Public Comment

The Problems with the City of Berkeley and Automobiles

By Carolyn Sell
Friday December 29, 2006

What is it that the City of Berkeley doesn’t get about Californians and their cars? 

Cal Trans apparently gets it, as they plan for yet another bore through our hills to the east to accommodate Caldecott Tunnel traffic. Oakland and San Francisco get it, as they (and the rest of us) pay through the nose to retrofit the Bay Bridge. Marin County gets it, as they widen and improve the Highway 580-101 merge. 

Just Berkeley is in a state of total denial, creating huge numbers of ugly, high-rise rabbit-warren developments, all with inadequate parking both for tenants and the commercial establishments expected to inhabit the lower floors. 

The latest one just approved for 1885 Martin Luther King (“Trader Joe’s”) is the final straw for some of us. The theory that “public transit corridors” can support huge populations simply doesn’t fly. Even though I live half a block from the BART station, I can only name one or two acquaintances in the neighborhood that are car-free. 

The greenest among us, who use alternate means of transportation as often as possible, still maintain a car for heading out of town or hauling groceries. The city thinks Berkeleyans will live without their cars? I invite ZAP and other city officials to tally the frequency with which folks with E- or M-stickers who live maybe five blocks away get in their cars to park in front of my house so they only have to walk half a block instead of five blocks to the BART station. 

I’d also like to invite various city officials to tally the number of illegal garage conversions where legitimate parking has been destroyed in favor of habitable space or storage. Of course the city doesn’t really care, since it is willing to consider allowing us to park on our front lawns, rather than enforcing the very necessary off-street parking requirements as outlined in building and zoning codes. 

As a bike commuter, I’d like to know how much income the city generates every year in double-parking fines. I have yet to see any delivery truck cited for double-parking, yet every day I’m forced to swerve into traffic in order to pass double-parked vehicles blocking the bike lanes. Where are all the yellow and white spaces on our streets to accommodate commercial and passenger loading? 

I also wonder how many residents (like my neighbors) covet the street parking in front of their homes with nazi-like zeal, starting note-on-the-windshield wars and leaving threatening phone messages when someone dares to use “their” space or touch their car bumper while parking in tight areas. Preferential parking stickers do no good if there are more cars than spaces. And in Berkeley there are, by a long shot. It will only get worse, thanks to the big development boom.