November 2018 Newsletter: Bay Area United Against Hate Rally, Security Cameras, BART Plaza, and other Berkeley News
Responding With Love in the Face of Hate and Intolerance
Two weeks ago, we woke up to the horrible news of a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, PA. This was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. This awful event marks the third time in three years that a house of worship has been targeted by a gunman. Like the 2017 shooting at First Baptist Church in Texas and the 2015 shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, these mass shootings occurred in sanctuaries where people come seeking solace and safety.
The divisive and toxic environment in this country has empowered people to commit acts of violence, and the easy access to guns allows crimes like these to occur. Contrary to Trump’s suggestion that we arm ourselves to avoid becoming victims is not the solution, I believe that doing so further fans the flames of violence.
Unfortunately, acts of bigotry and hatred are on the rise throughout the country, including in our liberal Bay Area. That’s why on Sunday, November, 11, we are holding a regional kick-off event for United Against Hate Week at Civic Center Park to creatively respond to anti-Semitism, racism and other forms of intolerance that have been sadly prevalent all over the country. The event, 1-4pm, will feature performances by Aireene Espiritu, a folk and blues musician, San Francisco gospel group and several others. For more information on the event, visit www.unitedagainsthateweek.org.
Let’s stand together at this difficult time and let everyone know that hate has no place in our community and in our country.
Creating a New Vision for N. Berkeley BART
On Saturday, October 13th, Councilmember Linda Maio and I held a visioning event to allow residents to tell us, and show us, what they would like to see on the parcel of land around North Berkeley BART station that is currently a parking lot. Thank you to the over 200 residents who attended, and to the many proposals and comments submitted. BART has expressed willingness to work with Berkeley in developing housing on this site. The property owned by BART is subject to city zoning and BART’s Transit Oriented Development Guidelines (TOD). The recent passage of AB 2923 requires BART to adopt new TOD guidelines and local jurisdictions to amend their zoning by 2020 to conform to BART’s rules. We have a 2 year horizon to develop planning regulations for the North Berkeley BART parking lots.
In addition to the more than dozen renderings, we received more than 100 written comments. Our office has created a page where all of these designs along with public feedback can be reviewed.
In January, the City Council will hold a work session where the proposals and public comments will be discussed, after which it will give direction to city staff on the parameters of a development. Following this input, the city will develop a Memorandum of Understanding with BART. Thank you to everyone who attended the visioning event, submitted designs and/or comment. We appreciate your input and will use it to guide our next steps. Stay tuned for information on the Council work session and next steps in this process.
Berkeley Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Measures O and P
Thank you to the voters of Berkeley for overwhelmingly supporting Measure O, the $135 million dollar Affordable Housing Bond, and Measure P, which will raise $6-8 million/year for homeless shelters, services and housing subsidies. As of this writing, both measures received 70%+ approval from voters and will allow us to move forward on building housing that is affordable for the homeless, seniors, working class families, teachers, and address the growing crisis of unsheltered homelessness.
Thank you to the voters for your generosity and your support for an equitable future for our city. Stay tuned for information on the implementation of Measures O and P, including how to apply to serve on the oversight committees governing the expenditure of funds.
Making Berkeley More Business-Friendly
My office often hears from constituents who are frustrated by the City’s complex permitting process, which translates into lost revenue for small business owners and a negative impression of our city. The Permit Service Center processes some 7,500 building permit applications annually, so there are is a high volume of interactions each day. That’s why I’m happy to report that we are moving ahead with a number of changes that I believe will streamline the permitting process and hopefully, improve customer satisfaction.
On November 27th, the City Council will discuss amendments to the current Zoning Ordinance in ways that support small businesses. The proposed changes include reducing parking requirements for new businesses, more flexibility and discretion for future uses of a space and making it easier for new businesses to move into existing commercial spaces. As part of the package, the Planning Department will monitor the turnaround time for Land Use and Building Permits, Permit Center wait times and survey customers on a regular basis.
The changes are a result of my proposal in July 2016 to improve the permitting process. I’m glad to see these policy recommendations, based on input from small businesses, move forward so that we can improve our customers’ experience. Berkeley values its small businesses and we need to do everything possible to see them thrive.
Council Adopts New Sidewalk Regulations
On October 16, the City Council adopted by a 7-1 vote a package of measures to better manage large accumulations of personal objects on sidewalks, to ensure our public spaces are accessible for everyone.
The package of a new ordinance and Administrative Regulation attempts to balance the rights of homeless people with the needs of pedestrians and businesses to access our sidewalks, while ensuring the homeless are not criminalized. Under the new policy, enforcement will focus on removing objects that take up more than 9 square feet on city sidewalks and in parklets. Enforcement will be complaint-driven, carried out by Homeless Outreach and Code Enforcement staff and occur only between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. If people with objects that are blocking sidewalks do not comply with verbal requests to move, their items will be taken to the city’s corporation yard following a 24-hour warning.
