Community Character



The Southside’s unique physical character has evolved over years of incremental growth and reflects a variety of uses.  The Southside is at once:

The purpose of the Community Character Element is to put into place policies that recognize, preserve, and enhance these characteristics.  It also outlines opportunities to build on the area’s historic richness, and to re-knit and restore portions of the Southside that have suffered from insensitive development in the past.

The goals of this Element are to:


A.  19th Century — Early Neighborhood Development 

From its beginnings, the Southside has been a neighborhood in transition.  The origins of the Southside neighborhood date back to the 1850s when the private College of California purchased land in then-rural Berkeley for its new campus.  This land was later transferred to the State of California to become the site of the new University of California.

College-owned property south of Strawberry Creek was subdivided by the College and sold off for development.  Two of these subdivisions— the Berkeley Property Tract, east of today’s College Avenue, and the College Homestead Tract, west of College and east of Shattuck, became today’s Southside neighborhood.  The Berkeley Property Tract was laid out by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to follow the natural contours of the land, resulting in today’s curving and irregular streets, such as Piedmont Avenue.  The College Homestead Tract was laid out with a more traditional rectilinear street grid.

During the last quarter of the 19th century the Southside area gradually grew and evolved into a primarily residential district.  It included many single family homes, a scattering of private student living groups in large houses, churches, and some commercial buildings along Telegraph Avenue.  Initially, the commercial concentration occurred north of Bancroft Way  in an area that is now part of campus, and around Dwight Way.  Telegraph Avenue ran north to a wooden bridge over Strawberry Creek, where Sather Gate is today.  Neighborhood buildings were built in characteristic Victorian-style architecture.  Around the turn of the century, Craftsman or Bay Region structures began appearing in Berkeley neighborhoods, with notable examples designed in the Southside by Bernard Maybeck, Julia Morgan, and Greene and Greene.

B.  Early 20th Century – an Architectural Golden Age 

Rapid development transformed both Berkeley and the Southside neighborhood in the early part of the 20th century.  This was due to the arrival of streetcar lines, numerous people relocating from San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake and fire, and the growth of the University.

From the late 19th century through the 1930s substantial commercial buildings, often providing housing above retail storefronts, rose along Telegraph Avenue.  Private clubs established in the area and local churches built large multi-building complexes.  Most vacant lots were developed into single family homes and apartment buildings, often to house University staff, faculty and students.  Distinctive apartment buildings rose amidst single family homes.  Three hotels were constructed: the Durant Hotel, the Carlton Hotel, and the Berkeley Inn.  Many student living groups built large quarters, particularly east of College Avenue.  This period might be termed a “Golden Age” of Southside building.  Berkeley’s most skilled and visionary architects executed some of their best work in the Southside at this time.  Bernard Maybeck’s First Church of Christ, Scientist, on Dwight Way, is a national landmark.  The Berkeley Women’s City Club, on Durant Avenue, represents one of Julia Morgan’s finest structures.

As the University began to grow, it had a considerable effect on the built form of the neighborhood in the first three decades of the 20th century.  The University completed a series of acquisitions and developments that effectively moved the campus edge south from Strawberry Creek to Bancroft Way on property it previously owned.  The Edwards Track Stadium complex, International House, Memorial Stadium, Hearst Memorial Gymnasium for Women, and Harmon Gymnasium (now Haas Pavilion) all established a prominent presence for the campus.  These buildings created a link between “town and gown” along or near the northern edge of Bancroft.

By 1930, the Berkeley campus was nationally prominent, with more than 11,000 students (compared to 2000 in 1899).  The Southside neighborhood was characterized by a mixture of single family homes, multi-unit buildings, group living quarters, and private institutions.  Telegraph Avenue was solidly commercial.

C.  Postwar Development and Transformation

During the 1940s through the early 1950s, the character of the neighborhood was dramatically transformed.  The Bay Area’s population grew rapidly, first with war worker immigrants, then with the combination of the “Baby Boom” and returning veterans and other newcomers seeking economic opportunity, mild weather, and/or cultural and social bohemia in California.  University enrollment increased rapidly after World War II, placing demands on the local housing supply.  Cars began to replace streetcars, and parking garages and lots became prominent fixtures of institutional, residential, and commercial development.

