I hope you’re enjoying summer! I have some exciting updates to share in this newsletter. First, over the last year, I worked with Councilmembers Terry Taplin and Rigel Robinson and Mayor Arreguín to make sure Berkeley’s marina and pier infrastructure needs were known to our State Senator and Assemblymember, with the hope that we could capitalize on the opportunity of another record state surplus to fund needed repairs. The City Council unanimously passed a budget request letter in October 2021 and more than a dozen stakeholder groups followed up with letters of support to the state.
I’m honored to share that our State Senator Nancy Skinner and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks have been able to deliver on our request for $15 million for our marina and pier. This is a big deal. I asked our Parks Director Scott Ferris if the City of Berkeley has ever received this kind of allocation from the state for infrastructure needs, and he said he had not seen anything like this since he started with the City in 2006.
On behalf of my Council colleagues and the City of Berkeley, I want to extend my deepest appreciation and thanks to Sen. Nancy Skinner and Asm. Buffy Wicks, who both made this happen for us. My heart is full of gratitude for their partnership and advocacy for the City of Berkeley.
Thank you, Sen. Skinner & Asm. Wicks!!!
Cesar Chavez Park Update: Some of you have written to to me about your concern about the possibility of redevelopment at Cesar Chavez Park resulting from the Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan (BMASP) process. I do want to state unequivocally that there is no plan to drastically change Cesar Chavez Park. The BMASP process is designed to hear all ideas; it’s my understanding that some community members suggested limited commercial uses at the park, and these are simply ideas for further discussion. Ultimately, the Council will approve a plan for the waterfront, which is scheduled to occur in 2024 after an extended community input process. I believe Cesar Chavez Park should remain a natural space for recreational users and wildlife habitat. Currently, special events such as the Kite Festival and Fourth of July Celebration take place at the park, and there may be other similar opportunities that we may want to consider through BMASP that do not permanently and drastically alter the park experience. Other areas of the waterfront, such as parking lots and existing commercial spaces, are likely to be better suited for more significant revenue-generating uses.
In this newsletter:
- – In Brief: Ballot Measures to be Discussed by Council TODAY
- – Recap and Next Steps on N. Berkeley BART
- – City Budget Highlights
- – My Comment Letter on City’s Draft Housing Element
- – National Night Out is next Tues., Aug. 2; register your event HERE
Please SAVE THE DATE for my July Office Hours
Westbrae Biergarten, 1280 Gilman St.
Sun., July 31 | 4-5:30 p.m.
Finally, you can read the City’s announcement on six probable cases of Monkeypox HERE, with more information on how to seek treatment.
In Brief: Ballot Measures to be Discussed TODAY
The City Council is considering placing three revenue measures on the November ballot, and discussion will take place during a Special Meeting beginning at 3 p.m. today for the following three proposals:
1) $300 Million General Obligation Bond for affordable housing, climate change resiliency, wildfire protection, and other public infrastructure improvements
2) $25 Million Parcel Tax for street paving and repairs, sidewalk maintenance, and traffic safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians
3) Vacancy Tax from Councilmember Kate Harrison
During the regular Council meeting beginning today at 6 p.m., the Council will discuss a proposed Rent Stabilization Ordinance and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance ballot measure that is currently proposed to impact owners of golden duplexes and make other changes.
Recap and Next Steps for N. Berkeley BART Development
On June 2, the City Council unanimously adopted a local zoning ordinance specifying a maximum height of seven stories (80 feet) at the Ashby and N. Berkeley BART stations, along with important related agreements. The City Council was required to take this action no later than July 1, 2022 under state law, AB 2923. If the Council had failed to adopt the local zoning ordinance, then the development standard of seven stories required by state law would still have gone into effect.
N. Berkeley BART station. Photo: Pi.1415926535 (Creative Commons License).
By adopting a local zoning ordinance, we were able to include important zoning features for which I have advocated since the beginning of this process, including setbacks of 5 to 15 feet, upper-story step-backs, massing breaks, and other design requirements to help ensure that the actual project is built in a way that is sensitive to the surrounding built environment. I also pushed for the inclusion of an Objective Design Standards process so that our community will have an opportunity to weigh in on the specific design of the project, including the developer team’s use of a state density bonus—another feature of state housing law; you can read more about our Objective Design Standards process and state housing law in my May newsletter.
Earlier this month, BART and the City jointly released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from developer teams. The RFQ submission deadline is Aug. 26, and a Townhall Meeting will take place on Tues., Oct. 11 that will give our community an opportunity to hear directly from shortlisted developer teams. A selection committee (comprised of an equal number of BART and City representatives) will make a recommendation to the BART General Manager and the City Manager on the preferred developer team by the end of this year.
