Thursday, September 11, 2008

Car-Free Housing In Berkeley

One of the apartment buildings on Telegraph Ave., near campus, is advertising that it is easy to live there because it is car-free. There is no parking available, and you don't need a car when you live in this location. Notice that their sign says: "No car. No worries."

Stepping back a bit, we can see that building engages the sidewalk in a way that is welcoming to pedestrians. The sidewalk is too narrow, because the street was widened and made one-way in the early 1960s to accommodate more traffic. But we can imagine that this was a very pleasant place to walk early in the century, when the street was two-way and the sidewalk was wider and had trees at the curb.

Just two doors down from this building is student housing built a couple of decades ago. Because it has parking, it turns its back on the sidewalk. This is obviously not a pleasant place to walk, with the blank wall of the parking level right next to you.

It would make sense for the city to give developers the option of building housing without parking, because:
  • Some people find it more convenient to live without a car in this sort of location.
  • Housing without parking makes for more pedestrian-friendly streets.
  • Housing would be more affordable without parking.
  • Cars account for about half of the city's greenhouse gas emissions, and the city supposedly is working to fight global warming.
The city could protect nearby residents from spill-over parking by making people who live in car-free housing ineligible to buy on-street parking permits.

Needless to say, it is actually illegal under the zoning laws to build new housing in Berkeley without parking.

As of November 12, 2011, the new Southside Plan will allow car-free housing in most of the southside. It is still illegal to build car-free housing in downtown Berkeley.


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