Downtown Berkeley Ambassadors Work to Clean Up the Streets
On April 3, the New Downtown Berkeley program was launched, funded by the Downtown Berkeley Association’s Property–Based Business Improvement District, which was in turn approved by property owners in June 2001. The New Downtown Berkeley program includes the end of a three month cleaning blitz, a new marketing campaign for the downtown area, and the installation of a team of “Berkeley Ambassadors,” dedicated to the beautification and improvement of the Downtown Berkeley area and the business of the aformentioned area.
“We are trying to create a clean and welcoming downtown that attracts residents, visitors and new businesses to Downtown Berkeley,” stated John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, which represents 187 property owners and approximately 850 of their merchant and business tenants. “The idea is now that people will come and stay and enjoy all the amenities.”
Berkeley High School students know the area of Downtown Berkeley very well. Many commute to this area every weekday for school, be it through AC Transit or the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train. The downtown area is a center for eateries as well as other types of business and retail. The business and food opportunities draw all kinds of people to the area; from BHS students to Berkeley residents and UC Berkeley students. However, many consider parts of Downtown Berkeley as dangerous or at least dirty.
Throughout this multi–month cleaning endeavor, a lot has been done for the betterment of Downtown Berkeley. Over three and a half miles of sidewalks have been power washed, removing thousands of gum stains. 71 fire hydrants have been repainted, as well as 232 traffic poles, 194 light poles, 34 utility boxes, 92 trash bins, 18 postal boxes, and 92 bike racks. In addition, 8,500 pounds of trash have been removed and 307 tree wells have been weeded.
As a part of the new marketing campaign for downtown, 180 flower baskets have been hung along with 88 banners advertising the downtown area. The new banners consist of a single word, such as “taste,” “create,” or “experience,” coupled with the slogan, “It starts here. Downtown Berkeley.” The banners also feature an image of a person, some a friendly looking waiter, some a type of musician.
Now that the blitz is over, the team of ambassadors will transition into a role centered more around the continual maintenance and cleaning of the Downtown Berkeley area. The team of green-shirted, good natured workers will expand from eleven to sixteen, and a lime green segway scooter will be driven by an ambassador while on patrol for trash.
“Half of them are primarily cleaning ambassadors. Half of them are primarily hospitality, but they’re all cross-trained,” noted Caner.
The ambassadors will be greeters for the new Downtown Berkeley and a comforting sight, cleaning up debris and litter as they patrol the area, be it on foot or by electric scooter. The uniformed ambassadors will also look for activity such as graffiti to report, in an effort to keep the walls and walkways of Downtown Berkeley as clean as possible.
The New Downtown Berkeley project has been very effective so far in the beautification and betterment of the Downtown area, only beginning with its cleaning effort. Now the ambassadors can begin to work on changing the attitude of Downtown Berkeley to create a cleaner and more inviting place, and sustain their hard work.