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City Planning 116

The Urban Planning Studio

Miriam Chion

Berkeley Civic Center

Table of Contents

Authors and Roles.............................................................................4


Mission Statement.............................................................................7

Executive Summary...........................................................................9

Authors and Roles

Miriam Chion

Public Relations Managers: Elaine Hsieh, Samantha Weintraub
Data Managers: James Wang, Jiwan Kim, Kyung Su Lee, Paige Pham
Graphic Managers: Virgilio Cuasay, Oscar Fung, Joseph Choi
Chief Editors: Desiree Rodarte, Eric Dasmalchi, Susanna Savitt
Virtual Tour Coordinators: Avi Joseph Hoen, Roya Chagnon, Samantha Lewin
Inventory Coordinators: Alix Plascencia, Dominic Matias, Itzel Torres
Assessment Coordinators: Adam Wright, Gantuguldur Erdenepurev, Monica Carranza
Challenges and Possibilities Coordinators: Emily Ehrlich, George Mitchell, Troy Oates
Proposal Coordinators: Arlin Benavides, Cindy Chou
Energy Coordinator: Azita Fallah, Jailene Montano-Berber, Su Jin Son

The Berkeley Promenade: Cindy Chou, Alix Plascencia, Oscar Fung, Samantha Lewin
Market The Park: Monica Carranza, Paige Pham, Troy Oates, Joseph Choi, Dominic Matias
Citizengagement: Eric Dasmalchi, Samantha Weintraub, Emily Ehrlich, Gantuguldur Erdenepurev,
James Wang
Connectivity: Su Jin Son, Roya Chagnon, Kyung Su Lee, Arlin Benavides, Jiwan Kim
nu urbanists: Virgilio Cuasay, Avi Hoen, Elaine Hsieh, Michael Mitchell, Adam Wright
Oasis: Azita Fallah, Itzel Torres, Desiree Rodarte, Jailene Montano-Berber, Susanna Savitt


Tom Bates: He was the 21st Mayor of Berkeley, California and a member of the California State
Assembly. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Tom was a member of the Golden Bears’
1959 Rose Bowl team. Bates was a captain in the United States Army Reserves, worked in real estate and
served as a member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

John Caner: Downtown Berkeley Association CEO with over twenty years business, non-profit, and
community development experience. He worked as the Executive Director of Rebuilding Together
Oakland serving low-income seniors and non-profit community facilities. He worked at Berkeley-based
Loansoft Inc. and Nextel Communications.

Arrietta Chakos: Public policy advisor working on disaster readiness and community resilience, including
coordinating with the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities Initiative and the Federal Emergency
Management Agency in the Bay Area. She served as research director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s
Acting in Time Advance Recovery Project and Berkeley assistant city manager.

Loni Hancock: Former member of the California State Senate, she represented the 9th Senate District,
which encompasses the northern East Bay. Before her election to the State Senate in 2008, she served
in the California State Assembly, representing the 14th Assembly District. She was also the first female
Mayor of Berkeley, and served in the administrations of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Suzie Medak: Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s managing director since 1990, leading the administration
and operations of the theatre. She has served as president of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT)
and as treasurer of Theatre Communications Group. She is the founding chair of the Berkeley Arts in
Education Steering Committee for Berkeley Unified School District and the Berkeley Cultural Trust.


Jose (Pepe) Vallenas Ph.D., P.E., P.M.P.: Dr. Vallenas has over 40 years of experience in seismic/
structural engineering for industrial, commercial, residential, and nuclear projects. He is a founding
partner of Earthquake Protection Systems. His experience includes new and retrofit seismic design of
structures systems and components.

Duane Bay: Duane Bay is currently Assistant Director for Planning and Research at the Association of
Bay Area Governments (ABAG). The department provides policy leadership and technical assistance
to cities and counties to help the region develop in ways that support prosperity, physical and social
mobility, equity and neighborhood quality of life, hazard resilience, and sustainability. Duane currently
oversees the Hazard Resilience Team and the Housing Team.

