City Budget, Addressing Gentrification, and More Berkeley News
Council Adopts Vision for North Berkeley BART
On Thursday, May 9, the City Council voted unanimously to move forward a community vision for housing at the North Berkeley BART Station.
While members of the community and council members discussed a variety of priorities, the vote represents a positive mandate for the station’s future that includes housing and open space. This vision will support and enhance the qualities of the surrounding neighborhood and wider community’s interest to take advantage of this rare opportunity.
Next steps include the creation of an MOU with BART and a public process at the Planning Commission to determine appropriate zoning.
We are still at the beginning stages of community engagement. The Planning Commission process will allow many opportunities to gather input for incorporation into the resulting zoning. We are grateful for the thoughtful and constructive community process to this point and look forward to continuing our work together to create a new, vibrant place for Berkeley.
Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Process Underway
The City Budget is arguably the most important topic that Council weighs in on each year. Our Budget is a reflection of our values. Council has begun this process, with the first public hearing taking place on May 14. Below is the schedule of meetings that will take place regarding the budget over the next six weeks:
May 28, 2019
Regular Agenda: Proposed Biennial Budget Public Hearing #2
Regular Agenda: Council’s Recommendations on the Biennial Budget Due
June 11, 2019
Regular Agenda: Council Discussion on Budget Recommendations
June 25, 2019
Regular Agenda: Final discussions and action on the FY 2020 and FY 2021
Biennial Budget: Capital Improvement Program, and Tax Rates
Regular Agenda: Adoption of the FY 2020 Appropriation Ordinance
We value your input in these decisions and hope that you will be engaged as we make these important budgetary choices.
Downtown Berkeley Moving Forward
Last month I provided a State of the Downtown at the annual Downtown Berkeley Association meeting. Over the past year, we have seen major progress on several major projects in the Downtown area, making it a more vibrant and exciting destination. The opening of the BART Plaza/transit hub and the green Center Street garage has made it easier to travel to Downtown, regardless of whether you get here by car, bus, bike, or walking.
The Downtown Berkeley Association has recently hired a Social Service Outreach Specialist whose role is to assist people living on the streets of Downtown. This includes connecting people to services such as shelters, housing, and social services. Separately, a new program, the Downtown Streets Team, was expanded to Berkeley last fall. It provides volunteer opportunities to homeless individuals (while they do not get paid, they do receive stipends in the form of gift cards and transit costs). By giving these people experience, it gives them much needed stability that can create a path to getting a job. The program currently operates in 13 cities across Northern California.
The future is also looking bright. A new 336 room hotel is under construction, which will also provide conference room space among other amenities. 643 units of housing have been built since 2015, and 732 are under construction, 1,230 entitled, and 557 proposed. The Shattuck Ave reconfiguration is underway, which will allow for a smoother commute in the heart of Downtown, especially for pedestrians, bikes, and buses. We are also in the early stages of creating an intercity greenway, connecting Downtown Berkeley to the Bay Trail in Emeryville. This will transform Shattuck Avenue and Adeline Street into world class multimodal thoroughfares.
New Deputy City Manager Completes Berkeley's Leadership Team
Starting on May 13, the City welcomed our newest Deputy City Manager, David White. White has previously spent the past ten years in the City of Fairfield, including the past five years as their City Manager. During his tenure, he was successful in securing community support to extend a sales and use tax vital to the city’s General Fund, oversaw a robust capital improvement program, worked collaboratively to secure adoption and implement a comprehensive strategy to address homelessness and community revitalization initiatives, and prudently managed resources to emerge from the Great Recession in a strong financial position while increasing service levels.
This marks the first time in five years that every leadership position in the City has been filled on a permanent basis. The City Manager’s Office recently underwent a structural change which created a second Deputy City Manager Position. White will oversee the following departments and units:
· City Clerk
· Economic Development
· Human Resources
· Information Technology
· Special Projects
Paul Buddenhagen, our other Deputy City Manager who was appointed in February after serving in the role on an interim basis for many months after previously serving as the Director of Health, Housing and Community Services, will oversee the following departments and units:
· Health, Housing and Community Services
· Parks, Recreation & Waterfront
· Public Works
· Police Review Commission
· Administrative Hearings
· Assistant to the City Manager overseeing Neighborhood Services, 2020 Vision, Code Enforcement, and Animal Services
The City Manager, Dee Williams-Ridley, oversees the two Deputy City Managers, City Attorney, Fire, Police, Communications, and Administration.
We welcome David White to the Berkeley Team and look forward to working with him.
Berkeley Unified School District Approves New Superintendent
After Superintendent Donald Evans announced his retirement in January, BUSD began a national search for a new Superintendent, including receiving feedback from the Berkeley community. Evans, who has served as Superintendent for the past six years, will retire in July 2019.
A couple of weeks ago, Brent Stephens was approved as the new Superintendent by the School Board. Stephens previously served as the Chief Academic Officer for the San Francisco Unified School District. During his tenure at SFUSD, he is credited with several major accomplishments, most notably overhauling the District’s mathematics department, which resulted in an increase of students taking advanced math courses, especially among minority and low-income students. He also launched the Pathway to Teaching program which lead to the hiring of dozens of local teachers, many of whom are people of color and reflective of the communities they serve. Among his extensive career and accomplishments, he has previously served as a Spanish bilingual teacher in Oakland where he also was a union leader. He has also served as a principal, worked on Special Education programs, and has helped improve educational funding.
