Berkeley City Council will vote tomorrow, Tuesday, on whether to make official a proposal to transform  Center Street between Oxford and Shattuck into a pedestrian-oriented public plaza which would see Strawberry Creek “daylighted” and, according to supporters of the plan, create a much-needed “heart” of Berkeley.

The vote takes place at Council Chambers and residents are encouraged to show up and show their support or otherwise.

The sustainable design proposals are by landscape designer and urbanist Walter Hood, principal of Oakland-based Hood Design and Professor and former Chair of the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department at the UC Berkeley. They are the end-result of 20 years of meetings, resolutions, studies and significant expenditure.

Hood was commissioned by the non-profit Ecocity Builders which received donations totaling $150,000 to commission the design.

If it is voted through, the city will be able to apply competitively for funding to complete the plan and implement it.

The proposal for the project can be viewed here (alert: large PDF file).

Writer, UC professor and Berkeley resident Michael Pollan supports the plans: “The Strawberry Creek Proposal represents a thrilling approach to revivifying downtown Berkeley. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on this one,” he says.

The voting takes place on Tuesday March 23 at Berkeley City Council Chambers, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, at 7pm.

Related posts:
A possible future for Center Street [2.9.10]
A green, pedestrian-friendly vision for Downtown [2.8.10]

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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  1. TL: I think your idea is a great one, and I suspect it would be shown, in short order, that the main result is that the spacet is rapidly taken over by panhandlers, homeless and other groups that now park outside the BART station – not exactly a motivator for average folks to visit this new “park”

  2. The decision to put water from the creek in a storm drain under Allston Way 100 years ago was arbitrary. Why there and not elsewhere? The engineers thought they got it right, but Center Street behaves like a river now when it rains, transporting 3-5 inches of rainwater. Walter Hood’s design will really capture people’s imagination about the historical ecology of the Strawberry Creek region, highlighting this and other little-known natural processes occurring before we, as Joni Mitchell said, “paved paradise, put up a parking lot.” I like the idea of doing trial closing days.

  3. In the letters to the editor section of the current “East Bay Express” John Vipotal offers the brilliant, inexpensive, completely winning suggestion of doing a pilot program ala some of S.F.’s experiments wherein the street temporarily closed to traffic and a temporary park / pedestrian way installed. He suggests that a third party (e.g., Haas students) should analyze the measured financial impact on local businesses and that perhaps the City could compensate those businesses if the impact of the experiment is horribly negative. I can’t get over how sensible that idea is.

    There are a lot of Christopher Alexander fans in Berkeley (and justifiably so) and one of his relevant concepts here is “gradual hardening” — you don’t master plan, you start with a flimsy approximation of an envisioned construction and then alter it or harden it based on experience of what you’ve built so far. That applies here. Let’s spend a scant 4 or 5 figures on a trial run and see how we feel about it in practice.

  4. Actually, the creek did at one time flow down what is now Center Street from time to time. Creeks shift over time — you can prove it by taking soil samples. The creek was frozen in place nearly 100 years ago when it was culverted. It now runs under some of Allston, angles back under City Hall to Center, goes back under Civic Center Park. This proposal would only take a small portion of the flow down Center Street and return it, the overflows would remain in the main culvert. The new public space would have outdoor dining ala Trumpetvine, lighting at night, music, markets, encourage families, and add to the already 8,000 pedestrians who use the street every day.

  5. I dunno, I have a feeling it will just be filled with street people and end up being sort of sketchy at night. Guess I’m a cynic.

  6. Better a one-off creek than no creek.
    That block is pretty dismal, and I for one think it’s a great idea, fake or no!

  7. This is not a daylighting proposal. The creek does not now and never has run underneath Center Street. It has always been one block south, under Allston. This proposal is to manufacture a fake creek where there has never been one before. The correct name should be the Fake Strawberry Creek Proposal.