State of The City, Pathways Opens, Post Office Victory, and Other News
Council Summer Recess Starting July 25
The City Council will go on summer recess starting July 25 and return September 11. Over the next few Council meetings (June 26, July 10, and July 24), we will discuss a number of important issues including the 2018- 2019 budget, ballot measures for the November 2018 election, and Berkeley’s participation in the Homeland Security-funded Urban Shield program. Please visit the City Council webpage for agendas of upcoming meetings.
The Mayor’s office will remain open during the summer recess. We are happy to assist you.
Save the Day for Our Annual State of the City Address
On Monday, June 25, 2018, I will give my annual State of the City Address at the Berkeley City College Auditorium, 2050 Center Street, starting 6:30 p.m. (Doors open at 5:45 p.m.)
I will share progress made and plans for the future, including solutions to the housing affordability and homeless crisis, infrastructure and education. Come learn about accomplishments over the past year and what we are doing to move our community forward.
All Berkeley residents are welcome to attend this free event.
Pathways Center to Open June 25
After over a year of work with City staff and our non-profit operator Bay Area Community Services (BACS) and generous donations of time and money from our community, I am pleased to announce that the Pathways STAIR Center will open on June 25 and provide longer-term shelter and services for people currently living in tent encampments.
The Center, Berkeley’s version of a navigation center, will serve 45 people for up to 6 months, providing shelter and on-site services. BACS outreach staff will visit Berkeley’s encampments to offer placements in the navigation center, after which time the City will enforce encampment and sidewalks rules. While staying at the center, clients will receive meals, services, and BACS housing navigators will work with clients to connect them to housing at the end of their stay. The largest part of the center’s budget are housing subsidies to provide rental assistance to clients who are ready to be housed.
The center is one piece of our larger strategy to address the growing crisis of homelessness. I will be announcing a long-term strategy to address homelessness in the coming weeks, and the council will be placing a 1% increase in the Real Property Transfer Tax for properties sold over $1 million dollars on the ballot, to go towards homeless programs and housing subsidies.
Sign Petition to Urge Gov. Brown to Declare Homeless State of Emergency
California is facing an unprecedented emergency of homelessness, with 135,000 people unhoused, and most of them -- approximately 70 percent-- without any shelter. The magnitude of this humanitarian emergency and the human suffering it represents cannot be met by cities and counties alone.
That is why Councilmember Sophie Hahn and I have recently launched a petition asking Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in regards to the state’s homeless crisis. Doing so will free up more funds for the least fortunate, money that can help counties build supportive housing where people can get shelter, food and critical services to help them get their lives back on track.
Judge Rules in Favor of City in Dispute Over Historic Post Office
After a legal battle that spanned six years, a district judge has upheld a 2014 ordinance that restricts the use of the Berkeley Main Post Office, should it ever be sold, to civic, educational, and nonprofit uses. The restrictions also apply for eight other surrounding parcels included in the Historic District Overlay. I am thrilled with the decision because it recognizes our city’s ability to protect and preserve historic neighborhoods such as the Civic Center. To be clear, the decision does not prevent the USPS from selling the property.
The Berkeley Main Post Office, located at 2000 Allston Way, is one of a cluster of buildings in the City’s historic Civic Center District that was initially planned in 1899 and completed by 1950. In 1998, it was designated in the National Register of Historic Places as a “clearly defined civic center” and “cohesive ensemble” of buildings. The Main Post Office building is also listed on the National Register.
The Postal Service argued that the Overlay Ordinance was unconstitutional because it discriminated against the Postal Service and prevented the sale of the Post Office by significantly reducing its value. Now the federal court has concluded that Berkeley has the right to protect the Post Office building even if it somewhat reduces the amount the Postal Service can earn from a sale.
Thank you to the many residents and organizations, not to mention our city attorneys, who worked tirelessly on this issue.