In the 1940s, the University decided that substantial development was needed not only for academic facilities on the campus but for facilities providing student housing, outdoor recreation space, and parking serving the campus.  In the 1950s the University began a program to acquire the majority of 10 square blocks in the neighborhood north of Dwight Way, as well as additional land on Northside; about 45 acres of “off-campus” land were sought.  On most of these blocks, existing buildings were demolished and new facilities built.  These included three residence hall complexes (with five buildings each), the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, the Underhill parking/playing field structure, and a number of sites where surface parking lots were developed or pre-fabricated buildings located.

These developments, mostly of modern architectural character, altered the urban composition of the Southside.  From a fine-grained pattern of multiple buildings on a block, the urban fabric became one in which one building or a single unified complex of new buildings would cover much of a single block. These structures often turned their back to the street to create internal amenities for the complex leaving blank walls, loading docks, or other disengaging elements where entries and porches had been.

D.  The 1950s to the 1970s: An Era of Change 

Between the mid-1950s and the late 1960s, the University developed a new student center complex in the area north of Bancroft Way once occupied by non-university structures.  The four-building development (Zellerbach Hall, Eshleman Hall, Dining Commons, and Student Union) also transformed the northernmost block of Telegraph Avenue into Upper Sproul Plaza.  This completed the establishment of Bancroft Way as a distinct edge between campus and community, and moved the center of student activities from the old Student Union in the middle of the campus, to the edge of the Southside, adjacent to a neighborhood in growing ferment.

As the use of private automobiles increased during this period, the City and University developed off-street parking including parking structures and lots.  Parking garages were also built underneath private buildings which changed the visual character of the neighborhood.  The City built the Sather Gate Garage in the late 1960s to serve the Telegraph commercial district.  It also redirected many streets to one-way in order to facilitate auto traffic in the neighborhood, following the belief that  moving traffic faster was the way to solve neighborhood congestion.  The streetcar lines on College Avenue, Telegraph Avenue, and Bancroft Way that had defined the neighborhood for half a century had long since been removed and replaced with bus lines.

During the same period the City of Berkeley, pursuing the then popular strategy of “urban renewal,” encouraged private property owners to remove older buildings and replace them with newer structures.  For example, Cody’s Books moved from an old Telegraph Avenue storefront to a newly built store at Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue because the old building was scheduled for removal at the City’s behest.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the University’s enrollment increased while at the same time many family and older residents moved from the Southside to the Berkeley hills or more distant suburbs.  They were replaced by a much younger and more transitory student and youth population.  This led to a considerable transformation in the character of the older “single family” parts of the Southside.  Some single family homes were converted into multiple rental units, others were demolished to make way for larger apartment buildings for the student market.  These buildings were characteristically of modern design, with simple stucco exteriors, flat roofs, metal window frames, and parking garages on the ground floor.  Often, they were built very close to lot lines and the sidewalk.  Multiple curb cuts required removal of traditional streetscape planting.

Amid this physical evolution, cultural changes in the 1960s established the Southside as an internationally recognized neighborhood.  Intellectual exchange fostered at the University overflowed into adjoining neighborhoods and encouraged businesses such as bookstores, theaters, and cafes.  A ban on political activity on campus further encouraged the bohemian atmosphere on Telegraph Avenue and incited the Free Speech Movement of 1964.  Anti-war protests and civil rights demonstrations found their local expression in Berkeley’s Southside.

According to W. J. Rorabaugh, in his book Berkeley at War, Telegraph in 1964 was “Berkeley’s jewel; it was cosmopolitan, artistically aware, politically diverse, and open to new ideas.  The street’s ambiance subtly drew restless people to the area.”

Community activism in urban planning issues was fostered by the spirit of the era.  The grass roots movement that established People’s Park, the Southside’s largest open public space, began in 1969.  It was created on one of the University properties that had been cleared of older homes to make way for a high-rise residence hall complex.  Community discussion and debate over increased traffic led to the placement of street barriers to protect adjoining neighborhoods from the Southside and its traffic; this resulted in Southside streets north of Dwight Way becoming dense and busy arterials carrying both neighborhood and commuter traffic that was funneled through only a few entrance and exit points such as Warring Street, Telegraph Avenue, Gayley Road, and College Avenue.  In the early 1970s the City redesigned Telegraph Avenue’s streetscape, creating wider sidewalks soon filled with street artists.  These independent artisans represent a creative autonomy that is a defining element of the Southside’s commercial district today.

