State of the City Address
Building Our Future Together
July 22, 2019
Thank you Councilmember Ben Bartlett for your warm introduction and for your ongoing efforts to lift up the South Berkeley community. District 3 and the entire City of Berkeley is fortunate to have such a visionary leader.
It is wonderful to see so many Berkeley residents, business owners, and community leaders here tonight.
I also want to acknowledge my fellow elected officials, our City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley, and the heads of several City departments who are in attendance.
Thank you to The Plant Library, a full-service plant rental company serving the Bay Area, for their generosity in letting us use these beautiful plants you see here on stage. Check them out at theplantlibrary.com
Thank you to Berkeley Community Media for broadcasting tonight’s address. We are livestreaming the speech and we are airing it on cable Channel 33.
I am delighted that Shotgun Players agreed to host this event. Shotgun Players’ commitment to our community and our environment is emblematic of our Berkeley values. The organization was founded in 1992 with the goal of providing bold, thought-provoking theatre at an affordable cost. And they continue to push the envelope to this day.
This Ashby location has been Shotgun’s home since 2004, and in 2007, it became the first 100% solar-powered live theater in the country.
Most importantly, Shotgun Players care passionately about our arts community, which is one of the foundational building blocks of Berkeley. We have over 150 arts non-profits here, and together they generate over $165 million in annual economic activity, bring thousands of visitors to our city, and help make Berkeley one of the most vibrant arts communities in the world.
But this was not always the case. In the early 1990s there was no Downtown Arts District, and existing art organizations were considering leaving the city due to lack of space and city support. Yet instead of giving up, artists worked with the City to come up with a plan to increase investment in the arts. It worked. Though both public and private investment, we created the Addison Street Arts District home to world class performing arts organizations such as the Berkeley Rep and Aurora Theater, and provided the tools needed for the arts to thrive through the Civic Arts Grants Program. 25 years later, that vision has been realized through one of the most energetic and vibrant arts communities in the world.
But we are only getting started.
We must build on this incredible base and expand our creative capacity as a City by supporting the arts in the most inclusive way possible. The arts must be a resource for cross-cultural education and a conduit for lifting up and empowering historically marginalized communities.
To begin to achieve this vision, we recently updated the City of Berkeley’s Arts and Culture Plan. The plan is a roadmap for how to strengthen our arts community in the years to come.
The first goal of this new plan is to create affordable housing and workspace for artists. We know that rising real estate prices have pushed artists out of our community, people like Mildred Howard whose family has called Berkeley home for generations. We must create more affordable housing and work space for artists if we are to continue our commitment to being a diverse, creative and inclusive city.
We are excited to be partnering with the Berkeley Repertory Theater, which recently secured funding for the development of a 45-unit apartment for artists, with groundbreaking expected this fall and completion in Spring 2021. As the city is launching its Measure O bond program and updating land use regulations, we should incentivize affordable live-work space for artists.
Our Civic Arts Commission continues to provide critical grants for our artists and arts festivals. Our Civic Arts Grants Program has been expanded to support large, medium and small arts organizations, and individual artists. As real estate prices increase, arts organizations are struggling to say in Berkeley, and need additional support. The expansion of the program is due to the dedicated service of the Arts Commission and recent funding provided by the City Council. Two years ago during our budget adoption, I proposed to increasing the Arts Grants to $500,000, the largest amount the city has ever provided for the arts. The arts are not only important to the cultural life of our city, but are a major economic engine. Investment in the arts is an important economic development strategy. Last month when we adopted the FY 2020-2021 budget we continued this new baseline so that we can expand the number of arts organizations served. This program provides an essential lifeline for dozens of artists and organizations.
But we all must do more to ensure the Arts, that really all the joys and opportunities of a modern city are available to everyone here, not just those of privilege.
Because, sadly, while we continue to celebrate the beauty and richness of Berkeley’s diverse communities, many of the streets outside of our most vibrant art venues are lined with tents, tents inhabited by those our city and our society have, so far, failed to help.
We can’t truly build Berkeley’s future together if we don’t include everyone in that future. And that’s why addressing homelessness is one of my top priorities. And I know you share that priority.
