Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Parking Hassle Around UC Berkeley as Spaces Dwindle

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
Bay Area News Group

BERKELEY -- Good luck finding a place to park. 

That's the upshot of an ongoing building binge at UC Berkeley where parking lots are being turned into buildings as the school runs out of vacant land to work with. And there's no plan to create more spaces. 

With the permanent closure of two large lots and the two-year closure of a third, the university is eliminating 650 spots, or about 10 percent of its entire inventory of 6,000 spaces, said Seamus Wilmot, UC Berkeley parking director. 

That means more UC Berkeley faculty and staff will be competing with everyone else for street parking and spaces in city and private lots. 

"We are running short of space and it's going to be tight," said Wilmot, who conceded there are no plans, at least in the next several years, to create more parking around the campus. 

On March 1, UC Berkeley closed its University Hall parking structure at Oxford Street and Allston Way to make way for the new Berkeley Art Museum, permanently removing 320 spaces. 

On March 1, the university closed the parking lot under Zellerbach Hall on Bancroft Way near Telegraph Avenue, removing 100 spaces until construction on two new buildings at Lower Sproul Plaza is finished in 2015. 

And in August, the university will permanently remove another 230 spaces also on Bancroft Way at the Tang Center to make way for a new Cal Aquatics Center. 

After August, there will be about 5,350 spaces for about 5,500 faculty and staff who regularly drive to work at the school, Wilmot said. 

Wilmot said UC Berkeley is looking into building more parking on the west side of campus near the downtown area, "but the reality is that if you get a 'yes' answer on building it, it's another two years before a car gets parked." 

The only other alternative, he said, is to try to convince those who drive to work at UC Berkeley to take mass transit. He said about 44 percent of the 12,500 faculty and staff drive into Berkeley and park every day, 24 percent take public transit, 10 percent ride bikes and 8 percent walk. 

"I know taking transit is not viable for a number of people, but we're trying to get as much info to people as possible," Wilmot said. 

City Councilman Jesse Arreguin, whose district includes the downtown area, said although Berkeley leaders want visitors and residents to get out of their cars to use mass transit as much as possible to combat climate change, "the reality is there is still going to be a significant number of people who choose to drive. Even right now we don't have enough parking." 

Like Wilmot, Arreguin said there are no easy answers and the result will have to be more people using BART and AC Transit to get into Berkeley. Both the city and the university need to start spreading the gospel about public transit, he said. 

"The city isn't doing any outreach about how the parking situation is going to get worse and the university isn't doing enough to get its faculty and staff out of their cars," Arreguin said. "People are driving to campus and they need places to park, so it spreads the impact all around." 

Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.

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