City Council Brings Telegraph Safety Issues to Light

Photo: Telegraph Avenue may see brighter nights ahead if the Berkeley City Council passes a referral to increase lighting along the street, which has received numerous safety complaints.
Edwin Cho/Staff
Telegraph Avenue may see brighter nights ahead if the Berkeley City Council passes a referral to increase lighting along the street, which has received numerous safety complaints.

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The Berkeley City Council will consider installing more pedestrian lighting along Telegraph Avenue to increase pedestrian safety and the aesthetic value of the area directly south of the UC Berkeley campus.

In response to consistent complaints about "inadequate" pedestrian and transportation safety measures as expressed by the Telegraph Business Improvement District and Southside residents - many of whom are students - Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Gordon Wozniak have asked city staff to consider ways to better light and improve safety along the avenue.

If approved, the project will encompass the area between Bancroft Way and Parker Street adjacent to Telegraph and extend to the avenue's immediate parallel blocks - Dana Street to the west and Bowditch Street to the east - according to Al Geyer, chair of the Telegraph Merchants Association and owner of Annapurna.

"It's not a radical new idea," Worthington said. "We have lighting designed for automobiles so that the cars can drive down the street. They are not designed for pedestrians."

Members of the Telegraph Lighting Committee, mostly business owners and residents, have also collaborated with council members to improve the vibrancy and safety of the avenue.

Worthington added that the avenue has become increasingly unfriendly to pedestrians, especially when stores close shop after dark.

Despite an overall 8.8 percent decrease in major crime in the city from 2009 to 2010, UCPD responded to 26 crimes that have occurred on Telegraph since 2007, according to the department's daily crime log.

"Walk down here at 10 o'clock ... it's mostly women who get hassled by creepazoids out there," said Jim Murdock, owner of Lhasa Karnak Herb Co. on Telegraph. "I don't, but I'm a man. That's very different."

Despite growing local discontent with present lighting, the referral does not outline a possible construction timeline or the potential financial impacts of the project. If approved, though, the process of adding lighting to the area could take up to three years, according to Worthington.

Though the city is responsible for providing adequate pedestrian-scaled lighting, Worthington said it would be unrealistic to fund the project using city money. The city faces a $11 million deficit come July.

Instead, the referral proposes seeking funding from private, state and federal grants. In 2006, the city received $140,000 in funding from the university and property owners to improve the safety, cleanliness, lighting and business conditions in the area.

Worthington's referral is complemented by two additional public safety items on the March 8 council agenda, including re-appeals to adopt a new Public Safety Commission and a permanent "Walk the Beat" program in which staffed policeman patrol the street by foot.


Yousur Alhlou covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]

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