I have lived in Berkeley, California for four-and-a-half years now. Of the many unique characteristics in this region, including the bordering cities of Oakland and Emeryville, the one trend that has stuck out most to me is the sudden changes in landscape design. One block with freshly paved road may be neighbored with old streets glazed in rubble.
In fact, the quality of the streets can be so drastic that one feels they are crossing a border into a different neighborhood. For example, as you drive down Stanford Avenue, from south Berkeley, through Oakland and into Emeryville, you will be experiencing the benefits of a road with fresh pavement, clearly distinguished lane dividers, bike paths and signs as well as vibrant trees running along the median. Branching off this road are the neighborhoods, comprised of neglected streets in need of care.
A degrading street, littered with cracks and potholes is not only more dangerous to drive on, but it negatively impacts the overall vibrancy of the surrounding neighborhood. I find the street quality is often associated with the economic vitality of the neighborhood.
Between Berkeley, Oakland and Emeryville, the latter clearly has the best quality streets, as that is where the newest development lies. Berkeley’s streets improve the further north you go, where the high-end suburbs lie. Oakland, which is on an 85-year resurfacing cycle, is in need of $435 million in street repairs, compared to $41.7 million for Berkeley. The website for Emeryville’s Planning Department does not even have a section devoted to this topic, which I think speaks for itself.
Although this topic seems to be relatively under-addressed, it is an important landscape architecture issue. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be enough money to go around that would fix this problem. Still, it seems difficult to improve the street conditions of one area while leaving another in debris, literally.
The question becomes, how do these cities, particularly Oakland and Berkeley, use their limited funds to improve the streets and delineate neighborhood borders?
Credits: Photos by Robert Poole. Data linked to sources.