Addressing Illegal Dumping, Promoting Small Businesses and more Berkeley news
Vision Zero and Pedestrian Master Plan to Prioritize Safety, Accessibility
Recent high profile car crashes involving pedestrians have made it clear that more must be done to address pedestrian and bicyclist safety. An estimated 17% of Berkeley commuters walk to work, with 10% biking. As someone who does not drive, I am one of those thousands of Berkeley residents who primarily walk or bike. That’s why last year I cosponsored legislation to make Berkeley a Vision Zero City. Vision Zero is a policy that aims to eliminate pedestrian and bicyclist related fatalities and serious injuries.
Berkeley on average experiences 3 fatalities and 31 serious injuries annually as a result of traffic collisions. While pedestrians and bicyclists are involved in only 7% of crashes, they account for a third of the fatalities. Many of these crashes are the result of high vehicle speeds, violation of the “Pedestrian Right of Way”, and alcohol/drug intoxication. Vision Zero aims to create safety traffic efforts that would reduce these primary causes. Last month we moved forward on creating a Vision Zero Task Force, with the first meeting taking place shortly after. Recommendations for policy changes are expected to be voted on by Council in the Fall.
Additionally, earlier this month Council discussed the Pedestrian Master Plan, which is scheduled to be updated on in June. While Berkeley has one of the highest walkability ratings in the country, the Master Plan will work on taking into account gaps where sidewalk conditions can improve. Focus will be on high-injury corridors, proximity to schools and transit areas, socioeconomic equity, and pedestrian demand.
Small Business Package Promoting Economic Prosperity
The approximately 5,000 small businesses that operate in Berkeley are the economic heartbeat of our City. Back in 2017, I co-authored the Small Business Package - a list of proposals that would support the establishment of new, and sustainability, of existing small and/or locally owned businesses. Following the item’s passage, the Office of Economic Development (OED) began extensive work on completing the following tasks:
Improving OED’s outreach and communications with local small businesses
Increasing support for businesses navigating the permitting process
Recommending modifications to the zoning ordinance to support small businesses and prioritize desired uses
Piloting new small business retention programs
Supporting independently-owned retailers with marketing, networking and education
Earlier this month, OED presented their research and recommendations to Council. Some interesting information gleaned from the survey administered by OED with small businesses was the reason for locating their business in Berkeley (founder/owner lives in Berkeley, local markets/customers, alignment with Berkeley values) and the challenges they face (parking, labor costs, permitting, problematic street behavior). Through understanding the needs and concerns of our small businesses, we will be better able to address any shortcomings. I want to thank the Office of Economic Development for their extensive research in talking to small business owners and developing solutions based on this input.
Progress on Alleviating Illegal Dumping and Trash
It’s no secret that trash accumulation and illegal dumping has become a serious issue that warrants a serious response. Efforts are currently underway to do just that. Last year, the Council approved my budget recommendation to allocate an additional $100,000 towards addressing illegal dumping and encampment clean-up. This money is already being put to use, with a recent operation by Public Works staff in Northwest Berkeley removing 18,300lbs (9.15 tons) of trash and debris in just one day. One of the areas cleaned up in that operation was Codornices Creek. In November, Berkeley voters generously approved Measure P, the increase in the transfer tax for high-end properties, generating an additional $6-$8 million annually. We are considering dedicating part of this new revenue source towards encampment trash removal. Also, under SB 850 – the California Homeless Emergency Aid Program, or HEAP – Berkeley will be receiving one-time funding of $4 million to address homelessness, from which we plan on allocating $880k towards encampment trash/debris removal and cleanup.
Out of all the calls and emails I have received around trash and debris, the majority are relating to areas along the Eastshore Freeway. The area is under the jurisdiction of Caltrans and the City does not have the authority to go in and clean it up ourselves. Saying that, the City Manager, several Councilmembers, and I have continuously pushed Caltrans to take responsibility. Upon further inquiry, Caltrans revealed that they contract out the work to clean up the area, which is done bi-weekly. However, for several months the contractor did not fulfill their obligations. As a result, Caltrans has replaced them. I recently had a meeting with our Caltrans District Director, where we had a productive conversation. He assured me that more resources will be committed to ensuring the proper maintenance and cleanup of the area. I am committed to improving communication channels between the City and Caltrans to prevent such escalations of trash from happening again.
You can read more about the efforts we are doing to address this on my blog.
New Public GIS Portal Provides Transparency
Last month, the City of Berkeley launched a new public online portal where anyone can use several Geographical Information Services (GIS) maps. Through these maps, people can look up detailed information on property & planning, transportation, recreation, environment, and community services. Much of the data provided was previously only available by an extensive search of PDFs or by making a phone call. Now, with all the information consolidated, it is now easier than ever to get the answers to your questions, such as: When is the next street sweeping on my block? Where is the closest fire station? What zoning regulations apply to my property? This is part of the City’s ongoing effort to improve customer service to our constituents and provide more easily accessible information online.
Upcoming Meetings and Events
East Bay Resiliency Fair/Transition Berkeley Repair Cafe
Saturday, February 23, 11am-3pm
Berkeley Adult School, 1701 San Pablo Ave
Learn about emergency preparedness, personal health & well-being, how to fix things & reduce waste, get to 100% renewable energy, grow & share food, help our natural habitat thrive, and more. Additionally, this event provides the opportunity for you to bring in broken items that you do not want to throw away in a landfill. Volunteer fixers will be available to fix a wide variety of items while neighbors have an opportunity to mingle and get to know each other. Click here for more information.
Special Council Meeting on RV Permits and Clean Streets
Thursday, February 28, 6pm-10pm
BUSD Board Room, 1231 Addison St
The City Council will be debating and voting on RV policies in light of the major influx of RVs and vehicle habitation in our neighborhoods in recent months. Additionally, Council will be voting on the Clean City Streets Initiative to address illegal dumping and trash related issues. For more details, check out the agenda for the meeting. If you cannot make the meeting but wish to provide comment, you can send your thoughts to Council@cityofberkeley.info.
Community Meeting on the Future of the Pacific Steel Casting Site
Tuesday, March 5, 6pm-8pm
Berkeley Repertory Theatre Administrative Offices, 999 Harrison Street
After the closure of Pacific Steel Casting, the City Council moved forward on creating a visioning process to decide the future of the site. The City of Berkeley seeks your input on the future of this West Berkeley site for possible twenty-first century manufacturing uses.
March Office Hours
Sunday, March 10, 4pm-6pm
Urban Adamah, 1151 Sixth St
Join me and Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani for drop-in office hours. It is my goal to host joint office hours with Councilmembers each month. This is a great opportunity to hear from and gather input from the community.
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.
Jesse Arreguin, Mayor
Brandi Campbell, Chief of Staff
Jacquelyn McCormick, Senior Advisor
Stefan Elgstrand, Legislative Aide
Tano Trachtenberg, Legislative Aide
Molly Jones, Assistant to the Mayor