The Southside’s dramatic physical changes of the 1950s and 1960s slowed down by 1970.  University land acquisition and housing construction largely came to a halt.  The ongoing social and political change combined with a lack of student interest in institutional housing fomented a City-wide resistance to the effects of increased housing density, removal of older buildings, and increased traffic. 

E.  1980s to Present

In the last two decades there has been limited development in the Southside.  Projects have typically been constructed on single sites rather than entire blocks.  Generally, new development has been limited to incremental, relatively small-scale infill.  The University filled some lots with mid-sized housing or office developments, including the Beverly Cleary Residence Hall (west of Telegraph Avenue, between Haste Street and Channing Way) and the Tang Center (University Health Services) on Bancroft Way. 

Along Telegraph, two new buildings were constructed and several older commercial and mixed-use buildings were seismically upgraded and renovated, often including remodeling storefronts consistent with the historic character of the street.  Public streetscape improvements have included new street trees along Telegraph Avenue, replacing those killed in 1989 by a winter freeze.

These changes in recent years represent development on a small and incremental scale, in comparison to the sweeping changes and development of the 1950s and 1960s.  The most visible change has been the removal of two large structures:  the Underhill parking structure, demolished for seismic deficiencies, and the four-story brick Berkeley Inn on Telegraph Avenue at Haste Street, demolished after two fires.  University construction of a new central dining commons and housing office facility on the Underhill block, and a student housing project at College and Durant Avenues, also began in 2001.

An increasingly prominent factor in neighborhood development has been the need to strengthen buildings against earthquakes.  Some private institutions, including the American Baptist Seminary of the West and the Town & Gown Club, have recently renovated historic buildings as part of seismic upgrades.  The University has upgraded all of its residence halls in the Southside and is considering improvements related to its other buildings such as the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive.

III.  Existing Conditions 

A. Age of Buildings 

Map CC-1 classifies the area's buildings by whether they were built before or after 1951.  The resulting pattern vividly illustrates how some parts of the Southside have undergone sweeping changes during the last 50 years while others have stayed more or less intact.  It also suggests much about the present visual character of particular blocks or street segments.

Map CC-1: General Age of Buildings (PDF 131.84KB)

B. Historic Resources

The Southside area contains a wealth of historic properties representative of several eras in architectural and community history.  The Southside contains particularly fine examples of the “Bay Region” or “Berkeley brown shingle” style.  The University’s Dance Facility (old First Unitarian Church), Maybeck’s Town and Gown Club, and the Anna Head School complex are among the foremost surviving examples of this important era. Several of the buildings along Telegraph Avenue north of Dwight Way are excellent examples of early 20th century commercial development.

The Southside also includes several buildings that are among Berkeley's and the East Bay’s oldest buildings.  What is thought to be Berkeley’s oldest surviving home is located in the 2300 block of Dwight Way on the edge of the Southside, and several smaller houses near Telegraph Avenue date back to the 1870s and 1880s, an era when Berkeley was still largely farmland. 

As of November 2001, the City had officially designated more than 40 "landmarks" or "structures of merit" within the Southside Plan area and the immediately adjoining part of UC's main campus.  More than 80 buildings or other features here were identified by the State Historic Resources Inventory (SHRI) which was done in 1977-79 -- and which, be it noted, was a representative survey rather than a full compendium.  The list of Southside buildings includes works by some of Berkeley’s most distinguished architects such as Maybeck and Morgan, as well as Henry Gutterson, George Kelham, and Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr.  

Map CC-2: Historic Resources (PDF 133.95KB)

The Southside is also distinctive in that some of its landmarks are not structures but other kinds of features such as People’s Park.  Other examples include Frederick Law Olmsted’s Piedmont streetscape and the People’s Bicentennial History of Telegraph Avenue mural on Haste Street at Telegraph.

Official designation and recognition of the neighborhood’s architecturally and historically significant structures is incomplete.  One reason is that implementation of Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance has largely depended on the efforts of volunteers to document, describe, and propose for official landmark status significant buildings. 

