Berkeley officials call for action after Marin Ave. jogger fatality

Walk Bike Berkeley called the roadway "fundamentally unsafe" in a letter this week. Council is set to consider the subject Tuesday night.

Berkeley officials call for action after Marin Ave. jogger fatality
The crash that killed Julia Elkin took place at Oxford Street and Marin Avenue on Feb. 12, 2024. Ariel Nava Photo

Berkeley officials are pushing for traffic safety measures and more police enforcement after a driver struck and killed a jogger on Marin Avenue last month.

Four Berkeley City Council members have asked the city to spend up to $200,000 to address "urgent safety needs for pedestrians" following the tragic death last month of Julia Elkin.

On Feb. 12, a driver struck Elkin in the crosswalk at Marin and Oxford Street, causing serious head injuries. She died two weeks later. Elkin was just 37 years old.

The crash remains under investigation, Berkeley police said this week.

Marin Avenue is notorious in Berkeley for its harrowing 25% grade, which is said to be among the steepest in the Bay Area.

Walk Bike Berkeley, a traffic safety advocacy group, called the road "fundamentally unsafe" in a letter to council this week.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that, from 2012-22, five people had died in crashes on a 1.3-mile portion of Marin Avenue, "a remarkable 23% of traffic deaths on Berkeley city roads. Another six people were seriously injured, around 2% of the city’s total."

Read more about traffic safety in Berkeley.

In a budget referral this week, council members have asked the city to consider more traffic enforcement, additional speed feedback signs, the possibility of slower recommended speeds, roadway painting to "visually restrict lane width," and other possible safety improvements.

Councilwoman Sophie Hahn brought the item forward, with Councilwoman Susan Wengraf and Councilmen Terry Taplin and Mark Humbert as co-sponsors.

In their agenda item, officials noted that Marin Avenue had been designated a "high injury street" in city planning efforts focused on ending serious and fatal crashes in Berkeley by 2028.

And they said past efforts to address roadway safety on Marin Avenue had not been enough.

The officials called for "more decisive action to address the dangers presented by the unique features of upper Marin Avenue, which was designed for a cable car, not for vehicles. Marin has extreme and unique grade and sight line challenges that must be addressed with more impactful solutions."

Julia Elkin, struck by driver in Berkeley, has died
Elkin had a “deep passion for making our human and natural communities more resilient to climate change.” She was just 37 years old.

In its letter, Walk Bike Berkeley urged council to support the proposed funding and called for a traffic study "to determine how to limit downhill vehicle traffic," as well as the rapid installation of traffic-calming measures such as rumble strips, bulb-outs and flashing beacons.

"Walk Bike Berkeley is deeply upset by Julia Elkin’s death — another preventable tragedy on Marin, where for far too long the City has accepted traffic violence as the price for automobility," the group wrote. "Take bold, necessary action to prevent more street trauma on upper Marin."

The council item, which is on the consent calendar, is a budget referral. As a result, the city would likely not decide whether to fund it until the budget vote later this year.

Pedestrian sustains major injuries in Berkeley Hills crash
Police said the pedestrian was still down in the roadway when first responders arrived. She had serious injuries to the head.

Also worth noting: It's not just officials and traffic safety advocates who support city efforts to do something about Marin Avenue.

In late February, residents from almost 40 households who live near the fatal crash site sent city leaders an urgent plea for "physical traffic calming measures" in the area.

They noted that eastbound traffic on Marin has no stop sign and that many people fail to stop on westbound Marin — despite the stop sign posted there.

They also called for a community meeting to address the issue.

"This young woman could have been any of us," they wrote. "Please do everything in your power to help us reduce preventable traffic violence in our neighborhood."

See the full City Council agenda for the March 26 meeting on the city website.

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