For eight years, until joining ABAG in 2013, Duane led San Mateo County’s Department of Housing,
which administers federal affordable housing programs including the Housing Authority. The department
was also charged with the accelerating production of workforce and affordable housing countywide.
In this and previous positions, Duane played instrumental roles launching or sustaining sub-regional
housing organizations, including a multi-city housing policy collaborative, a housing trust fund, and a
housing advocacy organization, known respectively as 21 Elements, HEART and Housing Leadership

To these roles Duane brought experience as a former mayor and two-term councilmember in East Palo
Alto during periods of rapid development, resident displacement pressure, and cultural transition.

Duane holds a masters degree in organizational psychology, is a former day care and middle school
teacher and was a very early employee in two technologically significant software start-ups that made
him neither rich nor famous, but arguably somewhat wiser.

Paul Chin: Paul Chin graduated from S.F State in 1971 with a degree in social sciences. Upon
graduating, Paul traveled overland to Santiago, Chile to learn about the Chilean road to building a
socialist society. After spending 6 months in Chile, he traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil where he taught
English for a year. Paul began volunteering at La Peña in 1977. In 1979 he was hired as Community
Outreach Coordinator. He retired from the staff in 2013 and currently serves on the board of directors.
In his 33 year history with La Peña, Paul served in many capacities: grant writing, volunteer coordination,
special events coordinator, programmer, and publicist. Paul has represented La Peña on the California
Arts Council arts panels, National Endowment for the Arts panels and has served on the board of
California Presenters. Paul is bilingual (English and Spanish).

The knowledge and insights we gained from our Berkeley Civic Space advisors was essential to our
studio. We learned the complexities of the Berkeley Civic Center through conversations, site visits,
critical questions, and feedback on our preliminary work. Senator Loni Hancock and Mayor Tom Bates
share their valuable 80 years of combined experience on legislation, public investments and engaging
the community. John Caner’s extraordinary knowledge of the city, its businesses and its vitality showed
us the resources for change. Mayor Duane Bay allowed us to understand not only the challenges of
housing our people but the amazing possibilities we can open today. Dr. Pepe Vallenas and resilient
expert Arrietta Chakos instilled the imperative of supporting resilient buildings and communities by
thinking clearly, understanding our communities and being on top of new technologies. Suzie Medak and
Paul Chin walked us through the diverse complexities of our cultural expressions, their meanings, and
our people. Arlene Silk and Leila Moncharsh provided us information on the history of the Civic Center
and the value of its buildings.

We want to thank our people on the streets: high school students, workers, homeless people, residents,
mothers, vendors, and visitors, who made the time to talk to us while walking the streets.

We are very thankful for all the input we received from our community. However, at the end, we are fully
responsible for the content of this report. The analysis and proposals are the result of our work within
the studio during the Spring semester of 2018.

Mission Statement

Mission Statement

We aim to understand the current challenges of the Berkeley

Civic Center to reimagine a vibrant place that serves our diverse
communities today and tomorrow. Specifically, we will develop
proposals for inclusive and equitable spaces that are safe, resilient,
innovative, fun and beautiful while respecting Berkeley’s unique
historic and cultural resources.

Executive Summary

When interviewing a San Francisco State that multiple types and levels of exchanges can
University student who was waiting in the park for happen, and the space should also operate as
his sister to get out of school at Berkeley High, a place, not just solely rooted in space but with
they remarked that the park had always been meaning and should be supportive of the networks
empty, and only really used for a while after high and activities in place.
schoolers got excused from school. During this
interview, Pablo, the student waiting for his sister, The City of Berkeley currently has a busy and
also mentioned a perception around a lack of growing Downtown Center that acts as a hub of
safety due to the growing homeless population economic and other activites, but only two blocks
and general lack of foot traffic in the área around away is the Berkeley Civic Center. The space
the park. This interview was one of the more contains numerous buildings, each with different
striking ones as it directly brought up many of uses, or non-uses, and that has a different but
the underlying themes that this studio and the additive component to the Civic Center. The most
six proposals attempt to address and remedy. crucial ones that this proposal takes a critical look
Pablo, at the end of his interview, talked about the at include:
positive of the park and Civic Center, stating that
the open space allowed him refuge and a place to ƒƒ Old City Hall
relax, which “felt good.” The aim of this project ƒƒ The Veterans Mmorial Building
was to reimagine the Civic Center for the people
ƒƒ Martin Luther King Jr. Park
who are here today and will be tomorrow, and
also to consider the multifaceted problems and ƒƒ Berkeley High School
solutions that exist at multiple levels to give this ƒƒ The U.S. Postal Office
space back to the people.