Additional landmarks and structures of merit can and should be designated.  Among these might be a number of the pre-1951 buildings shown by Map CC-1.

C.  Design Features and Subarea Characteristics

Each of the four main subareas of the Southside (see Map CC-3) has its own distinctive urban character.  The subareas (except for the small Dwight Way Commercial area) are discussed below.

However, these discussions are somewhat generalized.  Looked at more closely, the Southside is in a sense a complex mosaic of more or less distinct, even smaller townscape units which subdivide, and sometimes overlap boundaries between, the major subareas.  The smaller entities vary greatly in nature and in size, ranging from large ones like Piedmont Avenue to localized enclaves of similarly styled building like the Colonial Revival homes along Atherton Street.  An Appendix to the Design Guidelines locates and briefly describes many of them.  

Map CC-3: Subarea Locations (PDF 135.16KB)

Commercial Subarea

The Commercial Subarea is largely composed of one- to five-story buildings, most of them built to the sidewalk line and having commercial storefronts.  Most of the commercial buildings date to either the first three decades of the 20th Century or the 1950s/60s era.  Many of the commercial buildings have upper floors containing housing. There are several formerly residential structures which have been converted to commercial uses.

Building facades in the Commercial Subarea are most often in a flat plane on the street side, without significant setbacks or variations above the first floor.  They are, however, often articulated with substantial architectural ornamentation, including inset windows, projecting window frames, roof cornices, and doorway surrounds.  Utilitarian roofs are hidden behind overhanging cornices or articulated roof lines, often of quite elaborate character.  Brick, stucco, and similar materials predominate on the exterior of the older buildings in the Commercial Subarea, with several buildings displaying distinctive patterned brick facades or architectural ornaments applied to stucco facades.

Newer buildings in the subarea are constructed with stucco, concrete, glass, and/or steel facades.  Prominent newer buildings include Cody’s Books, the building housing Bison Brewing, and the commercial building on the southwest corner of Durant Avenue and Telegraph Avenue.  The City’s Sather Gate Garage, with its exterior seismic bracing of bright orange metal columns, represents perhaps the most unusual modern design in the Commercial Subarea, quite different from nearby buildings.

At the street level the commercial storefronts largely maintain a traditional rhythm, with large plate glass windows below smaller clerestories and above solid bulkheads of brick or tile.  Storefront entries are typically inset from the street, and several storefronts containing different businesses may be located in a single building.  Few businesses extend for more than one or two storefront bays, perhaps 30-60 feet, creating a varied and contrasting pattern of businesses.  There are no driveway entrances to buildings or garages along Telegraph Avenue north of Dwight and there are relatively few driveways on the cross-streets in the Commercial Subarea.

There is an eclectic range of storefront design in the Southside Commercial Subarea, which adds to the flavor of this unique retail area.  Some are stolidly traditional such as a Julia Morgan storefront on Bancroft Way that used to house George Good’s men’s store, while others are flamboyantly Post-Modern.  Changing retail patterns are reflected in the storefronts and their commercial signage. 

In recent years there has been a trend towards removing facade modifications made in the 1950s and 1960s and constructing more traditional storefronts.  Upper facades of buildings have also been restored in several cases to an earlier traditional character, most notably at the Granada Building at Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way.  A distinctive feature of the 1960s streetscape, the so-called “riot architecture” which filled easily-broken storefront windows with solid walls of brick or tile, has largely disappeared in the commercial district.  An exception is the prominent Bank of America at the northeast corner of Durant and Telegraph Avenues.

Residential Mixed Use Subarea   

The character of the Residential Mixed Use Subarea is a collection of distinctive structures often interrupted along the street by gaps such as surface parking lots.  This portion of the Southside was affected more directly by 1950s and 1960s demolition and new development than other parts of the neighborhood.  With limited exceptions, its older pattern of single family homes and smaller structures has been lost.  The area includes many larger buildings of both early 20th century and 1960s vintage, as well as a number of surface parking lots. 

Most of the defining features in the Residential Mixed Use Subarea are:

In general, while there are large buildings in this subarea, in most cases their massing is not uniform.  In older structures such as the churches and private clubs, this is most typically accomplished by combining several varied building masses with different roof lines, heights, and setbacks.  In the University’s  high-rise residence hall units, the design follows a popular approach of the 1950s and 1960s with a vertical “tower” or multiple towers with a horizontal “bar” (the dining pavilions), all situated in a unified landscaped setting.

