March 24, 2021
Dear Neighbor,
This month, we mark one year since the first Shelter-In-Place order was issued on March 16, 2020. At the time, none of us had any idea how drastically our lives would change. My heart goes out to those who have suffered deeply over the past year. All of us have experienced the small losses of the pandemic year, and I hope you find joy in all that we have to look forward to in the months to come. 

In this newsletter:
  • Expanding Vaccine Eligibility
  • Special Council Meeting on Housing TOMORROW, March 25
  • Asian American Pacific Islander Youth Rally on March 28
  • Police Accountability Board Applications Due March 29
  • Tenant/Landlord Financial Relief Available
Expanding Vaccine Eligibility
The City of Berkeley and other vaccine distributors continue to add vaccine appointments and expand vaccine eligibility. In addition to all residents who are 65 and older, essential workers in the following sectors are now eligible:
  • public transit workers, including airport and commercial airlines
  • education and childcare
  • emergency services
  • food and agriculture, including restaurants, grocery, convenience stores
The North Alameda County mass vaccination site is located at Golden Gate Fields.
Vaccine appointments are also now open to all residents age 16 and older with certain state-defined underlying health conditions. People with the following conditions are strongly encouraged to seek vaccination with a primary health care provider or system, or in an alternate clinical setting. Check first with your usual health care provider.

  • Cancer, current with weakened immune system
  • Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above
  • Chronic pulmonary disease, oxygen dependent
  • Down syndrome
  • Solid organ transplant, leading to a weakened immune system
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies (but not hypertension)
  • Severe obesity (Body Mass Index ≥ 40 kg/m2)
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus with hemoglobin A1c level greater than 7.5 percent

For those who are still waiting for their turn, on March 19, Governor Gavin Newsom made the following announcement on expanding vaccine eligibility: “We anticipate within five and a half weeks (being) where we can eliminate all tiering, so to speak, and make available vaccines to everyone across the spectrum. Supply will exponentially increase, so in a few weeks these issues will substantively be addressed.”

Vaccinations also available at the Oakland Coliseum and CVS, Rite-Aid, and Walgreens pharmacies
Check availability and schedule appointments for the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum at myturn.ca.gov or by calling 1-833-422-4255. 

CVS, Rite-Aid, and Walgreens pharmacies are also now scheduling Covid-19 vaccinations for health care workers and those at least 65 years-old. Use the links below to schedule an appointment. 


Keep in mind that supplies are limited and wait times may be long.

With vaccine supply limited, sign up for notification lists
The limited national supply of Covid-19 vaccines means that it will take time for vaccines to reach the general population.

No matter what your age, you can prepare by understanding what your health care provider’s process is and signing up for general notification lists. Supply is limited everywhere, so sign up for as many lists as you can to maximize opportunities to receive a vaccine.

In addition to the City of Berkeley notification list, the City recommends that Berkeley residents sign up for:

No matter what list you are on, keep tabs on your email and take immediate action when you receive a notification that you are eligible to make an appointment.
Special Council Meeting on Housing TOMORROW, March 25
Some of you may have read in the news about an effort led by Berkeley Vice Mayor Lori Droste to end single-family zoning—the restriction in the City’s zoning code that limits homeowners to one dwelling unit (with the exception of an accessory dwelling unit) on their property. This restriction prevents homeowners from creating a duplex like the one pictured here.
A duplex located in my District 1 neighborhood.
The concept of single-family zoning—now ubiquitous across the country—was invented right here Berkeley in 1916 by prominent real estate developer Duncan McDuffie. At the time, the intent was to separate white families from people of color by design and also by law—the “Claremont Court and Uplands” single-family home developments included racial covenants barring homeowners from selling or renting their homes to people of color.

Because of the hard-won Fair Housing Act of 1968, which ended legal discrimination in housing and mortgage lending, homeownership is something to which many families can now aspire—regardless of race. While families of color can still be victims of housing and mortgage lending discrimination, the primary barrier many families generally face to owning a home in the high-cost Bay Area today is insufficient household income. We also know that pronounced differences in median household income persist by race. On the whole, this means that Black and Latino families, statistically more likely to be lower-income, will be shut out of neighborhoods zoned for expensive single-family homes. Berkeley’s median home price is now $1.4 million and the Black population has fallen from 23 percent in 1970 to 8 percent today. The reasons behind the racial disparity in household income have been heavily studied and debated, including the effects of residential segregation and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system and employment; in short, it is hard for Black and Latino families to escape the insidious role that race continues to play in our society.

But there are reasons to be hopeful. I’m captivated by research that shows that the neighborhood in which you grow up does not simply correlate with—but causes—improved educational and economic outcomes in adulthood. Researchers found that the federal Housing and Urban Development Moving to Opportunity experiment in the 1990s created a boost in lifetime earnings of about $302,000 (31 percent more) for children who moved to high-opportunity neighborhoods when compared to children who did not. The children who moved were also more likely to attend college. Girls raised in better neighborhoods were found to be more likely to grow up to marry and live in better neighborhoods as adults. This suggests lasting positive intergenerational effects: the grandchildren of the parents who moved to better neighborhoods are more likely to be raised by two parents, enjoy higher family incomes, and spend their entire childhood in better neighborhoods. A more recent 2019 Seattle Housing Authority experiment found a similar boost in lifetime earnings as a result of low-income families moving to high-opportunity neighborhoods. These data are convincing, and it leaves me with a series of questions for our community:

  • What does it mean to be an anti-racist progressive community?
  • Should we not give children from lower-income households the chance to live in high-opportunity neighborhoods?
  • What policies would need to change in order to give more children this chance?