These buildings and spaces, along with the

Urban Vitality is an important component to
long and rich history that the City of Berkeley
cities. It serves to support the engagement of
has are points of pride that the community has
populations in daily lives. Urban Vitality also helps
shown to care about and revel in. The physical
people operationalize spaces and their meanings,
infrastructure of Old City Hall and the Veterans
and should be formatted around special contexts,
Building are something that was taken seriously
i.e. the area should inform the space. Indicators
when the groups initial proposals came to their
for vitality should be set based on what the space
final reimaginations.
and people decide is the best for them and their
support of their city.

City centers, whether they be historic, civic or

economic should afford people different activities
within the space, networks should be in place so

Executive Summary


The beginning of the studio focused on defining As part of the studio process, we conducted an
civic space - first in a broad, general context assessment of current conditions from a variety of
and then in relation to Berkeley specifically. In perspectives. This document contains a general
order to do so, the class was required to collect introduction to Berkeley’s Civic Center, as well
various examples of civic spaces, many from as deeper analyses in the areas of: Historic
around the globe. Once more familiar with the Resources, Resilience Resources, Financial
concept, students were required to individually Resources, Cultural Activities, Residential
venture to Berkeley’s civic center with the Activities, and Government Activities.
main purpose of holding an informal interview
with a typical occupant of the park. Based on The Historic Resources chapter analyzes the
this experience, students were to write a short history of Berkeley, from indigenous lands
paragraph (including quotes and original pictures) through the founding of UC Berkeley and today.
in attempt to capture what they observed during The chapter then goes on to detail how Civic
their visit. This casual attempt at civic engagement Center and its historical buildings are intimately
was intended to help provide a more nuanced connected to that history, concluding with a
perception of the park and to get a better overall discussion of zoning and strategies and challenges
understanding of its current user base in order to for historic preservation.
inform a more effective redesign project.
The Resilience Resources chapter starts by
Later, the class participated in a more formal cataloging the physical challenges to resilience
observation during a professionally led tour in Berkeley and the Civic Center specifically.
of the area and its multiple historic buildings While Civic Center is in an area of minimal flood
(Old City Hall, Veterans Building, Post Office). risk, earthquakes remain a concern. This danger
Although some of these buildings are not officially is confounded by the dangerous condition of
earthquake resilient, it was a particularly enriching buildings like the Old City Hall and Veterans
experience for students to be able to appreciate Building, which currently will not withstand a
the historical and cultural context of the space major earthquake without costly retrofits. Moving
(even when unoccupied). to community resilience, while the city has some
resources in place it’s clear they could do more,
with regard to preparing the homeless population
in particular. In terms of economic resilience
the Civic Center is not especially vulnerable to
economic shocks, though this is due to a relative
lack of economic activity in addition to any innate
stability. While any retrofit to address seismically
unsafe buildings in the Civic Center area will be
a massive undertaking, new technologies like the
friction pendulum may help retrofit these buildings
in a secure and durable way.

The Financial Resources chapter identifies

education and research as one of the key drivers
of economic activity in the City of Berkeley.
Startup capital is also growing, with Berkeley
startups raising $200 million in 2014. However
Executive Summary


