A Note From Councilmember Capitelli
Dear District 5 Neighbors,
It was great to be at the Solano Stroll last month and to have the opportunity to talk with many of you. The hot topic of the day was the proposed service cuts by AC Transit which, if implemented, would hit particularly hard the residents in the hills along the Spruce corridor. Though we have no clear promise that route 67 along Spruce will be spared, we did receive good faith assurance that AC Transit is looking at ways to replace the operating monies lost by the state budget cuts. The Berkeley City Council also formally asked AC Transit to do so and to investigate other opportunities to partner with private shuttle providers to provide transit access to Berkeley neighborhoods.
But I think it safe to say that District 5 residents, when traveling around their neighborhoods to shops and events, choose to walk. Berkeley is known for its "walkabililty" and for its accessibility for those who need to use a wheelchair. Despite our reputation, I am reminded regularly that there are challenges to walking in our neighborhoods, not the least of which is the condition of many sidewalks and the intrusion of street trees and shrubbery into the public right of way. (Please note that my Council proposal to allow some encroachment in the public right of way absolutely did not include any encroachment into the required access area of a sidewalk, generally six feet.)
Just last week I had the opportunity to accompany one of my neighbors, Brigitte Beinhoff, on a wheelchair tour of the sidewalks south of Solano Ave. It was a humbling journey, to say the least, and jarring, and frustrating. Brigitte showed me first-hand the obstacles to her safe transit: renegade garbage cans, border shrubbery leaning across the sidewalk, broken and disrupted sidewalks, cars parked into and across sidewalks, and inappropriately placed curb cuts. Too often we had to veer out into traffic to avoid obstacles, or manhandle thorny bushes in order to pass, compromising our balance and scraping our arms.
What can we all do to improve the walkability of our neighborhoods? In his annual report to all the citizens of Berkeley, City Manager Phil Kamlarz reminds us:
"Berkeley is well known for our pedestrian-friendly way of life, and traveling our sidewalks is a great way for everyone to explore our unique neighborhoods. Overgrown landscaping, however, can make it hard for walkers and wheelchair users to travel freely. All residents are encouraged to ensure their sidewalks offer good visibility and are clear and easy to travel."
Please, please keep the sidewalk in front of your house clear of debris, shrubbery and vehicles. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulation requires six feet of clearance. Instead of a tape measure, I suggest you just walk with a friend, side by side and trim any growth that trips you, rubs against you or impedes your vision of oncoming traffic. This will serve ALL pedestrians including those traveling in wheelchairs.
Broken and deteriorating sidewalks should be reported to Public Works at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by contacting my office. Be sure to include the exact address. The city will do an asphalt "make safe" or repair sidewalks impacted by City street trees, and notify property owners of their responsibility to repair other situations.
If street trees (those planted in the planting strip next to the street) are overgrown and encroaching into the pedestrian's path, please contact my office (again with the exact street address) and we will alert our forestry department.
Thank you, Brigitte (and thanks to Johnston's Medical Supply for the loan of the electric wheel chair). I'm getting out my broom and my shears this weekend.
Berkeley City Council, District 5
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