Safeway's bid to expand and add nine smaller storefronts at the location on Berkeley and Oakland's border has who fear an enlarged shopping destination could make traffic around College Avenue even worse. It isn't the first time a Berkeley grocery store has brought such concerns — at University and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, the construction of the Trader Joe's that opened last year caused similar worries.
Both locations, while on busy avenues lined with stores, are surrounded by residential streets. In the past, the city has used traffic calming and parking restrictions to lessen the impact of shopping developments on neighborhoods, like the one Berkeley Way neighborhood behind .
How was traffic affected?
In the end, did traffic become a nightmare around the new Trader Joe's and accompanying New Californian apartment building? It depends, neighbors said, offering their praise and criticism of the traffic calming measures employed by the city.
Resident Molly Antalocy recently moved near Berkeley Way, the residential street next to Trader Joe's and where its parking garage entrance is located, but she already knows the grocery store traffic could have been a lot worse without the city's intervention.
"My mom lives by the , and it's a lot busier than here," she said. While Trader Joe's makes traffic heavier at University and Martin Luther King, "it doesn't really affect [the neighborhood] because of the barriers, and it's good to have a grocery store less than a block away."
Some changes to the neighborhood traffic matrix haven't been kind to drivers. Berkeley Patch reader that since the city built a blockade in the intersection of Berkeley Way and Grant Street to keep Trader Joe's traffic out of the neighborhood, it's no longer possible to connect from Grant to Martin Luther King, Jr. Way without waiting for heavy traffic to pass before turning onto University Avenue.
Additionally, Grant Street resident Jay Kniffen said that to prevent spillover Trader Joe's parking in the neighborhood, the city limited the parking on one side of Grant Street to residents only — causing visitors to the Ohlone Dog Park across the way on Hearst Avenue to return to their cars and find tickets; an unintended consequence. Neighbors played a large role in determining the traffic measures the city used in the neighborhood, according to Kniffen, who's lived on the Grant for 15 years, but there may have been some confusion about the parking restrictions on his street. "I thought it would be 30 minutes, not 'no parking,'" he said.
What the city says
Barriers, in the form of curbs blocking off the street on Berkeley Way near Martin Luther King, prevent vehicles from the Trader Joe's parking lot from turning into the neighborhood, and the seven tall, triangular concrete structures that divide Grant Street and Berkeley Way were installed so that traffic from the grocery store cannot divert through the neighborhood, according to Farid Javandel, the transportation manager for the City of Berkeley.
Except it appears that there were once eight structures blocking Berkeley Way at Grant Street. "I think one of them got knocked down," said resident Kniffen.
The space left open allows some cars to "zip through," said one neighbor who lives at the intersection. However most drivers Berkeley Patch observed didn't cut across the street blockade, and most neighbors agreed the barriers are successful at stopping drivers from entering the neighborhood unnecessarily. The majority of Trader Joe's traffic through the neighborhood appears to be on foot — residents of nearby streets walking home carrying the island-inspired chain's fabric grocery bags.
How to avoid the nightmare
Now, it is by far the easiest to drive west from the neighborhood on Berkeley Way or Hearst Avenue, towards the marina and opposite most of the traffic, said Kniffen, rather than heading south to tangle with the traffic and stop lights at University Avenue and Martin Luther King by the Trader Joe's.
Be careful to abide by the new rules when traffic measures are implemented to deflect traffic problems — watch out for "no parking" signs or curbs that protect residential parking spots to avoid getting a ticket.
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