It’s understood that our region, and the entire West Coast, is experiencing an unprecedented crisis. Homelessness has risen in Alameda County by 43% over the past two years and unsheltered homelessness--those living full-time on the streets--has increased by 63%. It is estimated that on any given year there are 2,000 homeless in Berkeley, with around 1% of our city’s population on the streets each night. This tragedy is the result of a collective societal failure to take care of those who are most in need of help.
One of my first major initiatives as Mayor was the creation of the Pathways Project. Working with Councilmember Sophie Hahn, our Health, Housing and Community Services Department, and various stakeholders in the homeless community, we developed a plan to address the crisis on our streets, reduce the impact of encampments on businesses and residents, and to create an unbroken path from the streets into housing.
In last year’s State of the City address I shared that we had achieved a major milestone in our Pathways Project, the opening of the STAIR center, the Berkeley’s first ever year-round, low-barrier shelter that provides intensive wrap-around and housing navigation services.
But the STAIR Center is much more than a shelter. Here, homeless people are assigned a caseworker connects clients to mental health, drug treatment, employment assistance and ultimately connect them to permanent housing or reunify them with their families. The Center also provides housing support after people transition out of the Navigation Center. After 13 months in operation, I’m happy to report that 170 people have used a STAIR bed, 102 people have been housed, and among those, 93% have been able to retain their housing.
An October 2018 San Francisco Chronicle article profiled two STAIR Center clients Sarah Smith and Zach Minjarez. They both had been homeless in Berkeley for many years and were living under the University Avenue freeway overpass. An outreach worker from Bay Area Community Services (BACS) visited them and invited them to move into the STAIR facility. They were one of the first to take them up on the offer. After years of living on the street, they wanted to move indoors into a real home. After 3 months living at the STAIR Center, Smith and Minjarez were able to move into a studio apartment in Oakland’s Fruitvale District. The rent was made possible by a loan program through Alameda County Behavioral Health Care that supports individuals who are eligible for public benefits.
The Chronicle quoted Minjarez: “Just to have a key and to be able to open your door and know that everything is the same as you left it, I’m ecstatic right now, I don’t have words to describe it. It’s a new start.”
“I didn’t believe it was going to be possible,” said Minjarez, a Berkeley native who told me he’s been homeless on and off since he was 16. “But it’s working out.”
Another milestone of the Pathways Project, was the release of the 1,000 Person Plan which was recently presented to the City Council. The plan outlines how Berkeley can provide permanent housing for the existing unsheltered population and how to create a housing program which rapidly rehouses people so no one experiences homelessness on our streets, achieving what is called “functional zero”. It proposes to re tool our shelter system into a Navigation Center model, similar to the STAIR Center program. While the report is sobering, it provides us with much needed data and an ambitious plan to help guide our work towards Housing First.
Additionally, we recently added another nightly shelter for 50 individuals in the Veterans Building. Dorothy Day House, the shelter’s operator, will soon offer daytime and lunch services, providing additional respite from the street. I want to thank Councilmembers Cheryl Davila and Rigel Robinson for helping make this project possible and for their unwavering support for our unhoused neighbors.
This year, we also increased our mental health outreach, and launched our new Downtown Streets Team, which provides job training and helps us keep our streets cleaner, and enhanced cleanup of litter and installed portable restrooms in highly impacted areas of our city.
Making these investments and helping the most vulnerable among us--while it’s always worthwhile, it’s never easy. After more than 30 years of diminishing resources from the State and Federal governments, and in the midst of the ongoing housing crisis across the region, cities have been forced to make increasingly difficult choices between paying for city services or helping those in crisis. This is not a choice that cities should have to bear.
But Berkeley is Berkeley, and we have a heart. So when voters were asked to approve Measure P in 2018, to generate $6-8 million annually for homeless and related services by increasing the transfer tax on the most expensive properties in Berkeley, we voted YES by a margin of 73%. This Measure will fund critical homeless and mental health programs, ensure the continued success of the STAIR Center, increase mental health outreach, open more shelter beds and lockers, support vital drug treatment, job training, and employee assistance services and ultimately connect more people to permanent housing.