The streetscape of the Residential Mixed Use Subarea is quite varied in terms of setbacks and building placement.  Few buildings come right to the property line.  Most have at least a small setback, often landscaped with shrubs, trees, and vines.  For older buildings, the entrances are usually oriented to the street, with a prominent porch, richly detailed doorway, steps, or other architectural ornamentation.  In contrast, some of the newer buildings are more utilitarian, usually with simple glass planes in metal frames.  The entries of the high-rise residence halls face the interior of the block, while the Berkeley Art Museum’s entrances are recessed from the sidewalk on Bancroft Way and accessible through a sculpture court on Durant Avenue.

An additional distinctive difference between the older and newer buildings is that the former have varied and articulated roof-forms.  Usually they incorporate at least some pitched or gabled roof elements, sometimes with a very complex profile and character.  Many of the older buildings have tower elements.  These can be seen on the residential tower of the City Club and several church spires or towers. The newer buildings tend to have a more uniform, flatter roof line with little or no ornamentation along the facades. 

Residential Subareas 

The Residential Subareas retain many of the older buildings in the Southside and have a more fine grained urban pattern than the other two areas.  Most of their buildings are set in landscaped lots with some planting in front, side, and back yards, giving the area a greener and less built-up appearance.  Off-street parking is generally located behind or under the building.

The buildings vary in size and architectural character.  East of Telegraph Avenue, the buildings are predominantly larger residential buildings including fraternities, sororities, apartment houses, UC housing, and cooperative housing.  Most are architecturally interesting buildings although some plain stucco boxes are intermixed.  Most are 2-4 stories in height.

West of Telegraph, primarily west of Dana Street, the buildings are a mix of early-20th Century or later apartment buildings in various design styles and large single family homes.  Whole block faces of these homes survive, which have been typically converted into multiple rental units. Most buildings are 2-4 stories in height. In contrast to the area east of College Avenue, almost all of the housing units are self-contained apartments instead of group living buildings.  Non-residential uses are scattered within the subarea including a corner grocery store, a University parking lot/tennis structure, a child care center, and private, often medical, offices.

Architecturally, the buildings in the Residential Subareas exhibit a wide range of styles, from Victorian to Craftsman to Modern.  However, many of these structures share common features such as easily identifiable front entrances, rows or patterns of traditionally shaped windows, and varied roof lines.  Many have pitched roofs and attic stories with dormer windows or gables to break up the building mass.  Two- to four-story buildings predominate, although the roofs often rise well above the useable second or third story. 

D. Significant Views, Vistas, and Gateways  

Map CC-4: View Corridors (PDF 326.81KB)

The Southside is beautifully situated on a gentle slope at the base of the Berkeley Hills.  Its gentle topography provides multiple vistas which connect the natural and built environments.

San Francisco Bay and the hills of Marin County punctuate the westward views, especially along Bancroft Way.  Conversely, the eastward views up streets such as Channing Way, Durant Avenue, and Dwight Way display the steep forested rise of the Berkeley Hills.  The prominent form of International House, set against the background of Panoramic Hill at the eastern terminus of Bancroft Way, provides one of the Southside’s most distinguished urban design elements. 

Northward, views towards the University along streets such as Telegraph Avenue, College Avenue, Bowditch Street, and Dana Street are directed towards prominent campus buildings such as Sather Tower and Wurster Hall.  Indeed, Sather Tower (the Campanile) is one of the most prominent architectural features in Berkeley.  It serves as a directional indicator not only in the Southside but from many points in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Southside area also has a number of points through which large numbers of pedestrians and/or vehicles travel each day, including Bancroft Way at Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way at Telegraph.  These points, essentially gateways to the neighborhood and the campus, are shown on Map CC-4.

E. Street Amenities 

The Southside’s streetscape, including the sidewalks, street trees, lighting and street furniture, provides a potentially unifying landscape character throughout the neighborhood but currently suffers from heavy use and fragmentation.

Transit Stops

Public transit through the neighborhood is heavily used.  Most bus stops are simply marked by a sign pole displaying bus numbers.  In various places pedestrians have to thread their way through crowds of transit patrons waiting on narrow sidewalks.