A Compromise Measure on Civilian Oversight of the Police
In recent months, several proposals have been made to modify our Police civilian review process. The city’s Police Review Commission was created by voter initiative in 1973 and at the time was a forward-thinking proposal to allow citizens the opportunity to make complaints against police misconduct and ensure civilian oversight. However, due to court decisions and state legislation, the PRC legislation requires significant improvements to conform to current best practices in police oversight.
Two citizen ballot initiatives have been introduced which would propose an extreme retooling of the PRC process. While I strongly support civilian review of our Police Department and a fair complaint and investigative process, we must ensure that oversight fits within our City Manager system of government. To that end, I have recently introduced a compromise proposal.
My proposal establishes the oversight called for by the Police Review Commission, but shifts some of the power to an Independent Police Auditor, a position the city does not currently have. The Independent Police Auditor would investigate all complaints filed against sworn employees of the Berkeley Police Department, reach independent findings and recommend corrective action when needed.
I think this compromise addresses the need for more police oversight – oversight that already exists in Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco and many other Bay Area cities – but shifts it to an Independent Police Auditor who has the skills and experience to carry out impartial and thorough investigation of alleged violations. I welcome questions and suggestions from the community to further enhance this proposal.
Streamlining Permits for Small Businesses
Berkeley’s small businesses are vital to the city’s economic, social and civic well-being, and are the generators of more than 90 percent of local jobs. But in surveys, the number one complaint from business owners is the city’s complicated and lengthy permitting process. That’s why on May 15, the Council unanimously voted to streamline and expedite the process.
These changes are part of a number of recommendations made by the city’s Office of Economic Development following extensive surveys and conversations with Berkeley business owners. Other recommendations made by the OED include improved outreach and communications with local small businesses, temporary assistance to small businesses at risk of displacement or closure, and potentially taxes or fees on vacant storefronts, buildings and lots to mitigate impacts on surrounding businesses.
New Legislation Will Make It Easier to Build Granny Units
It’s no secret that we are in a housing crisis and in need of creative solutions to house the growing population. On May 15, City Council voted to streamline the building of“granny units,” also known as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).
ADUs are a great tool many cities have embraced to add to the housing stock. But the city’s guidelines on granny units are not always straightforward, sometimes resulting in unnecessary headaches for residents. The new ordinance allows these homes to be up to 850 square feet, 100 sq. feet more than before.
Last year, the city granted 57 ADU permits, which is, admitedly, low for a city our size. We must do everything we can to make it easier to build these units. Doing so can help alleviate our housing shortage, allow seniors to age in place and provide supplemental income to families.
Addressing Disparities in Policing
Berkeley is lucky to have an exceptional Police Department that builds on our long history of forward thinking approaches to policing. Because we have a professional police force and good policies and procedures, we have avoided the kinds of scandals that have plagued many other agencies. The Berkeley Police Department, for example, has a much lower use of force rate than other department and a culture of restraint when it comes to use of force. Our officers participate in de-escalation training as well as implicit bias training.
However, like all of us, our officers are not immune to implicit bias. Data on police stops shows a disparity in the number of stops of African Americans and Latinos. To better understand the reasons behind these trends, the Berkeley Police Department commissioned a study on police stops by the Center for Policing Equity (CPE). The final report confirms that there are disparate racial outcomes in police stops and arrests.
I commend BPD for collaborating with CPE to produce the final report on inequities in arrests, searches and use of force. Most troubling was the finding that searches of African American residents resulted in arrests more than half as often as searches of whites. In addition, the report found that African Americans and Latinos stopped by BPD were more likely to face criminal charges for the same behavior that elicited only a citation for a white driver.
My administration is committed to fair and impartial policing. Over the past year, the City Council has moved forward a number of proposals to improve use of force reporting, and to understand and address disparate racial outcomes in policing. Recently we voted to create a Task Force that will study the causes of disparities highlighted in the report and recommend policy changes.
The task force will be made up of representatives from BPD, the Berkeley Police Association, the Police Review Commission as well as representatives from communities of color. It will be appointed by the City Manager and I will share updates with constituents as they become available.
