Budget Approved, Berkeley Way Moves Forward, and Other News

July 2017 Newsletter

I hope that you are having a happy and safe summer. My team and I have been busy in recent months, and I wanted to bring you up to date on some of our work. This Monday, I gave my first State of the City address at the Berkeley Rep, with more than 400 people in attendance. In case you missed it, you can watch the speech here.

HOTT Teams Tackle Homelessness

Homelessness is a complex problem, but I am proud that our city is tackling it in decisive ways. Starting last month, our new Homeless Outreach and Treatment Team (HOTT), made up of five Berkeley mental health staff, including a public health nurse, hit the streets of Berkeley and Albany. The HOTT team was one of the many recommendations from the Homeless Task Force we convened when I served as a City Councilmember. 

These outreach workers will meet people wherever they are -- parks, shelters, encampments, and sidewalks -- to develop trust and help them access the services they need. The focus is on the long-term homeless who suffer from disabilities, specifically mental health. With HOTT, our goal is to disrupt the destructive cycle of hospitalization, incarceration, and homelessness that is all too common for those with serious mental illness.

The outreach team will work in partnership with The Hub, Berkeley’s single point of entry for city funded housing and homeless services to identify clients and link them to services. If you know someone who needs help, please call The Hub at 1-866-960-2132.

While the HOTT team will travel throughout the two cities, UC Berkeley has also hired an outreach worker who will be permanently assigned to People’s Park, who will work closely with the city. New UC Chancellor Carol Christ is committed to working with the City to address the issue of homelessness and housing. Our hope is that this investment will encourage more people to access services and get the treatment they need. At the same time, city staff are working on a Resource Guide for the Homeless that will help people navigate the city’s complex network of services. We plan to distribute this guide to police, downtown ambassadors, residents and business owners to empower them to help people. I believe that in conjunction with trained outreach workers, we can make a difference and reduce the number of people who live on the street.

New Year, New Budget

Two weeks ago the City Council approved our $400 million budget, along with my budget recommendations that include $650,000 in anti-displacement initiatives, like eviction defense and emergency rental assistance. This is the largest investment Berkeley has ever made towards anti-displacement programs. The budget also includes a $400,000 commitment toward the Pathways Project, a comprehensive plan that would build a shelter where the homeless can bring their significant others, their pets and their belongings. Modeled on a tremendously successful navigation center in San Francisco, the shelter will offer on-site services to address immediate housing needs, and give people experiencing homelessness the dignity they deserve. The second piece of Pathways is the creation of a tiny home village for longer term stays that would be located in a non-residential area. 

I’m excited to report that the new budget makes the biggest investment in the arts by increasing the Civic Arts Grants program by $140,000. The budget also allows us to create six new firefighter/paramedic positions, enough to staff a fourth local ambulance. And starting this fiscal year, we will finally have funding for body cameras for every Berkeley Police Department officer, which will help keep the police accountable while rebuilding trust among residents. These are small, yet vital changes. Lastly, the budget includes the largest General Fund reserve in city history, putting our city in its strongest fiscal footing in decades. 

Urban Shield

With the new federal administration, there is understandable concern over the militarization of our local police and our cooperation with federal agencies. Throughout the country, we have seen police respond to protests or serving search warrants in an aggressive way. As a result, there is a great deal of fear and mistrust between police and communities of color.

Given the hyper-militarized training Urban Shield provides, I believe we need to find a way to end Berkeley’s participation. But I also don’t think that we can do it overnight. I am committed to studying alternative ways we can ensure that our first responders are trained for not just shootings, but for major disasters such as a large earthquake, which we know can happen at any time. The subcommittee I am creating will immediately begin studying alternatives to the program that ensure the safety of our community. My goal is that in six months’ time, we will move towards leaving Urban Shield permanently.

I also want to address the protest that erupted as we were voting on the item. Some of the council members felt intimidated and scared and chose to leave. Finally, we are still waiting to hear from the police about their version of the events and why force was needed to disperse protesters who were crowding their car. These situations are never clear cut and I look forward to learning more about what happened.

Berkeley Way Project Moves Forward

On June 13, the Council unanimously approved prioritizing the Berkeley Way project, which if approved, would be the largest supportive housing development for the homeless the city has ever built. The proposed project would be located at Berkeley Way and Henry Street and include 89 affordable apartments, 53 studios of permanent supportive housing, 32 shelter beds, 12 transitional units for veterans, and a first-floor services center with a community kitchen. This exciting development is being spearheaded by the Berkeley Food & Housing Project (BFHP) and Bridge Housing, organization with years of experience in building affordable housing. City planners are working to submit project plans to the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, casually known as “cap and trade” to receive upwards of $17 million toward Berkeley Way. The deadline is this fall.