Pedestrian lighting is inconsistent in the Southside and, in many locations, sparse.  Most lighting in the neighborhood has been designed and placed to illuminate the streets for vehicles, rather than the sidewalks for pedestrians.  Along Telegraph Avenue, street lights glare down a harsh, bright yellow light on pedestrians.  On the cross streets, the sidewalks are considerably darker, and the transition from one zone to another can disorient pedestrians and, according to the Berkeley Police Department, creates an opportunity for increased criminal activity.  Lighting on private property is typically designed to light only front entrances and is inadequate to light adjacent sidewalks.  In response to this condition, the University and City undertook a Pedestrian Lighting Study to review and recommend improvements designed to aid the pedestrian.  As a result, trees in the area have been pruned, lighting improved, and pedestrian scale lights have been installed on the west side of Piedmont Avenue.  See the Public Safety Element for additional information on pedestrian lighting improvements.


General upkeep throughout the area is a concern.  In recent years there has been an improvement in street and sidewalk maintenance, especially in the commercial area.  The recently formed Telegraph Property and Business Improvement District (TPBID) plays a key role in improving maintenance in the area by assisting with regular sidewalk cleaning, and graffiti clean-up and prevention programs.

Many of the buildings in the Residential Subareas have a worn appearance, particularly among those that have been converted from single family into multiple unit buildings.  Landscaping is sometimes unkempt and parked cars spill over into former front yards.  Buildings which retain considerable architectural detail and variety on the exterior have often been painted in monochromatic colors by budget-conscious owners.  Because of crime and the perception of crime, “landscaping” in recent decades has often included barred entries and metal fences at the sidewalk edge. 


Commercial signage in the Southside is often both creative and functional, providing a unique sense of the district and its eclectic businesses. Directional signage is nearly absent from the neighborhood. Public parking and prominent public and private facilities in the neighborhood are difficult to locate.  The entire frontage of the University campus on Bancroft Way is lacking a sign identifying the University and its many publicly used facilities.  Similarly, there are no signs or information kiosks providing directions to local businesses.

The Southside area has one of Berkeley’s richest architectural, social, and cultural heritages, but, aside from a few plaques, there is no public acknowledgment of this legacy.


The sidewalks in the Commercial Subarea are cluttered with garbage cans, news racks, and sandwich board signs. The sidewalks on Telegraph Avenue, constructed in the early 1970s of exposed pebble aggregate, are worn and appear perpetually dirty despite constant steam cleaning efforts, and are interrupted with incongruent paving materials.  The wider sidewalks on the commercial portions of Durant Avenue are damaged by decades of utility repairs, and are largely devoid of street trees.

Elsewhere in the Southside, especially on portions of Haste Street, Dwight Way, and Bancroft Way, the sidewalks are too narrow to easily carry the high number of pedestrians, wheelchair users, and others who require wide sidewalks.  Throughout the neighborhood, sidewalks have been damaged by settlement, tree roots, and construction.  Not all intersections have adequate disabled access ramps and many sidewalks are an obstacle course of news racks, poles, garbage cans, and other inappropriate street furniture. 

E. Landscaping and Open Space 

The Southside area retains a substantial number of mature, tree-lined streets which enhance its character and complement its buildings.  Along streets such as upper Dwight Way and most of Bowditch Street, street trees are a predominant visual characteristic, rising to considerable heights and arching over the street.  This reflects the early character of the Southside neighborhood and helps mitigate vehicular traffic. 

Overall, however, Southside public street tree plantings are in decline.  Two of the most common species in the neighborhood, the American elm and the camphor, are subject to disease, causing older specimens in the neighborhood to die each year.  There has been no consistent public street tree planting effort in the neighborhood except for a recent City project that added some trees along Dwight and on Telegraph south of Dwight, and the mid-1990s replacement of the Telegraph street trees destroyed by a freeze in the winter of 1989.  Scattered efforts by property owners to plant new trees are not keeping up with the overall decline of the street trees.  Newly planted street tree saplings have a high mortality rate because of the heavy auto and pedestrian traffic in the neighborhood.

