Construction of Parking Spaces Takes Back Seat To Other Projects

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A glut of campus construction may delay UC Berkeley's plans to rebuild some of the roughly 1,400 parking spaces it lost in recent years.

The conversion of the tennis courts and skateboard park currently sitting atop the Lower Hearst Parking Structure into 140 new parking spaces was originally scheduled to take place this summer.

But a backlog of construction on campus projects like the Hearst Memorial Mining Building and Barrows Hall may cause the structure's construction to be pushed back to the summer of 2003, said UC Berkeley's Director of Parking and Transportation Nadesan Permaul.

"We have almost $1 billion of construction going on on this campus," Permaul said. "Just staging projects and being able to do them is a very complex business."

A plan to rebuild the Underhill Parking Structure also awaits the completion of more pressing construction projects.

"With Underhill, we are in the planning stages," Permaul said. "We know we want 1,000 new spaces, and we know how we want to get to the next level. But we aren't there yet because the housing construction has priority."

Campus commuters were dealt a major blow with the sudden loss of the original Underhill parking structure in 1992. The parking garage's seismic instability and subsequent demolition cost the university 750 spaces.

Additionally, the university razed approximately 650 parking spaces to make room for such campus additions as Tan Hall, the Goldman School of Public Policy and the College Durant Apartment complex, Permaul said.

"The university has had a declining parking supply for the past decade," Permaul said. "We are an academic institution, and our first priority is teaching and research. We do have to put some things first."

In addition to augmenting supply, the university hopes to decrease parking demand with employee incentives and UC-sponsored programs that encourage car pooling and alternative transit. Next year the university will retool its existing carpool program to allow for carpool groups of three or more to park for free on campus, Permaul said.

Nevertheless, some commuters said they feel the university should focus much more on helping its employees find other means of getting to campus. Those programs, he said, could take less time to put into place than new construction.

"Clearly alternative transportation is lacking," said Norah Foster, who chairs a coalition of UC Berkeley employees advocating parking solutions. "The emphasis is always on building more parking garages or increasing fees. Neither are adequate solutions."

Among the group's recommendations are a faculty and staff "Class Pass," which would give them discounted access to area mass transit and a sliding fee schedule that would provide reduced parking rates to UC Berkeley employees with lower salaries.

But some in the Academic Senate said they feel this approach cannot singlehandedly alleviate the shortage.

"Existing mass transportation just doesn't work," said molecular and cell biology Professor Jack Kirsch, who sits on the senate's transportation and parking subcommittee. "For some people, it just isn't practical."

Noting that his own nine-minute car commute to campus turns into a 40-plus minute ordeal when taking public transportation, Kirsch said it is simply too inconvenient or uncomfortable for many aging professors and employees to stop driving to work.

"People tell me, 'Why don't you bicycle?'" Kirsch said. "I ask them, 'How does your mother get around?'"


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