Buried in Tuesday evening’s Berkeley City Council agenda was a resolution to extend the contract on the Downtown Berkeley Bike Station for one more year, at its current terms.
The station moved to its current street-level storefront location in the historic Shattuck Hotel building in 2010 after extensive renovations to the former retail space, and this month is coming up on the end of the five-year initial lease agreement between BART, the City of Berkeley, and the building owners.
According to the city, the contract extension is necessary because “the property manager and BART have not been successful in negotiating a renewal of the lease at or near the current lease rate,” which is considerably lower than the current market rate for retail spaces in downtown.
The current Bike Station was designed and constructed with funding from BART and the city of Berkeley, and the two entities continue to split the costs of operating the service. BART contributes around $130,000 per year for operations, staffing, utilities, and some rent, and the city of Berkeley pays $60,000 a year for rent.
BART has already signed the contract extension with the property owners at the original terms, and the city council approved the contract as part of its consent calendar Tuesday evening.
The extension will buy time for BART and the city to decide what to do when the contract ends and the inevitable rent increase comes due. Steve Beroldo, BART’s bicycle programs manager, estimates that the rent could go up from the current $2 per square foot to anywhere between $3.50 and $5 a square foot, based on current market rates.
“It’s good news for Berkeley,” said Beroldo. “It means downtown Berkeley is doing well. And we always knew the rent increase would be coming.”
The owners of the building housing the bike station are currently planning major renovations to it, and they have been amenable to a one-year extension of the contract. What happens after that is not so clear, especially if the rent increases dramatically.
Other nearby retail spaces are likely to cost just as much, and Beroldo pointed out that construction costs would have to be taken into account as well. The current Bike Station cost $756,000 to design and build, using one-time regional, federal, and state grants, plus $50,000 in BART capital funds.
The Bike Station is heavily used. Its attended parking, which can accommodate up to 175 bikes, is frequently filled to capacity. It also has a separate self-serve section that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and has room for 113 bikes. That section doesn’t fill up, perhaps in part because customers must have a BikeLink membership to access it.
The city is preparing plans to tear down and rebuild its parking garage on Center street, and some see that project as an opportunity to create a permanent, affordable home for the bike station–but that would be a longer-term solution.
“The gap between that and this one-year lease extension is something we need to figure out,” said Dave Campbell of Bike East Bay.
In the meantime, the Bike Station will stay where it is. “We fully intend to keep the attended parking,” said Beroldo. “There may be a chance to move the self-serve parking somewhere within the same building, but without using a prime retail space.”