Plantings on private properties serve to create much of the green feel of the neighborhood.  Except along Telegraph, most buildings in the area are set back from the sidewalk.  They usually have at least a veneer of greenery--shrubs, ground covers, or vines--along their facade.  Trellises, front yard trees, and narrow planted strips perpendicular to the street add dimension to the neighborhood landscape.

The Southside contains few traditional parks or open spaces.  People’s Park is the largest green open space in the area and has two main recreational features: a basketball court and an open lawn.  It also has community garden plots, many trees, and a small, infrequently used children’s play area.  Many residents consider the park uninviting to the general public and perceive the park as dangerous.  The landscaping along Channing Circle and Piedmont Avenue is important to the area visually and historically, but does not function as recreational open space.  The nearest city park, Willard Park, is two blocks to the south and functions well as a neighborhood park.

Many Southside residents use the University campus for green and active recreational space. The campus open spaces, however, are increasingly disrupted by construction, temporary uses, or development.  One campus field adjoining the Southside was recently made the site of a temporary building to be used for seismic needs.  The major playing field and active open space in the neighborhood, Underhill Field, was demolished in the mid 1990s and its replacement is still in the planning stages.


Objective CC-A:  Retain and enhance the architectural character and appearance of the Commercial Subarea. 

Policy CC – A1:  Adopt and apply Southside Design Guidelines to ensure that new or remodeled structures in this subarea are compatible with the existing architectural character of the retail district. 

Policy CC – A2:  Modify the existing zoning for the Commercial Subarea to allow a maximum height and massing more compatible with the existing taller buildings along Telegraph.

Policy CC – A3:  Improve the physical appearance and perception of safety in the Commercial Subarea:

A.      Provide appropriate street furniture and amenities such as signage, trash and recycling receptacles,  and pedestrian scale lighting.

B.      Enforce the City’s existing regulations related to signage, outdoor seating, and news racks. 

C.      Repair sidewalks as needed and consider repaving the existing sidewalks with a surface that is easier to clean than the existing surface.

D.      Complete the City’s current efforts to add more bicycle racks on side streets adjacent to Telegraph.

E.      Allocate a small amount of current parking or loading zone area for bicycle parking.

F.       Add infill street trees, with grates and guards, as needed on Telegraph from Dwight Way to Parker Street and on Durant Avenue and Bancroft Way.

G.      Prioritize streetscape improvements on Durant Avenue between Dana Street and Bowditch, where the sidewalks are in poor condition, the street furniture is deteriorated, and there are very few street trees.

H.       Consider a different location for the food vending carts at Telegraph and Bancroft.

I.         Add information kiosks, directories, and signage providing a coherent directional system for users of the area on foot, in vehicles, and on bicycles, including clearly visible directional signage to popular destinations and events, and signage identifying the type of commercial services and goods in the area. 

Objective CC-B:  Retain and enhance the architectural character of the Residential Subareas.

Policy CC – B1:  Adopt and apply Southside Design Guidelines to ensure that new or remodeled structures in the R-3 and R-S subareas are compatible with the existing architectural and residential character of these residential subareas.


Objective CC-C:  Repair and improve the character of the Residential Mixed Use Subarea.

Policy CC – C1:  Adopt and apply Southside Design Guidelines to ensure that new development and alternations to structures are compatible with, improves and repairs the architectural character of the Residential Mixed Use Subarea. 

Objective CC-D:  Preserve and enhance the significant architectural and historic resources of the area.

Policy CC – D1:  Preserve and maintain architecturally and historically important buildings in the area, including both landmarked and non-landmarked structures whenever feasible.

A.     Complete the survey of significant historical, cultural, and architectural resources in the area.

B.     Designate as Landmarks or Structures of Merit, through the City’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, appropriate structures identified in the survey.

Policy CC – D2:  If listed historic resources are threatened with demolition, explore the feasibility of relocating and renovating them at available sites within the Southside.

A.      Identify opportunity sites where these buildings might be relocated.

B.      Plan for such relocation so that sites are available when buildings become endangered.

C.      Provide guidelines or processes for building relocation or swapping.  Encourage retention of historic structures in the same neighborhood.

Policy CC – D3:  Broaden public awareness of architectural and historical resources in the Southside.

A.    Publish historical surveys and information on historical resources in reports, web sites, brochures, and maps for public distribution.