Thank you to the people of Berkeley for your generosity and for doing your part to build Berkeley’s future. Most importantly, thank you for your compassion and willingness, again, to help the most vulnerable in our community.
As we sit here tonight in South Berkeley, a neighborhood which was the heart of Berkeley’s African American community, and one with a rich cultural history, we know that this neighborhood is undergoing dramatic changes as home prices and rents increase, businesses close, and long-time residents are being forced out of the area due to displacement. The very fabric of this neighborhood and our city is threatened by a growing housing affordability crisis.
As an example of the dramatic demographic changes occurring, Berkeley’s African American population has plummeted from 20% in the 1970s to less than 8% today, with South Berkeley being especially burdened by the impacts of gentrification and displacement. This is in part due to years of insufficient action and an unwillingness to address the critical need of affordable housing.
The creation of new affordable housing is a necessary component of any vision to address the housing and homeless crisis. It is an essential part of our efforts to help those who have made Berkeley what it is continue to stay here and thrive. But we must also accept the reality that housing alone is not enough. That is why we are making our city’s biggest investment ever in anti-displacement programs, services that will help keep people in their homes so they don’t end up on the streets.
This year, Berkeley is investing $900,000 annually, including:
$550,000 to the East Bay Community Law Center and Eviction Defense Center to provide legal representation and counseling for tenants facing eviction;
$250,000 for our Housing Retention Program to provide one time cash grants for people facing eviction; and
$100,000 to the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool to provide rehousing assistance to persons experiencing homelessness.
With this additional funding, hundreds more Berkeley renters will have access to services that could mean the difference between living in a home and living in the streets. This funding was a result of Measure U1, passed by Berkeley voters in 2016 which is an increased tax on large property owners to support general municipal services such as funding to prevent homelessness and create new affordable housing.
In a 2018 community survey, a plurality of residents stated that building affordable housing is the most important issue facing Berkeley. I agree, which is why we embarked on developing a $135 million bond for the development of affordable housing for low-income households, working families, and individuals including teachers, seniors, veterans, the homeless, and persons with disabilities. Thanks to the Berkeley voters, Measure O won by a landslide. As a result, we have secured an unprecedented amount of funds that can be matched to develop hundreds of units of affordable housing over the next few years.
Along with Measure U1, Measure O is yet more evidence that the voters want to ensure Berkeley is a place everyone can call home – and for generations to come.
Several projects that will be funded in part by Measure O are shovel ready today:
The 142 unit Berkeley Way Project, located at the site of a current parking lot in Downtown, is the largest permanent supportive housing project in Berkeley history.
89 units of this project will be reserved for people below 60% area median income, which equates to a salary below $52,000.
53 units will be permanent supportive housing for homeless people and those with disabilities.
It will also include temporary and transitional housing along with a hub for social service providers including health care, mental health and housing navigation.
Groundbreaking will take place next year, with the opening in early 2022.
Another project at 1601 Oxford St will provide 35 units of low-income senior housing in North Berkeley. Construction is expected by the end of the year with its opening in early 2021.
Thank you to the Berkeley Food and Housing Project and SAHA for your efforts in making these projects a reality.
The city is also launching a Request for Proposals for the remaining Measure O dollars, and the Measure O Bond Oversight Committee will be reviewing proposals and making recommendations with the goal of making our funding awards this December.
In addition, last year Berkeley launched its Small Sites Program to provide financing for the acquisition and rehabilitation of smaller multi-unit properties to preserve affordability, with particular focus on conversion to limited-equity cooperatives. The Bay Area Community Land Trust is the first non-profit to receive funding through the Small Sites Program for a property at 1638 Stuart Street. Working in partnership with the McGee Avenue Baptist Church, BACLT is converting a long vacant church-owned apartment building and cottage into permanently affordable housing. This project, hopefully the first of many, shows how through creative partnerships with the City, non-profits and community we can find ways to address our affordability and displacement crisis. My goal is to grow the Small Sites Program to up to $10 million in funding to grow our capacity to preserve affordable housing.
