In its second iteration, Sunday Streets Berkeley flooded Shattuck Avenue with an estimated 50,000 people last weekend in an even more powerful demonstration of the draw of closing streets to cars and opening them up to people.
Since the first event one year ago, political support seems to have only grown, and attendance once again exceeded expectations despite the challenges organizers continue to face in receiving financial support from the city.
“It really is a very important event now in Berkeley,” said Mayor Tom Bates. ”People all want to extend it to have it be more than once a year, and I would certainly be in favor of it.”
Sunday Streets Berkeley received support from the City Council, which set aside nearly $60,000 to help finance one event for 2013 and another in 2014 (each event requires about $50,000 total). While some council members had initially expressed hesitance to approve those funds, the majority were apparently won over.
“There were lots of people with kids, which was wonderful to see,” noted Berkeley Council Member Laurie Capitelli, who championed the city’s grant to help support the program. “I really believe in the concept of Sunday Streets.”
“Open streets don’t survive [without] the city — the minimal level of support is that the city covers traffic, police, etc.,” said Emunah Hauser, Sunday Streets director for Livable Berkeley.
John Caner, the chief executive officer of the Downtown Berkeley Association, remembers being “dumbfounded by the outpouring” when over 40,000 people turned out for the first event last October, where just 5,000 were expected. The Downtown Berkeley Association helped fund this year’s event along with the North Shattuck Association.
As with the launch of Sunday Streets San Francisco in 2008, merchants who initially opposed the events based on fears that removing car traffic would hurt their businesses were quickly won over after witnessing the opposite result.