Council Asks City Manager to Fast Track Storage for Homeless
Creating storage where the homeless can safety store personal belongings has been a priority for several years, but it was only recently that funding became available. At the May 29th meeting, the City Council directed the City Manager to expedite creating the program at 2 locations: downtown and West Berkeley, and consider an additional $100,000 for this project.
The storage program will allow the homeless to access services at local shelters or even soup kitchens without having to guard their items, something that has been a barrier to services in the past. Storage will also ensure that our sidewalks, benches and parks are accessible to all people .
Measure T1 Monies Used to Make Vital Repairs to City Infrastructure
In 2016 Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved Measure T1, authorizing the city to sell $100 million of General Obligation Bonds. The aim is to repair, renovate and replace Berkeley’s aging infrastructure, such as sidewalks, storm drains, parks, streets, recreation centers, and other city facilities and buildings.
After months of community input, work has begun on the following projects.
- Synthetic turf replacement at the Tom Bates Regional Sports Complex (COMPLETED)
- New parking lot and public bathrooms at South Cove at Berkeley Marina (COMPLETED)
- Renovations the City of Berkeley Adult Mental Health Clinic at 2640 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
- Berkeley Municipal Pier Planning and Design including a study assessing feasibility of ferry service
- Assessment of city’s public restrooms
- Renovation and seismic upgrade of Live Oak Community Center
- Complete field review at Cordonices Creek and the Rose Garden
Corporation Yard Roof and Electrical Upgrade
Marina Corporation Yard Electrical Upgrade
The following projects are scheduled to start next fiscal year:
- Installation of citywide irrigation system
- Play equipment upgrade and courts renovation at San Pablo Park
- Conceptual design of Old City Hall/ Veterans Building/ Civic Center Park
- Planning and conceptual design of West Berkeley Service Center
- Planning and design of Frances Albrier Community Center
- Planning and design on Willard Clubhouse
- Electrical improvements at Berkeley Health Clinic
- Mechanical and HVAC efficiency improvements at Public Safety Building
- Upgrade of George Florence Mini-Park play equipment
- Rose Gardens Pergola replacement and work on pathways and tennis courts
Get Involved in the Community by Serving on a Commission
Commissions can be a great way to learn more about what's happening in the city and make an impact on issues you care most about. The following commissions currently have vacancies:
Cannabis -- Works to ensure that cannabis sales in Berkeley are conducted in a safe and orderly manner to protect the welfare of Qualified Patients and the community. At least one commissioner shall be a member of a medical cannabis dispensary, one shall be a member of a collective that is not a dispensary, and one shall be a cultivator who is not primarily associated with a single dispensary and provides medical cannabis to more than one dispensary. Meets first Thursday of the month 2-4pm.
Disability -- Works to actively promote the total integration and participation of people with disabilities into all areas of economic, political, and community life. Membership shall be made up primarily of people who have disabilities. Meets second Wednesday in January at 6:30pm and on the first Wednesday of the month thereafter.
Human Welfare and Community Action -- Advises the council on social welfare needs, creates citizen awareness, encourages improved standards, and assists in the administration of the Community Action Program. Four of the 9 appointments should be members or officials of business, industry, labor, religious, welfare, education, or major groups and have interest in the community. The remaining members shall be representatives of the poor, elected two from each of three districts established by the Council. Meets third Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. except August and December.
Parks and Waterfront -- Reviews and advises the council on policies, activities, funding, and the physical condition of parks, pools, camps, recreation centers, the Marina, and public greenery. Meets second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m
Solano Business Improvement District -- Advises the council on the expenditure of revenues derived from the levy of assessments in the Solano BID. Commissioners must be owners or designated representatives of businesses that pay assessments in the District.
Youth -- Identifies the needs of youth, reviews and recommends youth services and programs. Members must be residents of the city, between the ages of 12-25, and at least half must be junior or high school students. Meets second Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m.
If you are interested in serving on the BHA board or any of the city commissions, please send your resume and brief letter explaining your interest to Karina Ioffee at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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