While creating housing for our most vulnerable residents, we must also make sure that our workforce is not being priced out of this city. Those who work in Berkeley should be able to afford to live here.
That is why we are partnering with the Berkeley Unified School District in creating a plan for educator workforce housing. Teachers and staff are best able to help their students when they are a part of the community. We have heard way too many stories of teachers being forced to move to the outer edges of the Bay Area due to the high cost of housing, often commuting over two hours a day to get to and from work. This has a major impact on their ability to prepare for each day in the classroom. To best support the people who teach and work with our students every day, we need to bring our teachers back home to the community they serve. Measure O will also help achieve this reality.
Measure O set a goal of achieving at least 10% reserved affordable housing out of the total number of housing units by the year 2030. This is an ambitious goal to create thousands of additional affordable units, but with new funding opportunities available on the local, regional and state level, we have an unprecedented opportunity to create affordable homes and help stem the tide of displacement. Working together, we can achieve this goal, and build a better future for everyone in Berkeley.
Our vision for housing also includes transit-oriented development--housing close to public transit hubs that it is equitable, sustainable and affordable.
To that end, for the past four years, the community has been engaged in a process to develop a vision for the future of the Adeline Corridor, including the parking lots around the Ashby BART Station. This plan can undo the years of physical separation created by the BART development.
In the 1960s when the BART system was in development, there was concern about how its construction would rip apart the fabric of the neighborhood, resulting in de facto segregation with the tracks creating a physical boundary between neighborhoods west of Adeline and more affluent neighborhoods to the east. But this is Berkeley and we like to do things differently. The neighborhood organized to oppose this plan, and through the leadership of people like Mable Howard, they were able to work with the City Council, led by Republican Mayor Wallace Johnson, to place a tax measure on the ballot to fund the undergrounding of the BART tracks. 83% of Berkeley voters agreed on this bipartisan measure, creating the legacy we see today.
That story shows the power of our community. And we see that reflective in our draft Adeline Corridor Plan. For the past four years, the City has been working with the people of South Berkeley in developing a vision for the future of Adeline Corridor. This community-driven process has resulted in the creation of a draft plan that focuses on equity and sustainability.
To preserve the diversity of South Berkeley, we are calling for 50% of new development to be affordable.
And at Ashby BART, I am advocating for 100% affordability.
Ashby BART would also be home to a new plaza that will serve as a community gathering space, including space for the flea market. Public land should be used to serve the people.
The Adeline Corridor Plan is more than about creating housing. It is about investing in the community. We want to provide the tools needed for events such as the Juneteenth Festival to thrive. We want to develop the African American Holistic Resource Center as a way to remove the inequities and disparities faced by the African American community. I also want to see a right of return policy to allow those who have been displaced to come back home.
The proposed plan will see major improvements to important thoroughfares and intersections in the area. Adeline Street was originally designed to be used as a multimodal route, but today it is a mecca for cars. It’s time to move away from what was the transportation policies of the 1950s and redesign the road so that it is safe and accessible for everyone, whether you walk, bike, or take the bus.
Let us create a vision for South Berkeley that is based on Berkeley values. I look forward to working with you in making this a reality.
Now, we turn to North Berkeley BART, where we have a rare opportunity to transform acres of underutilized space into a vibrant and diverse neighborhood.
Over the past 16 months we have worked together through a robust public process to define a vision that enhances the qualities of the surrounding neighborhood and takes advantage of this rare opportunity. Hundreds of neighbors and housing advocates have worked together to create a vision of affordable housing, open space connecting the Ohlone Greenway, and a transportation network that serves the needs of both the neighborhood, BART commuters, and our city.
Thank you to former Councilmember Linda Maio, Council Members Rashi Kesarwani and Ben Bartlett, BART, and members of the community - especially those who spent countless hours developing their visions for the future of these stations.
And as our community grows, it puts pressure on our existing infrastructure. Growth pressure, combined with an evolution in transportation alternatives have created a transportation safety crisis.
Any death or serious injury of a pedestrian or cyclist is preventable and unacceptable.
