Public Comment

New: Why Don’t They Do It in the Road? A Berkeley Disgrace on La Vereda

Ruth Rosen
Saturday August 09, 2014 - 01:55:00 PM

La Vereda is a narrow, winding street, tucked between Cedar and the Virginia stairs that lead to the north side of the Berkeley campus. But these three blocks have been decaying for decades. Before EBMUD began tearing up the street this summer, the street was filled with patches, pot holes and rubble. I broke my foot in a pot-hole in front of my house. Down the street, Sallie Stockton fell over a pot hole, rolled over and over again, until her head hit the curb. Neglect has caused some homes to flood because the road is not properly paved. One resident took a picture of an enormous pothole and managed to get a patch from the city. In short, La Vereda looked more like an unpaved road in rural Mississippi than an urban street in the city of Berkeley.  

For four decades, residents on La Vereda Rd have been asking the city to pave what has become a very dangerous street. The city responded that we needed sewer and water done and then they would re-pave it.  

So we waited. At last, EBMUD began their work this summer and it may very well turn into a ten-week job. It’s been inconvenient, but both workers and residents have shown a gracious and generous patience, even though the road is closed to us all day long. One reason for that patience is that after living in a war zone with monstrous machines that have damaged cars and trees, we imagine living on a properly paved urban street. 

We became suspicious, however, when several EBMUD workers told various neighbors that the road would not be paved. A letter to the EBMUD superintendent confirmed that their only responsibility was to “restore” the road to how they found it. We couldn’t believe it. They have torn up the road and still have 37 separate connections to make with individual homes. After that, the road, at best, will be littered with patches and pot holes far worse than in the past. 

Then we learned that the city of Berkeley has no intention of paving the street after the work is completed. Instead, they expect EBMUD to patch up their work, and then, the city will tear apart the road all over again, and pave it in the spring of 2016. 

That’s when our patience ran out. If EBMUD just patches all these pot holes, pebbles and rubble, it will once again be a dangerous street for walkers and drivers. We understand that EBMUD is not responsible for re-paving the street. But the city is. And we do not want to wait until the spring of 2016 when the road will be closed again while they pave it. Think of the waste of money: EBMUD “restores” the street to its former decrepit state, and then city tears up the whole street again and paves. 

This street is truly a disgrace. Aside from injuries, many people fear walking on the road. One senior told me that she’s afraid to walk her dog. Students who use this as a short cut to the campus walk their bike because it’s too dangerous to ride on. Parents worry about their kids playing on a surface they can’t handle themselves. 

As one EBMUD worker said to me, “This is by far the worst street I’ve ever seen in Berkeley. It’s really dangerous for walkers and drivers. How come a bunch of white Berkeley hills folks can’t get their street paved? You folks should organize.” 

Fortunately, we are a relatively well- organized community that holds regular earthquake and fire drills and potlucks so that we know our neighbors. So we sent a petition to Susan Wengraf, our councilwoman, two city engineers, Adrian Merry and Sean Rose, and the Mayor. We asked that they changed their scheduling and pave the road when EBMUC has completed its work. 

If they refuse our request, it would be a colossal waste of money to patch the widespread damage EBMUD did to finish its work and then have the city tear the street apart again in two years. 

So far, we’ve not heard back from anyone, even though we’ve invited them to take a walk and see firsthand that they have a serious liability problem. Too many people have been injured, but none of us ever sued the city. Inevitably, that may change. 

La Vereda is not widely visible to most people in Berkeley, but it is used by a constant flow of cars, delivery and garbage trucks, cars and bicyclists and hikers. The city knows the condition of this street. Last year they said that they couldn’t even patch the street anymore because nothing will stick to the pebbles and rubble. 

Older residents tell newer neighbors that they have waited 40 years for the city to pave this crumbling road. Isn’t that long enough?