Across the Bay Area, 81 percent of all residential land is zoned exclusively for single-family homes, and this means that our regional land-use policy is systematically locking out lower-income families. As a response, low-income families often live in overcrowded conditions in the Bay Area. We tragically see this play out in our Covid-19 case and death rates, with communities of color suffering disproportionate harm due to the nature of their employment and living conditions. In some cases, families are pushed to live in the lower-cost Central Valley, where they have less access to good-paying jobs and high-quality schools. This land-use pattern—of zoning the vast majority of Bay Area residential land for single-family homes—is not only exclusionary, but it is also environmentally unsustainable in a climate crisis. Single-family homes exacerbate urban sprawl and encourage a carbon intensive lifestyle when compared to multiunit homes close to public transit. Every city in the Bay Area needs to do its part to change.

The state has recognized the negative effects of our unsustainable land-use pattern and has therefore taken action to require cities to increase the zoned number of homes in their respective Housing Element plans. The City of Berkeley is required to zone for 9,000 new homes by January 2023—a significant increase over our prior requirement from 2014-2022 to zone for 3,000 new homes. Taken together, the Bay Area region is required to zone for 441,000 additional homes based on a state formula that takes into account the following factors: 
  • Population growth and household formation rates;
  • A target vacancy rate for a healthy housing market (defined as no less than 5 percent);
  • The rate of overcrowding, which is defined as having more than one person per room in each room in a dwelling; and 
  • The share of cost burdened households, which is defined as households paying more than 30 percent of household income on housing costs.

I have co-authored an item with Vice Mayor Lori Droste, Mayor Jesse Arreguín, and Councilmember Terry Taplin that proposes a path forward for complying with the state mandate to zone for 9,000 additional homes. We propose to add the vast majority of the 9,000 homes to existing transit corridors known as “Priority Development Areas” so that we can grow without seeing commensurate increases in traffic. At the same time that we grow, I believe we must invest in non-car modes of transportation, such as funding our Bike Plan improvements and planning for Bus Rapid Transit service on San Pablo Avenue. In addition to allowing for more density along our transit corridors, we propose to end single-family zoning in a way that is sensitive to neighborhood context, wildfire hazards in the hills, and the desire for green space and sunlight that we all treasure. And we propose to do all of this in a way that centers community input and intentionally incorporates policies to promote the creation of below-market-rate affordable homes, protect existing tenants, and guard against displacement. You can read the full item and access the Zoom link to attend the Special Council Meeting TOMORROW, Thurs., March 25 at 6 p.m. HERE.
 
Please share your input with me (rkesarwani@cityofberkeley.info) or the full Council (council@cityofberkeley.info). 
Asian American Pacific Islander Youth Rally on Sun., March 28
Please join me on Sun., March 28 from 2-4 p.m. at Aquatic Park (next to Waterside Workshops, 84 Bolivar Drive) for a youth rally organized by middle school students to show solidary for our Asian American Pacific Islander community.

Speakers include Berkeley Councilmember Rigel Robinson, Lateefah Simon of the Akonadi Foundation, Elaine Dang of Act to Change, myself, student leaders, and more.

Please wear a facial covering and join us as we march to the pedestrian overcrossing. For more information, please visit the rally website HERE.
Brief Updates: Police Accountability Board Applications & Tenant/Landlord Financial Relief

Berkeley Police Department.
COVID-19 Resources
General Resources. The Mayor’s Office has created a resource guide, with information about parking enforcement, senior hours at local grocery stores and other information.

The state COVID-19 website is where you can get up to speed on what’s happening statewide, learn how you can safely help, and find out what resources and assistance may be available.

A Berkeley Mutual Aid website has been created for neighbors to offer and receive assistance, such as with grocery shopping or phone calls to neighbors.

Supporting Businesses. You can donate to the Berkeley Relief Fund to support low-income tenants, small businesses and non-profits, and non-profit arts organizations or donate directly to a local business. The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce has created a resource guide for businesses.

Eviction Protections. If you have any questions about our local residential and commercial eviction moratorium or housing retention grants for low-income tenants, more information is available HERE. The Council has also passed an urgency ordinance to prevent commercial landlords from increasing rent by more than 10% (see Item #8 HERE).

Price GougingAnyone who has been the victim of price gouging, or has information about potential price gouging, can file a complaint with the District Attorney's Office by emailing pricegouging@acgov.org or calling (510) 383-8600.

Donate Blood. You can donate blood at the Oakland Blood Donation Center (6230 Claremont Ave. in Oakland) where they are using physical distancing protocols, disinfecting between donors, and taking temperatures of donors and staff. Please visit the Red Cross website to make an appointment before visiting. 

Donate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) through the City or through my office.

Food Resources.
  • Double Helping Hands provides meals to the homeless from downtown Berkeley restaurants. You can make a donation HERE.

  • HelpBerkeley.org provides low-cost meals to individuals at high risk of developing complications from Covid-19, and they are in need of volunteers to help deliver meals.


  • Information on additional food resources, such as CalFresh, WIC, and school meals, is available HERE.

Resources for Mental Health and Wellness.


  • The Domestic Violence Resource Guide for Alameda County is available HERE.

If you have specific questions or concerns, please always feel free to reach out to me: rkesarwani@cityofberkeley.info or 510-981-7110.
My Website
For updates on community issues and links to City information resources, please visit my website: www.rashikesarwani.com.

This site is also where you can find an archive of all of my newsletters to date.

To sign up to receive future newsletters, please click HERE.
COVID-19 Information Sources