I remember the shock and pain of learning our friends, School Board President Judy Appel and her wife Alison Bernstein, were critically injured when they were hit by a car in a crosswalk in January of this year. They are making remarkable progress and, on behalf of the community, I wish them full speed and strength in their recovery.
Again, this increase in pedestrian and bicycle accidents is unacceptable. My budget recommendations for FY 20/21 address this crisis. We are allocating significant funds for improving safety on particularly hazardous roads and intersections.
The City also made a serious investment in safety by securing funding to implement Vision Zero. This project has a simple, but ambitious premise - to eliminate all pedestrian and cyclist deaths and serious injuries from car crashes. In order to build toward this goal, we launched a Task Force this year to identify ways to improve the safety of our streets in an equitable, transparent, and data-driven manner. The Vision Zero Task Force will be making recommendations to the Council in the fall. I want to thank Councilmember Lori Droste for her leadership on this issue.
In recent years we have also seen the unfortunate increase in severe fire storm devastation in urban and residential areas such as Santa Rosa and Paradise.
History tells us that what happened there can also happen here. In 1923 a wildfire ravaged the Berkeley Northside neighborhood, only stopping at the edge of downtown thanks to an aggressive mutual aid response and shifting winds. The more recent 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm is still fresh in our memories and the scars are still visible in the hills.
But there is much we can do to prepare and prevent the next big fire.
Earlier this year I joined Governor Gavin Newsom in announcing the North Orinda Fuel Break, a major project along the East Bay Hills to reduce unsafe vegetation and provide more firefighting resources to reduce the threat of fires along the wildland-urban interface.
Thank you Vice-Mayor Susan Wengraf and Fire Chief Dave Brannigan for your ongoing work on fire safety and preparedness and proposing new funding for vegetation management, emergency training, and communications.
No matter how much we prepare though, the threat of wildfires will always exist. So it is up to all of us to take steps to reduce fire hazards at our homes and be ready to take action during an emergency. Our future depends on it.
Our future also depends on a healthy climate. And Berkeley has always been, and will continue to be a leader in climate action.
Earlier this year we made national headlines by becoming the first, but certainly not the last city in America to pass a Single Use Disposable Foodware Ordinance. This will assist businesses in shifting away from environmentally harmful single use disposable foodware and toward reusable products, which in turn will help us achieve our zero waste goals.
I want to thank Councilmember Sophie Hahn for her leadership on this ordinance, and also to the 3rd grade students of the zero waste class at Oxford Elementary. They proved to the adults that we can create a zero waste environment and showed that despite their age, they are ready to lead on climate change.
Last year, the Berkeley City Council adopted two important policy positions: we declared a Climate Emergency due to the worsening climate impacts, and adopted a policy to make Berkeley a Fossil Fuel Free city by the year 2030. Soon after Berkeley’s action, neighboring cities adopted Climate Emergency declarations. The fires last year and the poor air quality are an example that we are already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change. We must recognize that this is a climate emergency and take bold action to reduce our emissions, advance resilience, decarbonize the grid and promote a just transition of our economy. I want to thank Councilmember Cheryl Davila for bringing these important policies to the City Council.
As recently as July 16th, Berkeley, once again, made history by adopting an ordinance that prohibits the use of natural gas in new buildings, effective January 1, 2020. This law, the first in the nation, would prohibit newly constructed buildings from including natural gas infrastructure and would require them to shift to all electric. By promoting electrification, we cutting off our reliance on fossil fuels which wreak havoc on our climate and environment and are highly volatile. This is a necessary step to implement our Climate Emergency declaration and our Climate Action Plan.
Thank you Councilmember Kate Harrison for all your hard work in crafting this visionary policy and for bringing this important issue to the City Council.
There are so many other climate challenges that our planet will experience as a result of human exploitation. For our part, at least here in Berkeley, I am grateful for the passion of our community in taking these challenges head-on. Your commitment is truly making a difference.
As we look to the future, we are creating a vision for Berkeley -- what we are calling Vision 2050 -- that is green, modern, and efficient.
