BUSD’s staff parking garage proposal should be re-evaluated

In November of 2020, Berkeley Unified School District announced its plans to construct a triple-story staff parking garage, topped with a Berkeley High School tennis court.

In November of 2020, Berkeley Unified School District announced its plans to construct a triple-story staff parking garage, topped with a Berkeley High School tennis court. Berkeleyside stated that with a budget of $27.5 million, the structure is set to be built on Milvia Street, between Durant Avenue and Bancroft way, where the current staff parking lot resides.

While better parking for BHS faculty certainly seems appealing, building this structure would be an economically and environmentally inefficient move.

With more places to park, more staff will end up driving to school. Getting cars off the road significantly helps the planet, since the average car emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Green Building Advisor also notes that embodied carbon, the carbon associated with construction, contributes to one fourth of the globe’s carbon footprint.

BHS has expressed that single-passenger commutes do more harm than good, even telling students to “please make every effort to get to school on foot, by bike, via carpool, or by public transportation” in the BHS Student Handbook. 

If BHS wants to support environmental rights, they must hold everyone accountable, including themselves.

The construction of this structure will be extremely pricey; funding for this project comes out of Measure G, a $380 million bond for improving school facilities. The parking construction funds taken out of Measure G should be used to repair school bathrooms, water fountains, or the school’s Wi-Fi.

Improving features like school bathrooms, drinking fountains, and internet have been shown to enhance students’ abilities to learn, according to a study from Pennsylvania State University. 

There is a major parking lot on Center Street, just a few blocks away, which, according to Berkeleyside, is 40 percent empty on weekdays. An underutilized parking lot like this only wastes taxpayers’ dollars. Spending $27.5 million and tons of carbon on building this new parking deck instead of fixing the preexisting issues on campus would be financially irresponsible.

If the school district wishes to support its staff and their transportation needs, options other than building a massive parking lot are available. 

Berkeley City Council member, Terry Taplin, and co-sponsor, Council Member Kate Harrison suggested a resolution to the parking garage bill at a January 17 School Board Meeting. 

Essentially, the leaders of this movement are asking the district to set their focus on reducing single-passenger car rides, in order to benefit the planet. 

Through the Trip Reduction Alternative, BUSD could simply piggyback off of pre-existing Berkeley initiatives. The city of Berkeley is already working to give staff more transit and bike options. They plan to add ebikes to its municipal fleet, with an ebike discount program being prepared for the next city council budget cycle. Bay Area Rapid Transit is working to transport people via public transit, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and ebike support programs. 

There are many better methods to help our teachers get to school, and BUSD should consider those before pouring concrete. It’s time to slam the breaks on parking lots.