the city budget is also increasingly strained by After the studio groups completed the existing
costs including rising pension obligations. Despite conditions assessment of the Civic Center and
increasing private resources, it’s clear that public City at large, we took all of that information a
capital to invest in programs such as a seismic step further and synthesized numerous challenges
retrofit of Old City Hall and the Veterans Building and possibilities the space currently had, or could
is currently limited. have based off of indicators like existing physical
infrastructures, changes that could happen
In terms of Cultural Activities, we identify a broad physically, socially or economically, and how that
range of cultural events in the City of Berkeley could make a real impact on the Civic Center, city,
including theater, music, and even book clubs. and to residents of the city.
However Civic Center and Martin Luther King Jr.
Park in particular seem to be disconnected from The six different groups initially created 3
this activity, with the nearest hotspot being the challenges that were present, and based off of
YMCA. By offering a broader range of activities those, decided on 3 ways in which the issues
and learning from strong international examples could be remedied or positively impacted. Some
such as Dolores Park in San Francisco, Bryant overarching themes revolved around:
Park in New York, and the Parc de la Ciutadella
in Barcelona, we can create a more vibrant Civic ƒƒ An underutilization of the physical space,
Center for Berkeley. including surrounding buildings such as Old
City Hall.
The Residential Activities chapter illustrates ƒƒ A lack of identity within the Civic Center, and
Berkeley’s recent growth, as well as its ongoing understanding between users and the space,
challenges with gentrification and housing especially when it comes to the city’s and
affordability. Berkeley’s population in highly Civic Centers history.
educated, with most professionals commuting to
ƒƒ Fragmentations city wide that impact the
work outside the city. This creates an opportunity
space, how it is used and how it is who uses
for Civic Center to become a place where
it, including residential, class, race, and
Berkeley residents can meet other members of the
economic divides.
community as well as an eventual new center for
business and collaboration. However, Berkeley’s ƒƒ Equity and inclusion components that are
homeless population and aging population also lacking at the moment and could be brought
must be considered in any plan changing the in to provide some solutions.
residential character of the Civic Center.
These big 4 challenges are what sparked a lot of
Finally, the Government Activities chapter seeks thought in each proposal, and were launching
to understand the current administrative needs points for the design components that each
of Berkeley’s city government as well as how that groups recommended for the Civic Center. It was
government interacts with Berkeley’s citizens. around these that the planning studio attempted
Currently, many government activities such as to be conscious about and take into consideration.
meetings take place outside the Civic Center
due to a lack of suitable spaces. We identify
possibilities for refurbishing and enhancing civic
spaces such as the Old City Hall, combining them
with new technologies to reimagine Civic Center
as a hub for citizen-government interaction.

Executive Summary

Each proposal had six different larger components In order to make some of these considerations,
within itself, including: a stern look at current zoning and land use
patterns/regulations was first needed. Once those
ƒƒ Mobility were assessed, groups either took the liberty of
ƒƒ Resilience suggesting changes or alterations to zoning, or
found ways to work within zoning ordinances.
ƒƒ Historic Preservation This was important because each aspect of every
ƒƒ Land Use and Zoning Changes proposal was very multifaceted and meant to not
ƒƒ Civic Engagement/Events and Street Furniture only increase activity but also increase the use
value of the space and buildings to give the most
ƒƒ Finance
back to the city and their residents.

These were important as components intentionally FINAL THOUGHTS

spread across each proposal because of their
These six proposals are the culmination of a
impact on not only the physical environment, but
semester’s long look and analysis of the Berkeley
the social and economic fabric that people will
Civic Center, Downtown Berkeley, and the City of
interact with in their daily lives.
Berkeley at large. We hoped to not only spark the
imaginations and support of the city, its residents
Mobility was intended to get us thinking about
and other actors, but take a step back and give
how people currently move about and through
real solutions to what we have deemed to be
the space, and how that could be improved to
challenges facing the Civic Center.
make the area more vibrant. Resilience was
important since we are changing a part of the
In the six different reimaginations of the Berkeley
city, and the real impacts to the physical and
Civic Center, hope was found in that they all
social components take serious consideration.
aimed at the Civic Center becoming a hub that
As we are in earthquake territory, and multiple
people not only wanted to use, but could come
buildings such as Old City hall have been deemed
together as a community to flourish in. The city
seismically unfit, physical resilience is an especially
has such rich and diverse histories, populations
important consideration. This goes hand in hand
and opportunities, and lays at the confluence of
with the historic preservation component, which
immense changes. Our mission was to create a
aims to resolve issues about seismically unsound
plan for the Berkeley Civic Center that reimagines
infrastructure and somehow balancing that with
the area to create a vibrant center that offers a
lacking finance, but a rich and protected historical
variety of spaces to serve the various communities
component. On that point, finance was important
of Berkeley and beyond. Specifically, we hope
in aiding groups into not only weighing different
to propose an inclusive and equitable space that
design changes, but deeming what ideas were
is safe, resilient, and beautiful while respecting
more possible, or completely reinventing the
Berkeley’s unique historic and cultural resources.
wheel on how to fund their proposal ideas. The
aforementioned components tie in together as
part of the larger aim of increasing the amount,
ways and opportunities that both residents and
visitors can engage with and use the space. Part
of increasing Civic Center’s utilization is also
increasing the infrastructure, both small and large,
to support those activities and the participants.