In 2018, 85% of voters approved an advisory measure calling for my office to work with residents and experts to develop a 30-year plan for implementation of climate-smart, technologically-advanced, integrated and efficient infrastructure to support a safe, vibrant and resilient future for Berkeley.
Over the past year my office has led the Vision 2050 Task Force, which is dedicated to implementing step one of this process.
While there are dozens of people volunteering on the Task Force, I want to specifically thank former Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, and Commissioners Ray Yep and Margo Schueler for their leadership. We are aiming for their report to be presented in December, so stay tuned.
Now, while we’re thinking big in terms of our environment, and our planet, we’re also making sure that we’re getting to the nuts and bolts of local government too.
This is the summer of paving... we’re paving 40 roads covering 6.6 miles, including some of those “bad actors” called out by many Berkeleyans.
Roads that serve as bus routes and bicycle boulevards are continuing to be prioritized.
Measure T1 projects are well underway, providing a $100 million investment upgrading our aging infrastructure. From retrofitting our community and senior centers to renovating park facilities, the City is currently on 34 different projects in phase one of the T1 implementation. The people’s investment by voting for this bond in 2016 will pay off in ensuring that future generations have access to safe and resilient roads and public facilities. These improvements have been pending for years due to lack of funding.
One major T1 project is the long overdue repaving of University Ave at the Marina. If San Francisco’s Lombard Street is known for being the crookedest street in the world, University Ave could be up for contention for bumpiest street in the world. But in 2020, the stretch will be replaced with a new smooth road leading people to and from the Waterfront.
This is just one of many exciting projects we have lined up at the Marina. We are embarking on the creation of the Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan, to create a new vision for our Waterfront. This major investment will help ensure that we have a Marina that will be a world-class destination for generations to come.
Perhaps the most exciting future project at the Marina is the creation of a full-service Ferry terminal, and the reconstruction of our Municipal Pier. Earlier this year, both the City Council and the Water Emergency Transportation Agency have approved to enter an MOU to study the feasibility of a Berkeley Ferry terminal. The ferry is not just a quick and environmentally friendly way of commuting to San Francisco, but will also play a crucial role of transporting people after the next major earthquake. The development of a ferry terminal and a new pier will reinvigorate the Marina, creating new economic opportunities for the Marina and surrounding area.
Transportation improvements are happening beyond the Marina as well. Last June, we launched a bike share program, adding 400 bikes to Berkeley as part of a regional network including Oakland and Emeryville. Originally known as Ford GoBike, Bay Wheels provides commuters with a new environmentally friendly transportation option. I have heard recommendations from people that the service should be expanded to other parts of Berkeley, and I wholeheartedly agree.
Approximately 10% of Berkeleyans commute by biking. This means more people bike in Berkeley than any other city of our size in the country. 10% may seem like a lot, but it’s not enough if we want to get serious about promoting non-automotive transportation. That is why we need to get serious about investing in bicycle infrastructure.
Under our Bicycle Plan, we set a goal of increasing ridership by 50% by 2025, and to do that, the plan calls for an investment of almost $35 million to create and upgrade over 66 miles of bike lanes. The first project identified in the Bike Plan, the Milvia Street Bikeway is now funded and will start construction next year. This funding was made possible by a $19 million dollar grant from the State of California Strategic Growth Council, from proceeds of the state cap and trade auctions.
Our community has made it clear that their vision for the future of transportation is a diversity of multimodal transit that moves away from a car-centric ideology. With the proper investment, we can make that a reality.
Our local economy is thriving, thanks in part to the many unique small businesses that call Berkeley home. We have a flourishing network of business associations that work to enhance the neighborhood shopping districts.
Yet, we know that many small businesses face challenges in setting up and expanding, facing delays in permitting and rising rents. We need to remove regulatory barriers that may prevent businesses from opening up shop and provide support as they navigate our permitting process, and other city regulations. In 2017, working with Councilmember Sophie Hahn we proposed the “Small Business Package” an initiative designed to provide relief and support to our small locally-owned businesses. This item was the highest ranked referral that year and since that time our Office of Economic Development has done an incredible job seeking the input of businesses and designing policies and programs to strengthen our business sector. Earlier this year, the Council adopted an ordinance making six critical changes to our zoning code to streamline the permitting process for new small businesses. In addition, our staff and consultants have provided one-on-one support to businesses who come to the permit counter.