B.    Develop a program of building markers, maps, and other materials that explain the history and significance of the area and its key structures, sites, and characteristics. 

C.     Encourage the use of exterior colors appropriate to a building’s history; discourage monotone painting of buildings, particularly adjacent structures of dissimilar age and design character. 

Objective CC-E:  Improve safety in the Southside through urban design.

Policy CC – E1:  Adopt and apply Southside Design Guidelines for improving public safety through the design of new buildings and the renovation and regular maintenance of existing buildings and existing landscaping. 

Policy CC – E2:  Improve and repair sidewalks, provide adequate sidewalk width, and provide disabled ramps at all intersections.

Policy CC-E3:  Enforce the existing City regulations regarding posting materials on telephone poles, light poles and buildings.

Policy CC – E4:  Improve pedestrian safety throughout the area by undertaking the following:

A.    Complete the implementation of the Southside Lighting Plan which will install lights along Piedmont Avenue from Dwight Way to Gayley Road. 

B.     Develop a pedestrian safety plan to identify which streets are most heavily used by pedestrians and should be prioritized for safety improvements including:

C.    Ease the lighting transition from brightly lit streets like Telegraph to darker side streets.

D.    Change the streetlights in the Telegraph commercial area to white metal halide instead of yellow sodium vapor for safety and improved visibility.

Objective CC-F:  Enhance the urban streetscape, landscaping, and open space in the Southside. 

Policy CC – F1:  Maintain and enhance the existing street tree canopy and develop a street tree planting program for all streets in the Southside.  Choose trees appropriate to each site; these may not always be those that grow fastest in their early years.  Allow flexibility in the planting of  multiple street tree species in order to avoid the loss of entire blocks of trees to disease.

Policy CC – F2:  Encourage tree and other landscape plantings on private properties, particularly in front yards, with an emphasis on native tree species.  However, plantings should not be located or allowed to grow so as to interfere with sidewalk lighting.

Policy CC – F3:  Enhance gateways to the neighborhood with appropriate landscape and other design elements such as public art.  Make these areas inviting and functional entrances for pedestrians and bicyclists.  Gateways should be established and enhanced at:

Policy CC – F4:  Identify sites for public art in the Southside by working with the Chaplaincy for the Homeless’s Southside Neighborhood Arts Plan group, the City of Berkeley’s Civic Arts Coordinator and Arts Commission and the University's Outdoor Art Subcommittee.

Policy CC – F5:  Restore historic Piedmont Way (now known as Piedmont Avenue) to a landscape character consistent with its original design, emphasizing its role as a landmark parkway and setting for historic residential buildings.  Elements should include:

  1. Undergrounding overhead wires and removing utility poles;  

  2. Re-establishing an overarching tree canopy and tree plantings;

  3. Appropriate pedestrian-scale lighting;  

  4. Appropriate landscaping of the central median/greensward and Channing Circle;  

  5. Enforcing “no parking” restrictions in front yards and in the central median.

Policy CC-F6:  Acknowledge the special relationship of many Cal alumni to the Piedmont fraternity/sorority area, and seek ways to involve alumni in advocating for, and funding, improvements and better upkeep of both public and private properties in the area.


Policy CC–F7:  Continue to explore ways in which People’s Park can better serve the Southside neighborhood.  Emphasize:

A.      Stronger connections between the Park and adjacent land uses ;

B.      Continued improvements to the park landscaping;

C.     Heightened attention to safety issues and concerns including improving Park lighting;

D.     Encouraging use of the Park by a wide variety of users for active and passive recreation uses and regular public events;

E.      Adding interpretive signage to highlight the Park’s history.

F.      See also Policy LU-B3 in the Land Use and Housing Element.


Policy CC-F8:  Take into account shading impacts on adjacent structures and sidewalks in reviews of building design in an effort to allow as much natural light as possible.

Objective CC-G:  Improve the appearance, appropriateness, and efficacy of all commercial and directional signage in the Southside.

Policy CC – G1:  Apply the Design Guidelines contained in this Plan as they relate to commercial signage.  Ensure that commercial signs announce establishments in a manner that is consistent with the City’s existing sign ordinance and that complements the design of buildings.

Policy CC – G2:  Develop design guidelines that provide coordinated directional signage throughout the Southside.


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