The Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association (CENA) was formed in 1969. The primary impetus was to expand traffic management planning which was started earlier by the Emerson School Neighborhood Association and the Safety Committee of Emerson School PTA.

Committees went to work on traffic and transit, but soon other neighborhood concerns became apparent and CENA began to work on land use, parks and open space, and social concerns. Funds were raised and consultants hired to provide CENA with the best possible advice about how to protect and improve the quality of life in our neighborhood. Official position papers were created and subsequently published so that everyone would be aware of what CENA stood for and why we cared. CENA was established as a California non-profit corporation on October 20, 1975.

Current and past presidents are (in alphabetical order): John Cecil, Mary Clegg, Fred Collignon, Joe Engbeck, Karen Faircloth, William Gilbert, Bob Holtzapple, Mark Humbert, Martha Jones, Jacquelyn McCormick, Dean Metzger, Phil Polakoff, John Weil, and Doris Willingham.

MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS (most recent dates first)

Traffic Safety Improvements to Hwy 13, Tunnel Road & Ashby Ave: CENA initially helped finance the Fourth Bore Coalition with other neighborhood groups in response to Caltrans’ plans to build a fourth bore through the Oakland/Berkeley hills at the Caldecott Tunnel on Highway 24. The group, which included CENA, East Bay Bicycle Coalition, Rockridge Community Planning Council, FROG Park, North Hills Community Association, and Parkwoods Community Association sued Caltrans in 2007 for failure to address noise, health, and traffic impacts which would result from the approval of the project. A $2 million settlement was reached between the neighborhood groups and Caltrans and a priority list of possible projects was developed such as left-hand turn phases at Ashby and Claremont Ave., bike/pedestrian activated control devices and a pedestrian scramble and left turn control device at College and Ashby Ave.

Landmarking Claremont Court Entry Gates & Pillars: CENA, along with the Parish of St. Clements, supported landmarking the Claremont Court Entry Gates and brick pillars, designed by John Galen Howard in the early 1900’s. The City of Berkeley granted landmark status in 2005, which includes the Claremont Court Entry Gates on Claremont Blvd. and pillars on Avalon Avenue, Russell, Forest and Derby Streets.

Landmarking the Claremont Hotel: The Claremont Hotel was designated a City of Oakland landmark in 2002 and in 2003 the State Office of Historic Preservation determined the Claremont Hotel eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places. Two years earlier, the owners of the Claremont Hotel had proposed expansion including 165 additional units in front of the hotel’s main building. The Berkeley/Oakland Neighbors of the Claremont (BONC) was formed and applied for landmark status of the property.

Claremont Canyon Conservancy: CENA is a founding sponsor of the Claremont Canyon Conservancy, which was formed in 2001 as a citizen-based, non-profit organization, intended to be long term stewards of the entire watershed of Claremont Canyon, as well as a catalyst between the major landowners. It is the largest, relatively undeveloped canyon on the western slope of the Oakland hills. The major landowners are the University of California, East Bay Regional Park District, the City of Oakland and other public agencies. Claremont Canyon Conservancy’s goal is to reduce wildfire hazards, preserve or restore a healthy ecosystem, promote education and research,and improve public access. 

Emergency Preparedness: In 1999, CENA developed a plan for disaster recovery supplies and implemented it for all neighbors in the Claremont-Elmwood who elected to participate. The plan provided for purchasing group discounted emergency water containers, MRE (Meals Ready to Eat), fire extinguishers, and gas shut-off valves. CENA has been recognized by the City of Berkeley as one of the best prepared neighborhoods to withstand a major disaster, such as an earthquake or fire. However, our level of preparedness needs constant vigilance and updating to sustain its effectiveness.

University of California Covenants: In the early 1980’s the University of California made plans to acquire the Deaf & Blind School property (now Clark Kerr Campus). The CENA neighborhood negotiated with UC and agreed to drop its opposition if UC would limit their use of the site in legally binding covenants. The covenants, recorded in Alameda County for the benefit of the neighbors, limit UC to the uses of the site identified in 1982, and give restitution for 50 years for every home within ¼ mile. 

Elmwood Commercial District: In 1975, in order to preserve the unique character of the Elmwood Shopping District, CENA worked closely with Elmwood Merchants Association and other neighborhood associations to draft a zoning ordinance that would limit the size of the district, the square footage of an individual business and the number of any one kind of business. Currently, the zoning ordinance is being updated.

Conference on Curbing the Car: CENA led the effort in 1972 for a major conference dedicated to building support for mass transit improvements and automobile traffic management strategies. Panel discussions featured northern California’s leading figures in the transportation field. 

Landvale Interchange Redesign: CENA led the fight to block construction of the Landvale Interchange in 1972. The interchange was subsequently redesigned to protect Tunnel Road/Ashby Avenue from high-speed freeway traffic while facilitating freeway to freeway traffic flow (Highways 13 & 24). The redesigned Landvale Interchange was completed in 1999.

Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve: In 1970, CENA persuaded the East Bay Regional Park District to acquire 80 acres of scenic open space in the hills just east of the California Schools for the Deaf & Blind (now Clark Kerr Campus). In 1971, CENA hired a consultant to develop a plan for acquisition and preservation of Claremont Canyon. In 1978, CENA helped create Friends of Claremont Canyon, after a 141 unit subdivision was proposed to be built on very steep, privately owned land in the middle of the canyon. That plan was eventually blocked. Today, some 500 acres of undeveloped land in the canyon is owned and protected as permanent open space by the East Bay Regional Park District and the University of California.

City Wide Local Transit Study: In 1970, at CENA’s urging, the City of Berkeley agreed to establish a city wide special task force designed to advise the City Planning Commission. This led to publication of a city report, “Getting Around In Berkeley”, and to the creation in 1976 of a Transportation Department and Commission. Berkeley subsequently obtained a major federal transportation planning grant and carried out a multi-year Coordinated Transit Development Project.

Emerson School Neighborhood Circulation Plan: To provide safety for children near Emerson School, a number of traffic management devices were installed, including street closures, diverters, chokers and stop signs. The circulation plan was implemented in stages between 1969 and 1975. Subsequently, the street closures were challenged by two city ballot measures, one in 1976 and another one in 1977. Both measures were defeated by the Berkeley electorate. A case which went to the State Supreme Court was finally resolved by legislation which gave cities the legal ability to use traffic diverters as part of a master plan for traffic management.

Traffic & Transit Study in Southeast Berkeley: AC Transit and City of Berkeley agreed to participate with CENA in a study of traffic and transit in southeast Berkeley in 1969.