Berkeleyside Opinion: Lorin District residents must demand economic development the neighborhood deserves

Published on Berkeleyside, December 17, 2018

A group of neighbors has formed South Berkeley Now! to promote transit-oriented, low-income and service-enriched housing in the neighborhood along Adeline Street in South Berkeley.

About 50 years ago, BART demolished a part of south Berkeley, installed a 6-acre parking lot and a 6-lane road that cuts through the heart of our neighborhood. With fast moving cars spewing pollutants, pedestrians are at risk daily. Thankfully, folks like Mable Howard fought to put the BART underground and the Lorin commercial district was largely saved. However, the hole in the center of our neighborhood remains. We see Lorin district businesses continue to struggle to stay open. Fast-rising rents displace our neighbors with many living on the streets. Meanwhile, the climate crisis demands we act locally to create compact cities and reduce our reliance on cars.

Recently, and thanks in part to the Adeline Corridor Planning process, many of us who live in south Berkeley have become hopeful imagining how the poor planning decisions of the past could be repaired, how we can increase investment in our local businesses, how we can increase housing opportunities, and how we can create a more compact and equitable city. We have become hopeful that we can create a thriving neighborhood center where there once was a sea of cars and in the process improve upon a neighborhood that we all love.

Despite our hopefulness, we are concerned that our city will repeat its mistakes or perhaps worse, continue to do nothing. This is why we have come together as a group to make our voices heard, and to turn our hopefulness into action. We have watched with growing concern as our city has failed to step up to the challenges. Today, we’re done watching. We write this letter as the founders of South Berkeley Now! -- a newly established neighborhood group of residents of south Berkeley. We invite more neighbors to read our mission statement and join us at www.southberkeleynow.org.

South Berkeley Now! brings together South Berkeley residents who demand the economic development that our neighborhood deserves. We advocate construction of higher density, transit-oriented, diverse, mixed-use housing developments for all income levels along the Shattuck/Adeline Corridor and on the Ashby BART parking lots. We call on the city to develop well-funded programs to support local businesses in the Lorin Business District and along the Shattuck/Adeline Corridor -- especially the Berkeley Flea Market, a vital economic resource and historical legacy for long-time residents. We ask the city to adopt innovative programs and strategies to help our neighbors who are in danger of displacement due to the housing shortage and rising home prices. And we demand safer and cleaner streets for pedestrians, cyclists, children, seniors, differently-abled persons, and transit users.

Because South Berkeley Now! envisions a thriving, equitable, economically and racially diverse neighborhood, we are particularly excited about Berkeley voters’ passage of affordable housing Measures O & P and funding measures at the state level. We want to ensure that our neighborhood receives its fair share of these public funds so we can develop low-income and service-enriched housing in our neighborhood. For this reason, we call on the Mayor and our district City Councilmembers to bring South Berkeley residents together in a community led design and implementation process for mixed-income housing at the Ashby BART station. The time is NOW while the funding is available and our Adeline Corridor Plan nears completion.

If you are a South Berkeley resident or business owner and you share our vision, join us today at www.southberkeleynow.org. Together, let’s create a vibrant, safe, equitable neighborhood for everyone, now and years forward.

Peter Waller, Betsy Thagard, Jon Lau, Teresa Clarke, Matt Nichols, Matt Lewis, Deborah Matthews, David Soffa, Jane Scantlebury, and Jodi Levin

Berkeleyside Opinion: Bringing affordable housing to Ashby BART will enhance South Berkeley

Published on Berkeleyside, 08/01/2018

The Adeline Corridor and Ashby BART station can become the community assets that neighbors deserve. It’s been fifty years in the making.

By Peter Waller, Betsy Thagard, Jon Lau-South, Lilli Lew Hailer, Matt Nichols, Teresa Clarke, Aug. 1, 2018, 11:24 a.m.

As South Berkeley neighbors, we are excited that the Ashby BART station is on course to realize its full potential as an asset to the Adeline Corridor community, and we thank Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Councilman Ben Bartlett, and BART Director Lateefah Simon for hosting the upcoming meeting on Thursday to address the future of the Ashby BART station.

More than 50 years ago, Mabel Howard and her neighbors fought to ensure that their neighborhood would not be permanently divided by an elevated BART line through south Berkeley. Now it’s time to complete their legacy by developing the BART parking lot and knitting the neighborhood back together with public space and housing. We are strong supporters of the Berkeley Flea Market and we call on the city and BART to ensure that the plan for the Adeline Corridor and the Ashby BART station includes a public open space known as Mabel Howard Plaza that will become a permanent home where the flea market can thrive an grow.

A significant portion of the BART station parking lot should be devoted to affordable housing designed to serve neighborhood residents. With the city of Berkeley putting a $135 million bond for affordable housing on November’s ballot, we believe there is a real chance to get this affordable housing built. That bond measure will dovetail with the Adeline Corridor Plan, which the planning department has been working on for several years. That plan should include programs to end the displacement of long-time community members that has been occurring in part due to the lack of overall housing supply and especially the lack of subsidized affordable housing.

We also recognize that the development of responsible market-rate housing is critical to addressing the larger housing crisis in the East Bay. Small, locally-owned businesses along the Adeline Corridor have been hurt by the lack of housing and economic development in the Adeline/Alcatraz area. Additional housing along the corridor will benefit those locally-owned businesses by providing more customers. Additional housing will also generate the investment to support public benefits, including traffic calming and other safety measures, greening of public spaces and financial support for affordable housing in the neighborhood.

The plan should include developer requirements and incentives that support affordable units at Ashby BART and along the corridor in general. It should also ensure that when rezoning occurs, there is land-value recapture from any up-zoning that will be committed to creating community benefits efforts such as tenant support and focused case management of those at-risk of losing their housing. The Adeline Corridor Plan should also include programs that avoid business displacement along the corridor as it becomes more attractive.

The Adeline Corridor and Ashby BART station can become the community assets that neighbors deserve. It’s been fifty years in the making. Let’s find a path forward that has broad community support and get it done!

The meeting about the future the Ashby BART lot will be at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 2 at Longfellow Middle School, 1500 Derby St.

Peter Waller, Betsy Thagard, Jon Lau-South, Lilli Lew Hailer, Matt Nichols, and Teresa Clarke are all South Berkeley residents.