Berkeley Neighborhoods Council

 

Dedicated to improving the quality of life for all
by creating a unified neighborhood voice
for promoting livability and resolving problems

 

The Neighborhood Forum

See the September 2013 eNews in the Archive for the guidelines for submission of articles for this Section.

This issue's submission is about CENA, The Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, some of its history, and a current continuing problem with University of California traffic.

Some history, by Dean Metzger, Past President, Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association

The Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association (CENA) was formed in 1969 to expand the traffic management planning and lobbying efforts started earlier by the Emerson School Neighborhood Association and the Pupil Safety Committee of the Emerson School PTA. Articles of Association, including a statement of purpose, were adopted in 1969 and incorporated in 1971. CENA is now 44 years old and still going strong. Today, our membership is well over 600 residents.  CENA is probably the oldest continuing neighborhood association in the city of Berkeley.

CENA is, and always has been, an organization of neighborhood volunteers concerned with the issues that affect our daily lives. Our primary goal is to work on making our neighborhood a safe and desirable place to live.  To meet that goal we strive to keep all of our residents fully informed.  We monitor crime, traffic and transportation issues, UC impacts, disaster preparedness, and we interface with other local associations for example, Panoramic, Vicente Canyon, Bateman, Willard, and LeConte Neighborhood Associations as well as others.  We communicate and encourage resident participation via our Board members, newsletter, open meetings, and our website.

CENA represents the neighborhood and its residents before the City Council and its many Commissions, Boards, and Committees.  Any positions taken by CENA are first discussed at Board meetings and must receive majority approval before adoption.

CENA's Major Accomplishments

  • Emerson School Neighborhood Circulation Plan
  • Consultant Study of Traffic and Transit in Southeast Berkeley
  • Local Transit Study Committee
  • The Landvale Interchange - where Tunnel Rd. meets Highway 24
  • Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve
  • Elmwood Commercial District
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • 4th Bore Coalition legal settlement to improve safety on Tunnel and Ashby Avenues

Although we have accomplished many things, CENA's main objective from the beginning has been to reduce traffic on the Ashby-Avenue/Tunnel Road and Claremont-Belrose-Derby traffic corridors.  In that regard we still have work to do and are committed to getting the job done!

One past example of our work is that of the 1990's when the city attempted to reduce Claremont Avenue to two lanes.  CENA decided this was not a good idea and worked against it. CENA and the neighborhood were able to kill the idea and today it is one of the few streets in Berkeley that still works.

Today, the traffic problems are even worse than in 1969. The Caldecott Tunnel 4th bore promises Tunnel Rd and Ashby Avenue will become even more congested when it opens in November of this year.  That is why CENA became one of the first organizations to join the Fourth Bore Coalition, successfully suing CalTrans and winning $2 million for safety improvements along those two streets. The results are very near to becoming real.

Another example of what we do is our long history regarding the Elmwood Shopping District. Today, the issue is how to adjust the District's zoning to allow it to grow in light of electronic shopping trends, while retaining its valued place as a vibrant neighborhood shopping district.  Should more restaurants and food related businesses be allowed? If so, how many are enough?

CENA also helped saved the Elmwood movie theater by contributing time and actual dollars so that it could be owned by the neighborhoods and the Merchants Association and not replaced by a restaurant or retail business.

We believe that because CENA has been willing to fight for the neighborhood's livability, it has become one of the most desired neighborhoods in the city.

Go to our website at www.claremontelmwood.org for further information.

A Continuing Problem with UC Berkeley Traffic:  Construction of Maxwell Field Parking Lot to Proceed, by Jacquelyn McCormick, President, Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association

While the University claimed it did not have the money to move forward with the construction of the 450-space parking lot under Maxwell Field, the project is moving forward with an anticipated opening of fall 2014.  This announcement was made, among other topics at the Cal Athletics Community meeting on Wednesday, August 28th.

Maxwell Field, located on Gayley Road just north of the new Memorial Stadium, will be replaced with two stories of parking under a roof-top replacement field.  The University is currently receiving construction bids with an accelerated schedule that could ensure use for the 2014 football season.  This project was part of the lawsuit brought by Panoramic Hill neighbors against the University that related to increased capacity events at the renovated stadium, practice times and duration, noise, lighting and vehicular access.  At the time of the settlement the neighbors were told that the parking facility would not move forward due to lack of funds.  With the cost of the stadium renovation and the University's inability to sell preferential box seating, it is a mystery that funds for this project are now available.

Some of the questions that were raised by residents that related to the Maxwell field project are troubling for the adjacent neighborhoods.  The first question that the University could not answer was:  “How many of these new spaces are for parking spaces that were lost due to the stadium renovation and how many are net new?”  While the University staff claimed these are all “replacements” for spaces lost elsewhere, they could not give a direct answer to the question.  However, it is clear that this new structure - even if it were 100% replacement - will bring an additional 450 cars through the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium.

A second question revealed even more indifference to the impact of traffic on the neighborhoods.  “Has the University looked at diverting traffic onto arterials that provide more direct access to the stadium”, such as Telegraph, Hearst, Dwight and Haste and discouraging it from weaving through the neighborhoods.  The answer that was offered by University staff:  “The University has never done a traffic study - but we may do one for this project”.

It is hard to believe that with 65,000 people attending five annual football games plus the University's plan to hold an additional 10 capacity events every year that a traffic study has never been completed.

This story and photograph were originally published in the Council of Neighborhood Associations Newsletter for September 2013.  They are reprinted here with CNA's and the author's permission.  BNC will do a follow-up of this issue in the next BNC eNEWS.