At the same time, I introduced with Councilmember Sophie Hahn an item to have staff explore non-criminal options for enforcement of these laws. Options include a homeless court in which citations are dismissed in exchange for entering services, Fix-It tickets that are dismissed once someone enters a treatment program or a diversion program that encourages people now on the streets to seek services.
Balancing the rights of people to use public spaces without criminalizing poverty is a complex issue, but I believe these latest changes achieve this goal.
New Area Code Comes to Alameda County
In another sign of the Bay Area’s continued growth, a new area code is coming to Alameda County. Starting December 15, residents will start seeing numbers that start with a 341 area code. Customers who already have phone numbers with a 510 area code will not see their number changed, but all landline calls made in the 510 area will now need to be dialed with a 1, followed by the area code and phone number. New phone numbers with the 341 area code will be given out starting July 22, 2019. For more information, visit cpuc.ca.gov/510areacode.
Security Cameras to Be Installed in San Pablo Park
On October 16th, the City Council approved my proposal to install security cameras in San Pablo Park. I introduced this item at the request of many park neighbors. San Pablo Park has been the site of numerous shootings over the past 2 years. The most recent incident occurred on August 18, when 3 people were shot in broad daylight while there were hundreds of people using the park, including many children. This kind of violence in our city is simply unacceptable and we must do everything that we can to reduce it.
The goal of the security camera pilot program is to deter crime from occuring and assist our Police in investigating incidents. The footage will not be constantly reviewed but will only be accessed as part of an active investigation.
Research shows that crime has gone down in neighborhoods that have implemented cameras. Additionally, the cost of installing and maintaining cameras is less than the cost of investigating a crime, not to say anything about the impact on victims and the community.
But the cameras are just one tool. We are also exploring redesigning Park Street to make it one-way to decrease the likelihood of drive-by shootings and looking into how recreational programs at the Frances Albrier Center can be expanded to offer youth in the neighborhood more opportunities. The Police Department has also recently launched the Voluntary Residential Security Camera program that uses home security camera footage to solve crimes.
New Downtown BART Plaza and Garage Unveiled
Exciting changes are happening Downtown. If you have been there recently, you will have noticed the new BART Plaza, which we opened on October 18th. This beautiful new public square expands pedestrian access, features cafe seating, a stage for live performances, a new sculpture as well as state-of-the art sound for ongoing sound installations.The Ecology Center is also operating a farm stand there 3 - 7pm each day and a display board announces train departures and arrivals, making it easier for commuters to plan their travel. The plaza is the culmination of 2 years of construction and was funded by state and local grants.
Almost nightly there are live performances in BART Plaza. Visit downtownberkeley.com for a list of upcoming performances.
The opening of the new BART Plaza is timed with the opening of Berkeley’s new 720 space Center Street Garage. The garage nearly doubles the previous number of parking spaces and includes secure bicycle parking for over 300 bikes, electric vehicle charging stations, new attended public restrooms, ground floor retail and a public art window display along Addison Street. The Bike Station has also moved from Shattuck into the ground floor of the new garage on Center Street. This garage not only expands parking in our Downtown, but meets many of the city’s goals for alternative transportation and sustainability.
Together, the BART Plaza and new Center Street Garage are impressive additions to our city and form a wonderful gateway to a revitalized Downtown.
Progress on Education Outcomes, But Much Work Remains
Last month, the City Council received an update on the 2020 Vision, a citywide initiative formed 10 years ago that aims to eliminate racial disparities in achievement in our public schools. As some may know, Berkeley has one of the nation’s widest achievement gaps among African American and Latino students and their white peers.
The initiative, which includes the city, BUSD, UC Berkeley and over a dozen nonprofit partners, consists of more than 50 programs and activities that are working to close the achievement gap.
In the presentation to council, the 2020 Vision team reported that improvements have been made in kindergarten readiness, 3rd grade reading and school attendance. In the kindergarten readiness category, we are seeing more toddlers who attend preschool, can count numbers sequentially and identify numbers and letters, metrics educators believe are good indicators of school readiness.
Other categories, however, showed limited improvement, including in 8th grade math and college and career readiness. For example, only 46% of Latino and 19% of African American 8th graders tested at or above math proficiency compared to 80% of whites. In addition, only 37% of African American BHS graduates and 67% of Hispanic graduates meet UC/CSU entry requirements compared to 88% of white students.
My office is here to serve you. Visit our website for frequently used phone numbers to city departments and to stay up to date with our blogs. You can also call or send us an email with questions or concerns.
Brandi Campbell, Chief of Staff
Jac McCormick, Senior Advisor
Karina Ioffee, Director of Communications
Stefan Elgstrand, Assistant to the Mayor
Tano Trachtenberg, Legislative Aide
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