. (City Manager Christine Daniel said Tuesday night that in-kind expenses are actually higher than what has been budgeted, but she did not have the exact figure. July Fourth celebration costs do not appear below because they come from another city fund.)

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Livable Berkeley would be responsible each year for providing $124,000 for Sunday Streets, in part from private sponsorships, “to produce and publicize two events and manage the program.” (That breaks down as $100,000 in cash and $24,000 in kind.)

One of the event’s lead organizers, Emunah Hauser, acknowledged that the amount of money requested from the city to put on Sunday Streets is “a lot more than other events need.” But, she said, the amount is based on the event’s model, which was created and refined in other cities. Hauser also noted that the cash request would go entirely toward paying for things like signage and barricades, which are required by the city but not provided by them.

“We still have to raise money to pay ourselves. That money just goes toward stuff the city doesn’t have available,” she said.

Council members who attended the event said it provided an experience like no other. Those who were unable to attend said they received emails and other communications from constituents who, by and large, considered the event a huge success.

Capitelli said: “We need to have some celebrations as a community. In my almost 50 years in Berkeley, I have never been to an event like Sunday Streets last fall. And I’ve been to a lot of events.”

Councilman Gordon Wozniak said he had never received as much positive feedback about an event as he did after the first Sunday Streets festival. He added that the math works out to about 50 cents per resident to cover the city costs for Sunday Streets.

“We have to invest in Berkeley,” he said. “This fits in our Climate Action Plan. It’s a feel-good event. It does the right thing. It makes the streets available to pedestrians. You get to take back the streets.”

Meanwhile, Livable Berkeley has collected nearly 950 signatures on a petition to support Sunday Streets that will remain active until the future of the event is certain.

Berkeley happily abandons sidewalks for Sunday Streets [10.15.12]
Shattuck Avenue goes car-free for 17 blocks on Sunday [10.11.12]
Can car-free “Sunday Streets” come to Berkeley? [05.11.12]

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...