1977 City of Berkeley Report


Sacramento Street from Oregon Street to the south city limits has needed an uplift for a long time and the City now has a plan for improvements. Residents of the Sacramento Street area, merchants and neighborhood groups have been working with the Comprehensive Planning Department since 1975 to prepare a plan to upgrade the commercial strip and preserve the surrounding neighborhood.

sacramento Street 1920s

The plan includes six elements:

1.  Removal of Tracks

The Santa Fe Railroad Company has applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission (lCC) for right-of-way abandonment and for permission to relocate their service onto the Southern Pacific tracks in West Berkeley. It appears likely that the ICC will approve the petition. Actual removal of the tracks will be coordinated with the street reconstruction which is expected to start in January, 1979.

2. Undergrounding of Utilities

Overhead utility lines along both sides of lower Sacramento Street give it a cluttered and unsightly appearance. After a public hearing in the area and based on recommendations of the Citizens Committee on Undergrounding of Utilities, the City Council established Underground Utility District No. 26 in March 1977. Undergrounding will be carried out as part of the street reconstruction

3. Street Reconstruction

The City Council has set aside approximately $1 million in county aid gas tax funds to pay for the reconstruction and beautification of lower Sacramento Street. The street will be reconstructed in a manner similar to San Pablo Avenue with left turn lanes, landscaped center medians, trees and improved lighting.

4. Economic Development

The lower Sacramento Street commercial district offers a narrow range of goods and services and suffers from a low volume of sales. If local residents were to increase their spending on Sacramento Street to a level typical of other neighborhood shopping areas, the resulting sales volume could be at least double current estimated sales. Given the economic potential that exists in the area, the primary focus of the plan is on finding ways to help local merchants increase sales and to expand the variety of goods offered for sale. No expansion of commercial zoning is proposed by the Area Plan and future commercial development will be confined to properties fronting on Sacramento Street. Business development will be encouraged which better serves the shopping needs of Sacramento Street area residents.

5. Social Conditions

Many people "hang out" on Sacramento Street and by their presence discourage use of the area by neighborhood residents. Many of the persons who frequent Sacramento Street reflect the larger social problems affecting low income communities. For example, the unemployment rate for the area is approximately 20% and ranges between 20%-40% for teenagers and young adults. Proposals to deal with social problems include:  establishing a one-stop outreach facility to provide a range of employment services to South Berkeley residents, particularly young persons; discouraging new outlets serving liquor, wine, and beer in the Sacramento Street commercial area and improving police/community relations.

6. Neighborhood Preservation

The Sacramento Street study area contains extensive apartment zoning in the residential neighborhoods; however, the predominant housing pattern  (over 56% of the net acreage) is one of single family dwellings. Commercial zoning along Sacramento Street in some cases extends well into residential areas. Because of the zoning and land use patterns, residents in the study area are concerned that older, single family homes in South Berkeley be preserved.

The Comprehensive Planning Department will be holding meetings with residents and property owners to review ways to protect their neighborhoods from unwanted change. In the coming year the broad strategies and policies called for in the plan will be refined into specific programs for economic and social improvement in the area. A business needs survey will be conducted of the businesses within the Sacramento Street Study Area. The Comprehensive Planning Department staff will use the results of this survey to identify the kinds of technical and financial assistance programs needed by local businesses

Source: City of Berkeley 1977 Annual Report (published by Berkeley Gazette)

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