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.

Julia Elkin, struck by driver in Berkeley, has died
Julia Elkin succumbed to her injuries after being struck by a driver in Berkeley on Feb. 12. LinkedIn

A Berkeley woman who was hit by a driver on Marin Avenue in the Berkeley Hills earlier this month has succumbed to her injuries.

Julia Elkin was just 37 years old.

Despite early signs indicating possible recovery, Elkin's condition subsequently worsened. An emergency brain surgery was unsuccessful. She died Sunday, police said.

"She will save 6 lives through organ donation, as well as help numerous others through tissue donation," her family wrote Tuesday morning. "This silver lining brings us some comfort."

Elkin was the land acquisition program manager at Sonoma Land Trust, where she had worked since November, according to her LinkedIn profile.

She was struck by a driver in the crosswalk at Oxford Street and Marin Avenue on Feb. 12 just before 1:30 p.m. Witnesses said the force of the crash sent her flying through the air.

Berkeley police have said the driver was westbound on Marin Avenue, coming down the hill, but have otherwise shared no real details about the crash, including the primary collision factor.

There is a stop sign on the east side of the intersection, but it is unknown whether the driver stopped there.

Writing on her Facebook page last week, Elkin's mother described her daughter as an "aunt extraordinaire" who had moved to California about eight years ago.

She also shared an update from Elkin's sister that was focused on organ donation.

"It is hard to see her in this state, but we are thankful that Julia registered as an organ donor, because it gives us comfort to know that some good will come from this otherwise senseless tragedy. The Donor Network RN told me that it is rare to have a donor so young and so healthy, and that because of this she will save a lot of lives," her sister had written Thursday.

Julia Elkin designed coastal ecology education programs for the Smithsonian Institution Ecological Research Center and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation before she moved to California. Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange

"Tomorrow morning the hospital will be raising the Donor flag in her honor," she continued. "Julia was the Queen of repurposing… she never wasted a thing. She made purses out of old rice bags, dresses out of table cloths, and mosaics out of broken pottery. In retrospect, I think she has been preparing her whole life for this."

The Scanner's efforts to contact Elkin's family have been unsuccessful.

One community member who contacted The Scanner on Friday about Elkin's prognosis described her as an "extraordinary person."

"A tremendous number of people, many across the Bay area, are devastated," she wrote.

"She was an amazing person with a huge community in deep grief," another person told The Scanner.

Elkin got her bachelor's degree in environmental policy from William & Mary and later got her master's in environmental policy and planning from the University of Michigan, according to her LinkedIn page.

Julia Elkin joined Sonoma Land Trust in November. Sonoma Land Trust

She was a project manager for the California State Coastal Conservancy for six years and then worked as a sea level rise planner for Marin County before joining Sonoma Land Trust last year.

"Julia joins Sonoma Land Trust with over a decade of experience and a deep passion for making our human and natural communities more resilient to climate change," Sonoma Land Trust wrote on Instagram in November. "She has facilitated climate adaptation projects with shoreline communities throughout California and holds an MS in Environmental Policy and Conservation Ecology. In her free time, Julia loves backpacking in the mountains, tidepooling along the coast, painting, drawing, and playing flute.

She loved the ocean and went sailing with friends the day before the crash.

Before she moved to California, Elkin "designed and ran coastal ecology education programs for the Smithsonian Institution Ecological Research Center and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation," according to a directory listing in the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange.

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.

Fatal crash details remain vague

Julia Elkin lived on Oxford Street about 1 mile from the crash site, according to the available public records.

Several people told The Scanner that she was jogging when the driver hit her Feb. 12.

One woman who lives near Oxford and Marin said the sound of the crash caused multiple neighbors to run out of their houses to Elkin's side.

She was unresponsive, but people still did what they could to help.

"People just gathered around her," she recalled. "They were trying to comfort her, talking to her until the ambulance came."

Several people called 911. Many drivers also stopped.

A nurse who lives nearby said she was at her kitchen window facing Marin when she heard a "stomach-turning kind of sound like a thud."

"All of a sudden, I could hear this commotion," she said. She grabbed a blanket from her garage and ran outside.

She covered Elkin with the blanket and found her pulse, but said it was clear she had a serious head injury.

She carefully patted Elkin down, careful not to move her, but could not find an ID.

She did find Elkin's cellphone 6-7 feet away. She tried to check for health records, but the phone was locked.

She later gave the phone to paramedics to help identify the woman and reach her family.

The nurse said the woman who had hit Elkin was standing outside her car, a small orange BMW that may have been electric.

The woman, who looked to be in her 70s or early 80s, appeared to be in shock.

The nurse asked the driver if she was OK and urged her to take a seat.

But the woman just stood there. Looking at Elkin, who had come to rest face down on the ground 10-15 feet from the intersection, the driver said quietly, "I did that."

The driver who was in the car behind the older woman said she hadn't noticed whether she had stopped at the stop sign or not, the nurse said.

Read more about traffic safety in Berkeley.

In recent days, neighbors said Marin Avenue — where a fatal crash took two lives in 2021 when a motorist's brakes failed — is notorious for traffic problems.

"We hear stuff all the time," one neighbor said. "Horns blowing, near misses, little crashes. Hardly anybody stops at that intersection."

She said there's already signage advising motorists to be careful. But she said it's not enough.

"Signage has gone as far as it can," she said. "I don't know if it would help if police would get out and ticket. To me, it seems like the only thing that could work."

One man said the city needs to do more to address traffic issues on Marin, whether by lobbying the apps to stop sending unfamiliar motorists along the route or by installing infrastructure to divert drivers onto less perilous streets.

"It's getting worse and people don't realize how unsafe it is," he said. "I just don't get the sense that the city has any sense of urgency about Marin."

Berkeley police investigation still underway

As of last week, police had not released the name or city of residence of the driver from the crash or said whether she might be charged.

BPD did not respond to an inquiry about the investigation Monday.

On the day of the collision, BPD called out its Fatal Accident Investigation Team to handle the case.

Officers remained in the area for hours taking measurements and photographs and otherwise looking into what happened.

Last week, Berkeley police said the case remains under investigation and that more information may be available this week.

The Scanner will continue to follow the story.

In 2021, Julia Elkin spoke about climate risks to Stinson Beach as part of a YouTube miniseries for the California Ocean Protection Council. Watch it here.

Editor's Note: This story originally said Elkin died Monday night. Police say she was pronounced dead Sunday. The story has been updated.

Have questions or information to share with The Scanner? Use our tips form to contact Emilie Raguso.