City planners have drawn up possible changes to problematic intersections in South Berkeley, including the Ashby and Adeline intersection. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
City planners have drawn up possible changes to problematic intersections in South Berkeley, including the Ashby and Adeline intersection. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

Realigned intersections, relocated roadways, new bicycle lanes, and affordable housing on public lots are among preliminary ideas city planners have floated for the Adeline Corridor planning project.

At a meeting Saturday, May 21, at the South Berkeley Senior Center, planning staff and consultants from MIG, the firm working on the project, revealed initial ideas they have developed based on public input collected over the past year. A $750,000 award from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission funds the process, which is slated to culminate in winter or spring 2017 with a long-term plan for the corridor.

The project area covers about 100 acres stretching south from Dwight Way to the Oakland border.

Read more about the Adeline Corridor planning on Berkeleyside.

Saturday’s meeting, which followed an extensive community feedback process, focused on potential uses of publicly owned land and transportation routes. These initial ideas are not necessarily feasible, said Mukul Malhotra, principal at MIG.

“What we’re doing is thinking of our bigger dreams,” he said. “At the end of the day we have to create an implementable plan.”

Last spring and summer, the city collected community input at neighborhood venues, online, and at public workshops. Over 1,500 people filled out surveys. The clear priority in a majority of the responses was affordable housing.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that that’s essential and we must explore that,” said Jamillah Jordan of MIG.

The consultants identified possible sites for new affordable housing. Public parcels that could be redeveloped as housing include the Ashby BART station parking lot, the parking lot behind the Ed Roberts Campus, the Black Repertory Group site, the fire station at 2680 Shattuck Avenue, and a lot on the southwest corner of Alcatraz and Adeline.

Other common themes in community feedback were economic opportunity, arts and culture, public spaces, and pedestrian and bicycle access.

Malhotra presented potential strategies for reconfiguring what he called “nightmare intersections” and “insanely long crosswalks” along the corridor.

The project area includes the widest streets in Berkeley and some of the widest in the Bay Area, Malhotra said. At a previous meeting he said one-third of all collisions there are caused by cars speeding on the relatively empty roads.

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

Improvements to four problematic intersections could slow vehicle speeds and improve pedestrian and bike safety, the planners said.

One possibility is to realign Adeline Street and MLK Way as a regular four-way intersection where Adeline currently meets Woolsey Street.

At Adeline and Shattuck Avenue, the roadway could be relocated to the west side of Adeline and back-in diagonal parking created along Shattuck. In another option for the intersection, northbound traffic would turn right onto Stuart Street and then left onto Shattuck. There would only be one southbound lane on Adeline.

There are also two options for realignment of the Adeline, Stanford Avenue, and MLK intersection. In one, the northbound lanes would be relocated east of the BART tracks. Another possibility is creating a “T” intersection, with the three lanes in each direction reduced to two to shorten crosswalks and make room for bike lanes. 

Ashby Avenue and Adeline proved to be “a very tough intersection” to address, Malhotra said. “Baby-step” possibilities include building medians in the long crosswalks for pedestrians who can’t make it across at once, and eliminating or slowing some of the right turn movements at the intersection.

Underground utilities and the BART tunnel would make it challenging to carry out many of the suggested changes to the intersections, Malhotra said.

A Youth Spirit Artworks participant talks about interviewing a local senior citizen.
A Youth Spirit Artworks participant talks about interviewing a local senior citizen. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

The suggested affordable housing sites present their own challenges as well. Some residents at the meeting said the plan should not displace the flea market in the Ashby BART parking lot.

The market is many vendors’ primary source of income, said South Berkeley resident Margy Wilkinson, a member of Friends of Adeline, a community group formed in response to the planning project.

“What they see is an end to a cultural institution that’s rooted in the community,” Wilkinson said. “The city would have to convince them that that wouldn’t be lost.”

Others said affordable housing should be the ultimate priority.

“At this point, recognizing that there’s a dearth of affordable housing, I’m open to it being set up anywhere,” said city planning commissioner Ben Bartlett, who is running for city council in District 3, which includes most of the project area. But he said the plan should take the flea market into consideration.

Housing could potentially be built around the market, Malhotra said, pointing to Seattle’s Pike Place Market as a model.

Principal planner Alisa Shen facilitates a feedback session at the May 21 meeting.
Principal planner Alisa Shen facilitates a feedback session at the May 21 meeting. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

Housing, affordability, and displacement, and diversity came up constantly during community input sessions for the corridor plan.

Around two-thirds of the residential units in the project area are rentals, and around two-thirds of those are rent-controlled. The other third have rents that are about $400 higher on average, according to MIG. The median house price in the project area is $759,000.

The consultants’ analysis found that while the population in the corridor area grew by 4.7% between 2000 and 2013, the African-American population fell sharply from 34% to 20%.

Speaking at the beginning of the meeting, Policy Link senior fellow Joe Brooks, who worked for the city of Berkeley, said he has watched the racial makeup of the area change dramatically. He called on the community and planners to keep South Berkeley’s history in mind and renew efforts to preserve its black population, which was a stated goal of the South Berkeley Area Plan in 1990.

“This community has a memory,” Brooks said. “There’s a lot of things that have been intended to happen that haven’t happened.”

As part of the idea-generating process for the corridor grant, participants of Youth Spirit Artworks, a non-profit for young low-income and homeless artists in the area, interviewed senior residents about their experiences in South Berkeley and desires for improvements.

At the meeting the teenagers presented the results of the interviews, as well as artwork they inspired. The youth have proposed their own ideas for the plan, suggesting a neighborhood art walk, rehabbed buildings, and roads that are friendlier to skateboarders.

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 sides of Shattuck at Parker Street. A 42-unit senior affordable housing development called Harper Crossing is under construction on MLK between Woolsey and Fairview, and a 47-unit development that has been proposed at Adeline and Russell.

The next Adeline Corridor workshop on July 16 will address regulations and zoning, as well as possibilities for privately-owned parcels.

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

Will Berkeley flea market survive changing neighborhood? (03.21.16)
Berkeley breaks ground on affordable housing project (02.25.16)
Adeline report highlights desire for affordable housing (09.01.15)
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,...