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The Decline of Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue

Randy Shawbyline‚ Feb. 05‚ 2013

Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue is known throughout the world. Yet its iconic status belies its current condition as a virtual ghost town. Cody’s Bookstore closed in 2006 and the building remains vacant. A fire across the street has left a large hole where the popular Café Intermezzo once prospered. Across the street from this hole is the longstanding vacant site of the former Berkeley Inn, which burned down in 1990. Its owner, Ken Sarachan, (who also owns Blondie’s Pizza and Rasputin Records), has held the site hostage while seeking to avoid paying city liens on the property. The colorful sidewalk sellers of handmade crafts are gone most of the time, and the area only regains its traditional activity when fans go to and from Cal football games. The demise of Telegraph is a tragedy because it was avoidable; it was caused as much by city government neglect as by larger social, demographic and other economic forces.