Neighbors present their vision for the Adeline Corridor while city consultants act as scribe. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
Neighbors presented their vision for the Adeline Corridor on Saturday while city consultants acted as scribes. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

The city of Berkeley unveiled its preliminary existing conditions report for the Adeline Corridor planning project at a packed community meeting Saturday, Aug. 29.

The presentation was the culmination of five months spent gathering community input on the Adeline Corridor grant, a $750,000 award from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in 2014. Money from the grant can only be used for planning purposes in the “corridor,” which covers about 100 acres stretching south from Dwight Way to the Berkeley/Oakland border.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage related to the Adeline Corridor.

Throughout the spring and summer, the city collected 1,118 surveys at “IDEA Centers” set up at neighborhood venues, online and through a youth outreach effort. The report summarizes survey respondents’ desires and concerns, and details recent demographic and economic changes in the project area.

“Clearly the number one thing that people said was their issue and challenge and something they’d like to improve in the neighborhood” was affordable housing, said Mukul Malhotra, principal at MIG, the Berkeley-based consultant hired by the city to oversee the grant.

The risk of displacement in the area is “significant and ongoing,” said Malhotra at the meeting, which reportedly brought more than 150 attendants to Harriet Tubman Terrace, at 2870 Adeline St.

The consultants’ analysis found that 67% of the residential units in the four census tracts encompassing and immediately surrounding the corridor are rentals, around two-thirds of which are rent-controlled. The remaining third have average rents that are about $400 higher, Malhotra said. He drew groans from the crowd when he announced that the median home price in the area is $759,000.

Read the draft existing conditions report on the city of Berkeley website.

“Income growth is not keeping up with inflation,” Malhotra said. The median household income in the area is $46,500. Twenty percent of residents live in poverty (similar to the overall poverty level in Berkeley). According to U.S. Census data from 2007-2011, nearly half of all households in the area have “excessive housing cost burden,” or housing costs that exceed 30% of the household income, the report says.

Attendees split off into small groups to outline their hopes for the project. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
Attendees split off into small groups to outline their hopes for the Adeline Corridor project. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

Although the population in the project area grew by 4.7% between 2000 and 2013, the African American population decreased from 34% in 2000 to 20% in 2013, according to the report. Many of the survey responses called for efforts to preserve and celebrate South Berkeley’s racial and cultural diversity, Malhotra said.

“I will say I appreciate that the city heard the community concerns around housing affordability and gentrification, displacement, and particularly the decline in the number of African American residents in the neighborhood,” said Chris Schildt of Friends of Adeline, a community group formed in response to the corridor grant. “I think the challenge for us as a community and city is to figure out if we have the political will that’s necessary to actually keep low-income renters and homeowners and residents in the neighborhood.”

The report also included analysis of traffic conditions in the project area.

“Traffic does move pretty smoothly for our level of service,” Malhotra said. “Certain intersections such as Adeline and Alcatraz do experience problems.”

The project area includes the widest streets in Berkeley, with the widest portion of Adeline, near Berkeley Bowl, stretching 180 feet across. One-third of the collisions in the area in recent years were caused by cars speeding along the relatively empty road, Malhotra said. 

“To give you an idea, Market Street in San Francisco is narrower than Adeline Street,” he said.

The consultant said the wide streets provide an opportunity for better transportation alternatives, such as improved bicycle and pedestrian options and disability accessibility. Some neighbors said improvements could be made to the grassy median on Adeline between Oregon and Russell streets.

The Adeline Corridor. Source: City of Berkeley
The Adeline Corridor. Source: City of Berkeley

MIG’s community input process included a partnership with Youth Spirit Artworks, a non-profit in the area for young low-income and homeless artists. Participants collected surveys and documented their own hopes for the neighborhood.

Two teenagers from the program received wild applause when they presented their requests for more community-led businesses, fixed-up abandoned buildings and smoother roads for skateboarders. One youth presenter proposed a neighborhood art walk like Oakland’s Art Murmur.

Saturday’s meeting was billed as a “visioning workshop.” After an opening speech by interim city manager Dee Williams-Ridley and the consultants’ presentation, attendees broke into small discussion groups. Each group outlined a 30-year vision and short-term goals for the area, based on the findings in the report.

Each group reiterated the desire for affordable housing, and for a new definition of what qualifies as “affordable” rent. Several groups called for a moratorium on new development or new market-rate development in the area while the plan is drawn up. Other common suggestions included parks, health services and painted bike lanes. One lone group pitched a lingerie store.

Over 125 people showed up to the visioning workshop on Aug. 29. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
Over 125 people showed up to the visioning workshop Saturday, Aug. 29. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

The Adeline Corridor project area includes the Lorin District; the Ashby BART station; the Ed Roberts Campus; Berkeley Bowl and Walgreens; the South Shattuck auto-dealership cluster; and Parker Place, a 155-unit mixed-use development under construction on both side of Shattuck Avenue at Parker Street. The project displaced Berkeley Honda, which hopes to move into the Any Mountain building, also in the corridor area. Another mixed-use development was recently proposed at the current site of AW Pottery on Adeline and Russell Streets.

Councilman Max Anderson addressed the attendees at the end of the meeting, praising their dedication and asking for long-term commitment to the project.

“This is only the first stage of this,” Anderson said. “At some point we need to pivot toward how we’re going to fund these things, and get these things in a form where we can get the whole city council behind it.”

Following the meeting, the city hosted a “community pop-up event” with music and family activities on the median between Oregon and Russell. The second such event, it was designed to demonstrate the potential of an under-utilized spaces.

The release of the draft existing conditions report marked the end of the first phase of the Adeline Corridor project. The entire effort is expected to take 24-30 months, with approval of a final plan slated for winter or spring 2017.

Questions about the city’s efforts with the Adeline Corridor effort can be directed to project manager Alisa Shen at 510-981-7409 or ashen@cityofberkeley.infoSee the city’s project website here

Friends of Adeline: ‘Our future shall be determined by us’ (08.05.15)
Berkeley neighbors say affordability will be key to proposed Adeline Street project (07.24.15)
Neighbors outline demands for Adeline Corridor grant (05.11.15)
Neighbors to hold Adeline Corridor meeting Saturday (05.08.15)
After outcry, library board votes to change library name to include civil-rights leader (05.08.15)
LeConte residents express concern about Berkeley Honda’s move to site of Any Mountain (04.02.15)
Diversity in Berkeley raised as concern at Adeline session as planning process takes off (02.09.15)
Public meeting on Adeline Corridor on Saturday (01.30.15)
$750K grant may bring big changes to South Berkeley (08.19.14)
Berkeley kicks off Adeline Corridor improvements push (03.27.14)
Sacramento Street clean-up efforts continue in Berkeley (03.24.14)
Berkeley’s Sacramento Street corridor on the rise (11.01.13)
South Berkeley neighbors ask city for help to improve (04.19.13)
New street banners give Berkeley neighborhoods identity (03.04.13)
With open doors, Firehouse Bazaar creates community (08.23.11)

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Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...