My role is to ensure a robust community input process that leads to consensus outcomes. I hope that the Council’s unanimous decision on June 2 restores faith that the process we have put in place will ultimately lead to a positive outcome for the community—one in which we comply with state law, create a significant number of homes that are affordable to low-income households (our minimum stated goal is 35 percent), and that we do so in a way that is sensitive to the surrounding built environment.
Please feel free to be in touch with me if you have any questions: email@example.com or 510-981-7110.
City Budget Highlights
At the end of June, the City Council unanimously adopted the biennial budget for FY 2022-24, and here are just a few highlights in three key areas: (1) Street Paving;
(2) Public Safety; and
This year, I have devoted significant attention to securing adequate funding for street paving by introducing a major Council item that requested $8 million in additional ongoing resources—the amount that we know is needed to maintain the pavement condition of our streets. I’m pleased to share that the budget includes $14 million in additional funding for street paving over the next two years ($5 million in FY 2022-23 and $9 million in FY 2023-24). The added funding will enable us to complete our three-year paving plan faster.
I have also authored with Councilmember Susan Wengraf and Mayor Arreguín a streets fiscal policy to help ensure that we maintain adequate funding for street paving moving forward.
The budget restores police staffing to the pre-pandemic level of 181 sworn officers while also prioritizing alternative responses for medical emergencies, among numerous other investments. Specifically, a new civilian Specialized Care Unit (SCU) pilot is funded to respond to non-violent calls for service for mental health crisis situations, and an emergency dispatch center analysis will determine how the City can better respond to medical calls.
In addition, the budget will fund the creation of a two-person Office of Racial Equity, which I proposed in a June 2020 Council Item. The Office of Racial Equity will ensure that we measure and close inequities in the allocation and delivery of City programs and services, which I believe is critical for ensuring that under-resourced neighborhoods in West Berkeley receive their fair share of investment.
- Continuation of Homeless Response Team. The Homeless Response Team is the interdepartmental team that responds to homeless encampments in Berkeley, performing sustained outreach to move people indoors, while simultaneously reducing the impact of encampments on the City with a variety of interventions that reduce health and safety threats while avoiding citation and arrest.
$50,000 Annually for Twice Weekly Cleaning from Downtown Streets Team in Gilman District. My request for expanding the Downtown Streets Team cleaning service to the Gilman District has been funded. The Downtown Streets Team is a non-profit organization that trains and supports unhoused individuals who engage in community beautification and clean-up projects. Teams are already deployed in several other commercial districts throughout the city, contributing to cleaner safer streets in those areas. The Downtown Streets Team is in the process of staffing up, and we understand from our Public Works Director that they will likely begin servicing the Gilman District some time this fall.
My Comment Letter on City’s Draft Housing Element
The tl;dr is that the City’s draft housing element (housing plan for the next eight years) places 65 percent of housing sites in Central & West Berkeley (formerly redlined neighborhoods), while leaving the highest-resourced areas of Northeast Berkeley virtually untouched.
Courtesy: Eric Panzer
In the upcoming eight-year cycle (2023-2031), Berkeley is required by the state to plan for nearly 9,000 housing units, a threefold increase over the current cycle (2015-2023). Despite this significant increase, the draft housing element does not propose to rezone the City’s highest-resourced low-density neighborhoods for more housing, and thereby reinforces historic patterns of racial segregation. Moreover, the housing element is legally required to “affirmatively further fair housing” by planning for more affordable housing in higher-income neighborhoods (see sidebar).
“Specifically, affirmatively furthering fair housing means taking meaningful actions that, taken together, address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity, replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws” (emphasis added).
— California Government Code § 8899.50, subdivision (a)(1)
However, by not rezoning the highest-resource transit and commercial corridors (which currently only allow 2-3 stories), Berkeley’s draft plan disproportionately and unfairly places the burden to produce 9,000 new housing units in formerly redlined neighborhoods, including District 1.
Academic research tells us that the neighborhood in which children grow up does not simply correlate with—but causes—improved educational and economic outcomes in adulthood. In failing to plan for more housing in our highest-resource neighborhoods, we are closing off children and families from improved life outcomes. In my letter, I recommend that our Planning staff and consultant follow Council’s direction from March 2021 to plan for growth along transit and commercial corridors, facilitating low-carbon living, and that they do so in a way that affirmatively furthers fair housing. Specifically, I call for rezoning low-density highest-resource corridors, including Solano, North Shattuck, and College. Rezoning to allow for larger multiunit housing on these corridors is also a cost effective way for the City to come closer to reaching below-market-rate housing targets, since developers are required to provide 20 percent of units at below-market-rate on site or pay into our Affordable Housing Trust Fund ($37,000 to $40,000 per unit) so 100 percent affordable housing projects can be built elsewhere.