One major issue facing many businesses is what to do when the owner retires. How can we ensure long term sustainability of a business and give the workers upward social mobility. Coops have always been part of Berkeley’s identity, from the old Coop Grocery store, student housing cooperatives and cooperative businesses. Coops provide democratic control and ownership. At a time when corporate chains are pushing out small locally owned businesses, encouraging worker cooperatives is a very Berkeley approach to the issue of succession planning.
Berkeley has partnered with Project Equity to help convert these businesses into worker cooperatives. This exciting initiative will allow for long lasting businesses to continue serving our community while giving its employees a stake in the business. I want to thank the City Council for providing $100,000 in funding for this technical assistance for cooperative conversation. Little do people know that many of Berkeley’s most beloved businesses are coops, from the Cheeseboard Collective to Missing Link Bicycles. What would we do without our co-ops?
I have another question for you; how many of you were born at Alta Bates or had a child born there?
Alta Bates is truly the birthplace of the East Bay and it’s sadly at risk of closure after Sutter announced its plans to shut the facility by 2030. We can’t let that happen.
My office brought together regional leaders, healthcare experts, and other stakeholders to launch the Alta Bates Task Force and create the Alta Bates Health Impact Assessment, which was published in December 2018. It concluded that a closure would have disastrous consequences to not just Berkeley, but for jurisdictions across the I-80 corridor. The findings show that we can expect longer wait times, higher medical costs, and reduced access to emergency services, especially during natural disasters.
I am committed to working with our community in holding Sutter accountable so we can Save Alta Bates. It’s time for Sutter to stop playing games with the wellbeing of our community. We will continue to fight, alongside our regional partners, for our hospital, which is an essential part of the Berkeley community.
Finally, I want to spend a moment talking about our values and how in the past two years we have risen to face great challenges.
There is no doubt that over the two years, our city has faced a number of challenges, not least of which were the protests and clashes that occurred on Berkeley’s streets. And even though these are trying times, it is moments like these that bring out the best in people.
These events tested Berkeley, as we worked to balance the rights of protesters to express their views with our desire to show the world that these hateful message were abhorrent to us and our values.
In doing so, we worked with community and faith-based organizations and UC Berkeley to reaffirm our city’s values of sanctuary, diversity and inclusivity. We worked with local artists Miriam Stahl and Lena Wolf to create the “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate” campaign, which printed more than 20,000 posters. As I go around Berkeley, I still see these posters in windows. It fills me with immense pride in how our community rose up and peacefully opposed the hateful message of these groups.
Last year during my State of the City Address, I called on our city to make a renewed commitment to our progressive values in the face of a hostile Federal administration, and to show the world what we stand for.
I am proud that Berkeley is a leader in the resistance.
When the federal government separates immigrant children and cruelly imprisons them in internment camps, we will speak out.
When ICE comes into our community, we will provide sanctuary.
When the federal government reneges on its global commitment to address our climate crisis, we will lead.
While the Trump Administration retreats from the challenges of our day, America’s cities—great engines of innovation and diversity—must lead.
We also have a responsibility to speak out against injustice, to demand change, and to lead on the progressive issues of our time.
We must serve as a beacon of hope in the darkness.
Despite tremendous challenges facing our nation and our city right now, I remain hopeful for Berkeley’s future.
We have risen to the occasion over this past year and begun work to address the long-standing challenges of affordability, inequality, poverty, and opportunity.
In Berkeley we do not turn our back on the least fortunate but work to give people a hand up. And 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 proud Sanctuary City and we are committed to defending the safety and rights of our immigrants, refugees and other vulnerable communities.
We are a community where people who need help with housing, food or other basic needs can get it.
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 collective efforts, we can show what it looks like to build a future that everyone can take part in.
In closing, it is the greatest honor of my life to serve as Mayor of this amazing City.
Thank you all so very much!