This project has arisen out of various efforts in the City of El Cerrito. Through the General Plan policies, Circulation Plan, and Draft San Pablo Specific Plan, the City has identified the El Cerrito Plaza area as a high-activity node and has identified the need for streetscape improvements to enhance pedestrian and bicycle facilities to businesses and transit. Central Avenue and Fairmount Avenue play a key role in the Plaza Area as the primary east-west corridors for travel. Liberty Street, bordering the main BART parking lot, connects these corridors and leads directly into the Plaza shopping center.

The Draft San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan, which was released for public review in July 2009, prioritizes the El Cerrito Plaza Area as one of four nodes for improvements and development. The Plan describes the Plaza Area as serving many functions: a gateway to El Cerrito from points south, contains a BART Station, features a regional shopping center, has a historical building currently hosting the Cerrito Theatre, and encompasses the "Main Street" feel of Fairmount Avenue. The area also hosts many local shops, restaurants, multi-family and single-family residences, and AC Transit bus lines. The Plaza Area is envisioned as the “downtown” for El Cerrito with in-fill & transit-oriented neighborhoods. The Plan calls for streetscape improvements that encourage walking, biking, and transit use. It envisions project area streets as safe, attractive, with wide sidewalks, trees, lighting, and other amenities to support a healthy pedestrian environment.
The planned streetscape improvements will be generally modeled after the successful Fairmount Ave Streetscape Project completed in 2005 in consideration of the more residential nature of both Central Avenue and Liberty Street. Also, the streetscape design will be based on the more recent design of the San Pablo Avenue Streetscape Project, which was intended to catalyze similar improvements along adjacent corridors. Over and over again, the City and other stakeholders interested in improving the corridor have heard that the environment is very inhospitable to pedestrians and bicyclists, despite the concentration of transit services, multi-family housing etc.

The streetscape project will integrate lessons learned from other streetscape projects, will be consistent with regional guidelines, and includes elements that will both create a sense of place and significantly improve the pedestrian, transit, bicycle, and economic development environment. Throughout the project's development --stakeholders, including residents and transit agencies --will continue to be consulted.