Fire Safety, Historic Natural Gas Ban, and More Berkeley News

Building our Future Together

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Last month, I provided my annual State of the City Address in front of a sold out audience in South Berkeley’s Shotgun Players, the nation’s first 100% solar-powered live performance theater. You can watch the full speech here and read the highlights here. Berkeley has a long tradition of thinking globally and acting locally. My address highlights the history of our community’s engagement and activism, and how we can harness our collective ideas to build our future together. 

We have risen to the occasion over this past year and continued our work to address the long-standing challenges of affordability, sustainability and opportunity. Each and every day we are working to create an equitable city. A city where young families, teachers, and service workers can afford to call home. A city where all young people graduating from high school or college feel optimistic about their future. A city where communities of color feel safe, welcome and can still afford to live here. We are a city that retains the diversity that makes our city such an amazing, innovative and dynamic community. And I know that when we work together and combine our efforts, we can show what it looks like to build our future together.

Developing Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructure


Much of our city’s infrastructure is over 70 years old and is approaching the end of their effective lifespan. Maintaining aging infrastructure is becoming more costly, and with an acceleration of new technologies, it is time to rethink how we do infrastructure. We must be bold if we are to create a modern system that will be adaptive to our changing population, transportation, and climate. 

In 2018, Berkeley voters approved Measure R, an advisory measure calling on my office to assemble a group of experts to address the future of our infrastructure. Over the past year, the Vision 2050 Task Force has been busy developing a plan for the implementation of Vision 2050, a framework for upgrading and developing resilient and sustainable infrastructure in Berkeley over the next 30 years. They will be providing a report on that framework in December.

Measure P Provides Major Investment in Homelessness


Over the past two years, homelessness in Berkeley has increased by 13%. While any increase is unacceptable, our increase is significantly lower than the countywide increase of 43%. This is a testament to our significant investment in services. In 2018, Berkeley voters approved Measure P, an increase in the real property transfer tax from 1.5% to 2.5% for properties over $1.5 million (generating $6-8 million annually), which can be used for general municipal services, including homeless and mental health services. 

In 2017, Councilmember Sophie Hahn and I proposed the creation of a 1,000 Person Plan to develop a roadmap for an unbroken path from the streets to permanent housing. This is an ambitious plan, but considering the crisis we are in, anything less would not be enough to make an impact. In 2019, City staff calculated that to achieve this plan, an additional $17-$21 million annually would need to be spent starting year one, with the costs increasing to $31-$43 million by 2028. 

Measure P will provide significant funding, that once paired with regional, state, and federal funding, will enable us to make an impact in achieving the goals of the 1,000 Person Plan and in alleviating our homeless crisis. The Homeless Services Panel of Experts is currently discussing the best ways to implement Measure P, and are tasked with providing an annual report with their recommendations. Their first report is expected by the end of the year.

Addressing Fire Safety


There’s no denying that California’s changing climate is making the threat of wildfires stronger. In the past two years, we witnessed six of the ten worst wildfires in our state’s history. With the lush vegetation created by a wet winter drying out, we are acutely aware of the dangers we face this year. That is why we are making our biggest investment ever in wildfire safety. Our City Budget approved in late June allocates hundreds of thousands of dollars towards vegetation management and emergency response training. We are also proposing $1.1 million for the development of an outdoor emergency warning system. 

Earlier this year, I joined Governor Gavin Newsom and other local and regional leaders and firefighters at Tilden Regional Park in announcing the creation of the North Orinda Fuel Break. This will create a 14 mile firebreak between the wildland-urban interface in Berkeley to the west and Orinda to the east. 

This month, the City has been conducting wildfire evacuation drills in the Berkeley hills. The last drill will take place on August 25th. For more information on the drills, along with safety tips to prevent and prepare for a fire, check out my blog.

Berkeley Passes Historic Natural Gas Ban

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Last week I officially signed into law the groundbreaking bill to prohibit natural gas in new construction. People look to Berkeley for leadership, and often follow our lead. From banning styrofoam to creating a curbside recycling program, we have led the way for innovative policies that are now common practice throughout the world. 

Time is running out if we are going to prevent runaway climate change. The electrification of new construction is a major step forward in achieving our environmental goals of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions. Berkeley receives its electricity from East Bay Community Energy, meaning our power comes from carbon-free sources. Electrification is already popular with affordable housing developers, as removing natural gas infrastructure lowers the cost of construction. You can read more about the myths and benefits of this ordinance here.

Fighting to Keep Alta Bates Open

When Summit merged with Alta Bates in 1999, they made a commitment to the community that the hospital will remain open. 20 years later, we are leading the fight to hold them to their promise. A few years ago, Sutter announced it will be closing the hospital by 2030 and consolidating services in Oakland. This cannot happen. When Doctors Hospital in San Pablo closed, there was a 39% spike in visits to Alta Bates from West Contra Costa residents. A closure of Alta Bates will adversely impact hundreds of thousands of people along the I-80 corridor, with longer wait times, and impact our Fire Department’s ability to respond to emergencies.

This week I went on KQED Forum to discuss the impacts of closing Alta Bates on the East Bay region. You can listen to the show here.

Upcoming Meetings and Events

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UC Berkeley Move-in Day

Tuesday, August 20th, 8am-8pm

Southside/Campus Area

An estimated 5,500 students living in residence halls will be moving in on Tuesday, August 20th. The University has been working with the City to minimize the impact of adjacent neighborhoods, but traffic delays should be expected throughout the day. For more information about move-in day, click here


Business Personal Property Workshop

Tuesday, August 20th, 12pm-1:15pm

Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, 1834 University Ave

Join the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and the Alameda County Assessor's Office for a step-by-step presentation on how to complete Form 571L - a form that every business is required to complete and file annually with the Assessor's Office. This workshop will be augmented by a presentation from the California Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development covering Go-Biz, California's single point of contact for economic development and job creation efforts. Click here to RSVP.


Clean Transportation Convening

Thursday, August 22, 6pm-8pm

Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline St

Join the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition for a convening on clean transportation. Topics include learning about the different types of electric vehicles and chargers, an update on the City’s Electric Mobility Roadmap, and resources for clean energy at home. RSVP here.


BUSD First Day of School

Monday, August 26

Berkeley Schools

Classes for the 2019-20 school year at Berkeley Unified School District will start on August 26th. 


Solano Stroll

Sunday, September 8th, 10am-5pm

Solano Avenue

The Solano Stroll is an annual family-friendly festival that takes place along over a mile of Solano Avenue in Berkeley and Albany. The 45th annual Solano Stroll will feature over 250 vendors and is expected to attract over 200,000 people. 

My office will have a booth at the Solano Stroll, and I will be there most of the day to meet with Berkeley residents and answer their questions and hear their ideas. We will be located by 1714 Solano Ave, between Ensenada Ave and Tulare Ave. Please stop by to say hello!

Click here for more information.


3rd Annual Ride Electric Event

Saturday, September 14, 11am-3pm

Civic Center Park, 2151 MLK Jr Way

Discover the latest electric and plug-in hybrid cars, and e-bikes, and talk to local EV drivers. Learn about credits, rebates, grants and loans that make plug-in cars affordable. Bring the kids to a 100% clean powered bounce house, while you enjoy lunch at the farmers' market. Sign up here.


Berkeley Old Time Music Convention

September 18-22

Various locations

The Berkeley Old Time Music Convention is a five day music festival featuring performances by local and national acts, a rollicking square dance, open cabaret, and the illustrious stringband contest in venues throughout Berkeley. For a full list of events and locations/timing and tickets, visit their website.

Jesse Arreguin