Legislation to Keep Alta Bates Open Passes Senate

My office is part of a regional task force that is studying how we can keep Alta Bates, our beloved community hospital slated to close by 2030, open. One possibility is a bill by Senator Nancy Skinner that would give the California Attorney General the authority to review the impact of a potential hospital closure before moving forward. Senate Bill 687 would also require at least one public hearing before the hospital is closed. The bill passed the Senate on May 31 and was referred to the Assembly Committee on Health. Since then, it has been referred to the Judiciary Committee, with a hearing date of July 11. Under current law, California hospitals are only required to give a 90-day notice to the Department of Public Health prior to shutting down operations. 

Preventing Displacement

In June, my office, along with Councilmembers Ben Bartlett, Cheryl Davila and Kate Harrison, worked to make changes to the City of Berkeley’s Housing Retention Program. Formerly, the program was only able to help Berkeley tenants facing eviction from permanent housing. We authored an item that expands the scope to include all income eligible Berkeley tenants facing housing emergencies, including supporting security deposits for families securing permanent housing, or providing assistance for families who need temporary housing after eviction.

With the change, maximum assistance to help families facing a housing emergency was increased from $3,000 to $5,000. It also clarified eligibility by allowing all tenant families who are at or below 80 percent of Area Median Income to be eligible for the fund.

The FY 2018/2019 budget increased the Housing Retention Program to $250,000. With these new funds we can help the broadest number of people stay housed. 

Berkeley Opposes Telecommunications Bill

California Senate Bill 649, a bill that would allow telecommunications companies to place powerful antennas near people’s homes without input from residents or local governments, will soon be heard before the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance. This April, city council voiced opposition to the bill on account of potential aesthetic and environmental harms associated with placing antennas in residential neighborhoods. Berkeley is part of a growing network of cities supporting residents by condemning SB 649.

Upcoming Events 

Shoreline Cleanup
Saturday, July 15 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Shorebird Park Nature Center
160 University Ave. Berkeley

On Saturday, July 15, the Shorebird Park Nature Center is organizing a shoreline clean-up to help remove trash and plastics from our bay. Volunteers will collect litter and record important data, to improve the health of our ecosystem. Clean Water Action’s ReThink Disposable campaign will share how commonly found items like plastic straws and disposable cups can be prevented from being used in the first place, and how you can spread the word in your community. Snacks and raffle, including a chance to win two tickets to Jack Johnson’s upcoming Berkeley concert.

Email naturecenter@cityofberkeley.info to sign up. More information available at ecologycenter.org/events

Salsa Sundays
Sunday, July 17  12-6 p.m.
Shattuck and University avenues

Enjoy live salsa music, DJs and free dance lessons in downtown Berkeley every third Sunday through October. Salsa Sundays brings together people of all ages to celebrate music, dancing and community. Sponsored by Downtown Berkeley Eats, Beats & Brews.

Movies in the Park
Friday, July 28, 8:30 p.m.
Cedar Rose Park (July 28)

Hosted by Berkeley’s Recreation Division, this summer movie series offers free, PG entertainment and a lovely excuse to connect with your neighbors. Bring a blanket or low-backed chair and leave the alcohol at home. The Secret Life of Pets will screen on July 7, and Moana on July 28. For more information, visit the Recreation department’s webpage.

Berkeley Kite Festival
Saturday, July 29 & Sunday, July 30, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cesar Chavez Park, 11 Spinnaker Way, Berkeley

Head down to the Marina for the free, family-friendly Berkeley Kite Festival, featuring kite-related activities of all kinds. Those in a spectator mood can watch “kite ballet” performances by sport kite experts. For visitors looking for hands-on opportunities, kite making is another great option. Other events include taiko drumming, a candy drop for kids, and many opportunities to fly kites. Click here for more information.

Upcoming Council Meetings 

Tuesday, July 11, 6 p.m.
2134 Martin Luther King Jr Way

Tuesday, July 25, 6 p.m.
2134 Martin Luther King Jr Way
For updates on future City Council agendas, click here.

Contact Us!

My office is here to serve you. Give us a call or send us an email or snail mail with feedback, concerns or issues.
Mayor Arreguin: Mayor@cityofberkeley.info
 Campbell, Chief of Staff: BCampbell@cityofberkeley.info
 McCormick, Senior Advisor: JMcCormick@cityofberkeley.info
 Ioffee, Director of Communications: KIoffee@cityofberkeley.info
 Elgstrand, Assistant to the Mayor: SElgstrand@cityofberkeley.info

Address: 2180 Milvia Street, 5th Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704
Phone: (510) 981-7100
Fax: (510) 981-7199

Facebook: berkeleymayor
Twitter: @JesseArreguin

Jesse Arreguin