We thank Dr. Evans for his years of service and welcome Dr. Stephens to the Berkeley community.
Berkeley Stands Firm on Sanctuary Status after New Threats
On April 12, news outlets uncovered a plan by President Trump to order the Department of HomelandSecurity to release immigrants detained at the U.S.-Mexico border in sanctuary cities in retaliation to their opposition to administration immigration policies. In response, I sent out the following statement:
“I am shocked but not surprised that once again this President is playing a cynical game with people’s lives in order to score political points. To use immigrants as pawns on a political chessboard is outrageous and unethical. Rather than supporting a real pathway to citizenship for the millions of immigrants in this country, he is fanning the flames of division.
I call on our President to stop playing politics and work in a bipartisan fashion to fix our broken immigration system. Immigrants are the bedrock of our country and make our country great. Studies have shown that sanctuary cities are safer because of and not in spite of immigrants.”
The City of Berkeley declared itself a City of Refuge in 1971, and reaffirmed this designation after the 2016 election to reiterate that no city Police or staff may engage in or assist with the enforcement of federal immigration law.
Addressing Displacement and Gentrification
With displacement and gentrification becoming more prevalent, especially among our African American community in South Berkeley, we are stepping up anti-displacement efforts. The Rent Stabilization Ordinance passed in 1980 has provided reprieve for thousands of tenants, but rent control only applies to units built before 1980 and has been weakened with the passage of Costa-Hawkins in 1995.
In recent years, I have introduced a variety of legislation to stem the tide of displacement. The Tenant Protection Ordinance provides the framework to prevent harassment by landlords who may have an incentive to push out tenants in order to increase rents. The Tenant Buyout Ordinance places regulations on buyouts that had previously been used as a loophole to get around the eviction process. In 2016, Berkeley voters approved Measure AA, which increases relocation assistance funding for owner move-in evictions among other protections. We have also increased funding to the Eviction Defence Center and East Bay Community Law Center for the purpose of increasing coverage and services for people facing evictions.
You can read more on what we are doing to address displacement on my blog, which includes success stories from tenants who have kept their homes as a result of services that the City funds.
Lava Mae Launches in Berkeley
The City Council voted in November 2018 to approve the Lava Mae shower program to provide services in Berkeley. After a pilot program, the services are now available on a permanent basis. Free shower services can be found at:
Progressive Baptist Church
3301 King St
Pathways STAIR Center
2nd St/Cedar St
Founded in 2013, Lava Mae has provided over 58,000 showers to over 15,000 guests, with mobile facilities located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the East Bay. Their program has inspired 130 and counting mobile shower programs across the world based off their model.
Upcoming Meetings and Events
Berkeley Summer Activities and Programs
The Summer 2019 Activity Guide has been published, which provides an extensive list of summer activities for kids of all ages. Registration for summer programs opened on May 13th, registration for summer camp is open now. Visit the City’s recreation page for more info.
Wildfire Preparedness Forums
Various Dates throughout May
With two consecutive years of tragically record breaking fire seasons, it is critical to take steps to prepare for wildfires. The Berkeley Fire Department is hosting several forums over the next month and will be presenting the new Draft Wildfire Evacuation Plan. Click here for the full list of meetings and more information.
UC Berkeley Move Out
Saturday, May 18 - Sunday, May 26
With the academic year coming to a close, thousands of UC Berkeley students will soon be moving out. To help create a smooth transition, the University is working with the City, non-profits, and students groups to decrease the environmental and social impacts of illegal dumping in near-campus neighborhoods. The Cal Move Out Program provides resources to students including opportunities for reuse and recycling. Illegal dumping can result in fines of up to $1,000. Click here for more information about Move Out.
Saturday, May 25, 12pm-2pm
Berkeley Espresso, 1900 Shattuck Ave
Join me and Councilmember Kate Harrison for a coffee chat. Come by anytime between 12pm-2pm to share your thoughts, grab a drink, or even just say hello.
Ohlone Park 50th Anniversary
Saturday, June 1, 11am-4pm
Ohlone Park, MLK Jr Way/Hearst Ave
A day of festivities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ohlone Park will take place throughout the park. Events include a rededication of the Ohlone Mural, dog training at the dog park, events and entertainment for kids, and arts and crafts demonstrations from California’s Native American community. For more information and volunteer opportunities, contact email@example.com.
Cannabis Equity Program Meeting
Thursday, June 13, 6:30pm-8:30pm
South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St
The Cannabis Commission is holding a special meeting to develop a Cannabis Equity Program in order to select a seventh cannabis Retailer. The overall goal of this program is to lower barriers to entry into the cannabis industry for members of communities that were negatively impacted by the War on Drugs. For more info or to submit comments, contact 510-981-7484 or 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.
Jesse Arreguin, Mayor
Jacquelyn McCormick, Chief of Staff
Stefan Elgstrand, Legislative Aide
Tano Trachtenberg, Legislative Aide
Molly Jones, Assistant to the Mayor
2180 Milvia Street, 5th Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704