City of Berkeley plan sets stage for future
Development blueprint poses opportunity to coordinate campus, city visions



Tom Lollini

05 December 2001 |

For the first time in a quarter century, the City of Berkeley is creating a comprehensive planning document designed to guide the physical development of the city over the coming decades.

Known as the Berkeley General Plan, it addresses issues of vital interest to both the city and the university — among them land use, transportation, housing, safety, open space, noise and conservation. The proposed document is currently under review, and the City Council is expected to approve specific sections of it over the next few months.

The Berkeleyan spoke recently with Tom Lollini, the campus planning director, about the city's pending General Plan and what it means for future cooperation between the city and the campus.

Why is the city of Berkeley's General Plan significant?
It's the first time since the 1970s that the city is drafting a document to state its vision for the future. The plan provides a blueprint of how the city will make decisions toward creating that future.

How does the campus's planning mesh with the city's?
The campus, too, is in the process of setting its planning course. The New Century Plan, scheduled to be completed in the spring, will guide campus planning through 2020 and beyond. There will not be such a significant opportunity in a generation to coordinate the visions of the campus and the city. This is why we are so interested in partnering with the city as we make these plans.

Campus planners have major issues to address — growth, housing, transportation — all of which intersect with the city's plans for its future. We've adopted some basic values in campus planning, values that we share with the city — among them preservation of our architectural heritage and open space, a commitment to smart growth, and a desire to continually improve the quality of life for the campus community and all Berkeley residents through our development program.

How has the campus worked with the city in past planning?
We have worked hard in the past five years to develop a good partnership — for example in our joint work on the Southside Area Plan and on the Transportation Demand Management Study, which focused on transit and parking strategies.

The campus and its people are a major part of the city. Nearly 30 percent of Berkeley residents are students, faculty, staff or retirees; add alumni and parents to that equation, and Berkeley residents affiliated with the campus could top 50 percent. The campus is the largest part of the city's economy and its largest employer, providing stable jobs across every sector of the workforce. The city and campus are vitally linked, so sustaining cooperation in planning is crucial.

What are areas of concern to the campus in the city's draft plan?
One of our chief concerns is that it portrays the campus as an external force to be contained, rather than as a partner in shaping a better community. Let me give you a few examples from the draft plan.

First is job growth. The state has mandated that campus enrollment grow, and with that will come more jobs to sustain the increase in students. But the city's policies are directed at limiting university growth. The plan doesn't acknowledge the stability and strength the campus contributes to the local job sector.

Another example is housing. The plan is pro-housing by policy, a perspective the campus supports, but its requirements inhibit housing development. It encourages the campus to build more student housing but discourages us from acquiring the land to do it. The campus is interested in working with the private sector and the city to create more housing in Berkeley, yet the plan doesn't address this potential for cooperation.

Finally, the plan encourages transit use, but doesn't propose programs to make transit more efficient, safe and user-friendly. UC Berkeley has had significant success in decreasing drive-alone commutes — in the decade prior to 1997, a reduction of nearly 15 percent for faculty and staff and nearly 30 percent for students. Unfortunately, as the quality and reliability of local transit service have diminished in recent years, we have seen these gains erode. Much could be done to make transit more effective, such as smart traffic signals that give priority to buses, rush-hour express bus lanes or other capital improvements.

What does the city's draft plan say about parking?
The plan proposes a moratorium on creating new parking downtown and no new campus parking. The rationale is that parking means cars, and cars cause pollution and congestion. The reality is that parking must be a component of any responsible solution.

The campus suggests a different approach, an analysis to look at the demand for parking and a full range of options for transit and parking. We, too, want to get people out of their cars and get them walking, riding bicycles and taking transit. Berkeley is among the most public-transit-accessible places in the Bay Area, and campus and lab shuttles connect public transit to the upper reaches of the campus. This is a great foundation upon which to build.

From the campus perspective, how could the city's draft plan be improved?
We would like to see a more optimistic plan that embraces the university as an integral part of the community, a plan that supports the university's mission while providing the very best for Berkeley.

How can people learn more about the city's plan or voice an opinion about it?
The plan is available online at or at the city offices at 2120 Milvia St., Berkeley. Copies of the campus response are available from the campus planning office, 1936 University Ave., and at the A&E Building, next to Sproul Hall.

To voice your own thoughts on the plan, contact City of Berkeley planner Andrew Thomas at or at 705-8105, ext. 135.


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