Doing Things the Berkeley Way

You’ve got to love the “Berkeley way” of doing things. Not that citizens here think that they’ve really cornered some secret of how to live. They’re just very conscientious and considerate of their place in the world. They live well, but they also let live just as well. Here’s how some things go in Berkeley, and some of the local tips I’m learning as I’m getting myself set up.

Observations

Some of my observations of the past 2.5 weeks:

  • Very few chain stores and restaurants
  • Most restaurants offer vegetarian and vegan options, often with organic and/or locally-sourced ingredients
  • City-wide 25 mph speed limit
  • Sidewalks on all roads
  • Many dedicated and “semi-dedicated” bike lanes.
  • Some streets designated as bicycle boulevards have bike lanes, windy roads around random parking spaces, car no-entry barriers, and medians for bicyclists at some stop light intersections.
  • Every house has recycling of paper and plastic. Every public trash can has a bottle and can recycling section.
  • Every house has compost bins, and they are equally as high as trash and recycling. Recycling bins are as high or higher than trash bins.
  • Any large stores or chain stores (e.g., car dealerships, Apple store) are pushed to the periphery of town or neighboring towns.
  • Many people buy and sell used goods. Some people prefer cash or check, and a few others prefer non-money exchanges.

And just in general, everyone seems to be friendly and relaxed and have a smile on their face. Certainly, living well is important for the people of Berkeley. The temperate weather must be a contributing factor in all of this.

Recommendations

I feel that being an IT person and living in Berkeley can be compatible things. Here are some suggestions based on what I’ve heard and seen so far.

Internet
The only Berkeley ISP is LMi. They get part of their energy from solar power, and they are involved in the community. They are said to be one of the good ISP’s of North Bay (service and customer service), with the other being Sonic. LMi offers unlimited bandwidth, and their rates do not include any taxes or fees. Their full name is “LAN Minds internet”, and I suppose the pun is intentional.
Produce
There are two farmer’s markets in town, on Thursdays (Shattuck and Vine) and Sundays (city hall). As may be true in the rest of the country, the prices are higher for an equivalent quality and freshness elsewhere in town. Instead, Berkeley Bowl is the place to go if you have a car. It has the freshest product at reasonable prices, but the 2 locations are far from the city center. Restauranteurs are said to load up their carts there. A closer alternative for students and North Berkeley residents is Monterey Market, and the prices are reasonable. Andronico’s is another quality grocer, but it is out of my price range. The local convenience store near my apartment has slightly better produce than Andronico’s for significantly better prices. South Asian groceries can be found on University just west of San Pablo.
Restaurants
I prefer to stay on the economical side of things. By that, I mean student prices. A new startup called Munch On Me (I know, I laughed too!) has very nice deals and serves Berkeley! It actually started with Berkeley, but it has been has been graced by TechCrunch and has something going. The student cheap food spots seem to be: in the vicinity of Shattuck and University, south of campus near Bancroft and Telegraph, and north of campus near Euclid.
Furniture
I bought a new mattress at Mattress Discounters — I wanted to be sure it was what worked well for me and was relatively affordable. I’m also unsure of latex foam mattresses, soy-derivative or not. I got a table from Ikea out of an “as-is” table top stickered at $5 (orig. $45) and 4 new table legs. You get what you pay for. I will be on the lookout for coat hangers, a metal pot, a metal pan, and other furniture (bed frame, bookshelf, small table, mini-cabinet) at garage sales. I’m sure more will be had in May when the students leave for the summer. Berkeley Outlet sells quality used office chairs, and they also seem to ensure high standards for what they sell with friendly, courteous service. If I somehow end up unhappy with what I will see at Berkeley Outlet, then I will resort to Interior Motions in Emeryville before traveling far and spending lots for something new.
Transportation
Public transportation is reviled in the Bay Area, with every town having its own system. There are regional systems, too, but everything is not integrated. I imagine that integrating transit systems could provide discounts to riders and promote ridership. The Clipper Card only integrates payment systems so that it’s painless to pay (surprise). The BART takes you around East Bay, SF, and some of the peninsula with adequate hours and timings. The CalTrain is a commuter training linking the BART to the Peninsula and South Bay. AC Transit provides buses throughout town and nearby towns, including Oakland and SF. The easiest way to get to the Emeryville corporate shopping district is probably the BART to MacArthur followed by the free Emery Go Round shuttle. I can’t tell if Zipcar or City Car Share is better, but for anyone 25 years old or older needing it for more than 2 hours and with a place to park overnight, renting a car from Enterprise (especially via hotwire.com) is cheaper.