Public Comment

The Hopkins Corridor Dispute Could Change Berkeley's Politics and Politicians

Barbara Gilbert
Sunday January 22, 2023 - 09:56:00 PM

The Hopkins Corridor Plan promoted by biking extremists who have captured key City officials, departments, and politicians has caused a huge increase in the civic awareness of many normally placid residents who usually don't pay much attention to City politics and ordinarily defer to the “progressive” municipal agenda. Many of these placid, law-abiding, taxpaying, well-meaning residents live near and/or love the Hopkins commercial area and its surrounding neighborhood. Hopkins is an organic thriving local gem in a city beset by neighborhood and commercial decline and large lifeless development projects. 

The bike zealot's Hopkins plan would add two way mostly-impregnable bike lanes along the Hopkins corridor, eliminate over 100 parking spaces needed for the homes and services of elderly and disabled residents and for elderly/disabled shoppers, and seriously impair the emergency disaster services and evacuation uses of the Corridor. Without accessible street parking, property values and desirability of the affected and nearby homes would fall drastically, and developers would steadily take over and redevelop the area into an unrecognizable and undesirable highrise format. 

There are other options, such as the Ada Bypass bike plan, that would actually meet most biking needs. But the bike lobby has declared all-out war and simply wants to win at all costs. Judging from recent sightings, the bike zealots are overwhelmingly young, able-bodied, and of white ethnicity.  

This Hopkins dispute has blossomed into a major political issue. Many of our politicians are feverishly maneuvering behind-the-scenes for various future posts in City, county and state government. But their hopes and plans are seriously threatened by a big Hopkins brouhaha. Councilmembers Kesawarni and Hahn have angered many constituents with their miscalculations and mistakes on the Hopkins Corridor, and Kesawarni, as an incumbent, didn't win by much in her recent re-election, and voting machine Ranked Choice Voting errors likely would further decrease her margin. Councilmembers Taplin and Robinson are unmovable bike lobby acolytes. Harrison and Mayor Arreguin want to but probably cannot please everyone, while Bartlett will be checking the wind's direction. Councilmember Wengraf has been the most cautious, sane, and sensible on this issue, but is reportedly retiring from office when her term is up. And rumor has it that there are at least a few Council aspirants for the next Berkeley mayoral election. In the November 2022 election, the bond measure unanimously favored by the entire City Council (Measure L) failed in a City that normally passes every new property-based tax or fee, and I surmise that it was opposed by many voters angry about the Hopkins plan.  

The last thing our ambitious politicians want is a lawsuit or public fracas over the Hopkins Corridor. But this is exactly what is happening. More people are seeing and questioning the way our city has addressed the Hopkins plan and kowtowed to bike zealots, resulting in more questions being raised about other questionable City actions, of which there are very many. 

I for one am hoping this critical civic lens continues. Previously, Berkeley property taxpayers have gone along with our City's high property taxation and some very questionable social programs in exchange for a progressive agenda that still maintains a modicum of social peace and vibrant local neighborhoods. I've thought of this as the Berkeley covenant. 

This covenant is being broken in many ways and the Hopkins Corridor matter is the most current and egregious.