Celebrate the publication of the third edition of Berkeley Walks (Heyday, $22) this Saturday with a 1.5-mile North Berkeley stroll that will begin at the North Branch Library and be followed by cake and a book signing with authors Janet Byron and Bob Johnson.
First published in 2015 and last updated five years ago, the guidebook — billed as the “definitive guide for East Bay wanderers” — has been updated to reflect a transformed Berkeley. In it, you’ll find 21 quintessential walks to take in Berkeley, which pass by sites that include the building from which Patty Hearst was kidnapped, the Unabomber’s Berkeley home, and many hidden parks and architectural gems.
Byron and Johnson were inspired to write the guidebook by their work with the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association, which builds and maintains the steep stairways of public walkways criss-crossing the hills that are valuable both for walkers on a wander as fire evacuation routes. The association is turning 25 next month and publishes a popular map of “Berkeley and its Pathways” that’s now in its 10th edition.
Our interview with Byron and Johnson has been condensed and edited.
Why did you first want to write Berkeley Walks, and what do you hope readers will get from the book?
Bob Johnson: We had been leading walks together and separately in Berkeley for Greenbelt Alliance, Berkeley Path Wanderers Association, Berkeley Historical Society, and other groups, and were inspired to share them with a wider audience. We started working on Berkeley Walks in 2012, the first edition was published by Roaring Forties Press in 2015, the second edition came out in 2018, and now this new edition with Heyday Books in 2023.
Janet Byron: We hope that people take away a greater appreciation of the wealth of history, architecture, street trees, gardens, paths, and other treasures in the neighborhoods of our community.
What are the main changes in this new edition?
Byron: We went over all the walks and made extensive updates to all the things that change over time, plus added lots of new information as we keep learning about Berkeley. We really appreciate it when walkers write us at firstname.lastname@example.org to make suggestions and corrections. Also, Bob has posted 24 new walks on our website as free PDF downloads, including walks in Oakland, Albany, Kensington, and El Cerrito.
Johnson: So much has changed in Berkeley. While Berkeley’s historic architecture and parks are mostly well-preserved, the downtown and commercial areas have undergone dramatic transformation, with hundreds of units of much-needed new housing added on Shattuck, University, and other corridors. Since the last edition, we said goodbye to beloved institutions such as Brennan’s and other cafes and restaurants, plus all the movie theaters downtown. At the same time, we welcomed protected bike lanes on Hearst, Milvia, and Adeline; the beautiful renovation of John Hinkel Park; and the complete transformation of Center Street, where a one-story, suburban-style bank building is now a 17-story hotel and restaurant.
Byron: We felt that it was important to change the titles of two walks to better reflect changing times and community interests: “The Gourmet Ghetto” walk is now called “North Shattuck” and “Ocean View” is now “The Ohlone Shellmound and Ocean View.”
Could you tell us about the paths you’ll be leading people on July 8?
Johnson: We will explore the North Berkeley neighborhood around the Berkeley Public Library’s North Branch, including a quirky sculpture garden on Colusa Avenue, Marin Circle, Terrace Walk path, distinctive architecture, and mature, shady street trees. We chose a route that is not too long but reveals the kinds of things that walkers will find in our self-guided walks.
Saturday, July 8. Walk at 2 p.m., book signing starts 3 p.m. Berkeley Public Library North Branch. FREE