Case Studies
Solano Stroll

Berekeley, CA and Albany, CA

build community, 
improve environment, 
reuse underutilized land, 
slow traffic, 


Solano Avenue, Berkeley and Albany. Source: Google Earth 2012

Solano Avenue bridges two beautiful cities, Berkeley and Albany, California. Spanning 26 blocks (one mile), Solano Avenue hosts over 400 businesses, including 65 restaurants, 30 retail shops, one movie theater, three pocket parks, two grocery stores and two elementary schools. Most of the Solano Avenue businesses are independent and locally owned.

Since 1974, Solano Avenue Merchants Association and the cities of Albany and Berkeley have hosted the Solano Avenue Stroll — the East Bay’s largest street festival. The event has numerous corporate sponsors and includes many community volunteers. The festival is held on the second Sunday in September.

Solano Stroll Source: MIG

The event includes over five hundred vendors, non-profit organizations, food booths and entertainers. It attracts participants and visitors from throughout California as well as from neighboring states. The fun begins with the opening of Solano Avenue businesses and Stroll booths, and the kick-off theme parade of about 100 groups. After the parade, participants can see and hear 75 entertainers, and visit food booths and juried arts and crafters, play games, see wacky art cars, and learn about almost 200 community non-profit and government organizations. A special children’s entertainment area is provided with giant slides, carnival games, clowns, jugglers, stilt walkers, face painters, and magicians. In the “Green Zone”, participants can learn tips on how they can reduce global warming and get advice from environmental experts.

Solano Stroll Source: Jason Holmberg, Flickr

The Solano Avenue Merchants Association is dedicated to promoting and improving the Solano Avenue business district and to building community spirit and identity through events, marketing, and aesthetic enhancement. Founded in 1974, the nonprofit organization is governed by a volunteer board of directors.

Lessons Learned

Potential Benefits:

  • Celebrate community pride and encourage social cohesion.
  • Raise money for charities.
  • Provide entertainment and social activities for residents.
  • Provide a venue for local vendors to sell products, services etc.
  • Provide a venue to advertise community and social services.
  • Educate people about cultural traditions, special topics etc.
  • Stimulate economic activity in a particular neighborhood.
  • Increase neighborhood visibility and visitation.

Potential Issues:

  • Solano Stroll Source: Jason Holmberg, Flickr

    Keep It Interesting: Since the event has been going on from 1974, there is continuous need to make the event interesting, especially for the local long term East Bay residents. Sometimes these events have become generic – offering the same experience regardless of the theme or neighborhood. Maintaining a high quality event that provides unique experiences each year has become a challenge.
  • Inconvenience: Solano Avenue Business Association coordinates with local business owners and residents to ensure that any inconvenience caused by street closures and loss of on-street parking is minimized.
  • Economic Impacts: The economic impacts (in terms of bringing in outside dollars and generating jobs) may be overstated given the costs associated with hosting the event. It is estimated that it takes about 600 staff hours to produce the event, plus hundreds of additional hours of volunteer time. The event expenses usually exceed $50,000. However, there is considerable positive community development impacts that does not have a traditional monetary value.


Solano Avenue Association “Solano Avenue Stroll” (

Interviews with business merchants and event organizers

Photo Sources

MIG, Inc.

Jason Holmberg