March 24, 2019

Dear friend,

I write to you with some sad news to share. Rob Browning, a local small business owner and beloved husband to former Councilmember Linda Maio, passed away on March 15th.

I know I join the District 1 community in extending my deepest condolences to Linda, her family, and friends during this difficult time. I only had an opportunity to meet Rob a few times, but I was struck by his warmth and genuine kindness. 
Rob Browning with former Councilmember Linda Maio during a Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association Panoramic Hill House Tour (2005).
Photo: Berkeleyside
Here is the Berkeleyside news article about his passing. 

And here is a statement from the Mayor: “The City of Berkeley mourns the loss of Rob Browning, the husband of former Berkeley City Councilmember Linda Maio. Rob was a respected community member and small business owner, whose business Talavera Tile and Ceramics brought the art and color of Mexico into the homes of Berkeley residents. Rob was a dedicated partner to Linda and supported her during her many years of service to the Berkeley community. He will be dearly missed. Our heart goes out to our former colleague Linda and her family during this difficult time. We are here to support her.”

For those wishing to send their condolences to Linda, she has asked that people send cards or notes rather than call, text, or email her and her family. Cards can be mailed to:
Linda Maio, c/o The Mayor’s Office
2180 Milvia St.
Berkeley, CA 94704
Tues., March 26th: Council to Consider Second Reading of Ordinance to Manage RV Parking 
I want to update you on a recent action that the Council took on Feb. 28th related to RV parking. This action will be re-heard at the Council Meeting this Tues., March 26th (6 p.m., BUSD Board Room, 1231 Addison St.) .
An RV parked in West Berkeley. Photo: Eric Panzer
For those of you who live or work west of San Pablo Avenue, you know that the neighborhood is experiencing a high concentration of RVs. In December, Berkeley police counted nearly 200 RVs , campers, converted buses, and vehicles designed for habitation, with more than 100 located west of San Pablo Avenue. Under the city’s current 72-hour parking rule, RVs are only required to move a short distance every 72 hours, so they can essentially stay in the same general area on the public right-of-way for extended periods of time .

I’ve received countless e-mails from concerned neighbors, workers, and business owners who are frustrated about the negative impacts of public streets being occupied by RVs for extended periods of time. For the most part, these concerns are related to health and safety, such as the lack of access to pumpout or bathroom facilities for RV inhabitants and reports of improper disposal of human waste into storm drains or on sidewalks, blocked sight lines on streets, or cases of trespassing into front yards or backyards. I take these health and safety complaints seriously.

While we don’t have a complete picture of the population of individuals living in RVs, I’ve taken time to meet with some of these folks on multiple occasions. I spoke to a working mom who lives in an RV with her partner and their two young kids, an elderly woman who lost her home and is now living in an RV and bathing at her kitchen sink, an elderly man who grew up in Berkeley, among others. In addition to individuals and families who have been long-term members of our community and have fallen on hard times, it has come to my attention that there are also some who are taking advantage of our 72-hour parking rule. I have learned of individuals and couples with high incomes who are choosing to live in RVs as a lifestyle choice and I’ve met travelers who’ve found a free place to park in West Berkeley. There’s even a Youtube video with over 10,000 views that guides RV travelers on where to park for free in West Berkeley and how to stay in compliance with the 72-hour parking rule. It’s simply not fair to the residents and workers of West Berkeley for their streets to become a mobile home park for RVs that lack water, electric, and sewer connections and to deal with the associated health and safety risks.   

At the same time, it troubles me to know that the parking restrictions passed by the Council—if upheld on March 26th—will cause some vulnerable people to experience stress and uncertainty. To be honest, I have cried, prayed, and racked my brain for better alternatives. The obvious solution is to find an off-street site where RVs could be parked with access to water, electricity, and sewer. The Mayor has been working for the past year to identify such a site, and I want to thank him for his efforts. The challenge is that Berkeley lacks large unutilized parcels that can be used for this purpose and securing a regional site takes time. Another alternative is to identify a select number of time-limited spaces within Berkeley parking lots for vulnerable populations that can be used by RVs at night, if not during the day. Parking lots for places of worship, the City of Berkeley, Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), Cal, and private lots or driveways could all potentially be part of the solution, and I am in the process of reaching out to all possible partners. Due to our outreach, the BUSD School Board will be discussing this issue at their March 27th meeting.

The Council action on Feb. 28th sought to balance the health and safety concerns of West Berkeley neighbors and workers with the needs of vulnerable populations sheltering in RVs. If adopted on March 26th, our action will:

  • Provide outreach to individuals living in RVs prior to any enforcement of new parking restrictions in order to provide housing problem solving assistance and flexible funding to repair a broken-down RV.
  • Add RVs to the list of oversized vehicles that are not allowed to park overnight (from 2 to 5 a.m.) on the streets of Berkeley. This rule does not impact individuals who are sheltering in cars.
  • Create a permit system so that RV inhabitants can stay on the streets of Berkeley for up to two weeks annually. On March 26th, we may consider adding a longer permit option that would only be applicable to vulnerable populationssuch as seniors, people with disabilities, and families with childrenfor the purposes of parking an RV in a designated off-street location for a time-limited period. The Mayor and I are continuing to work on identifying off-street parking spaces for vulnerable populations.
  • Any individual lacking an RV parking permit would be subject to the ban on overnight RV parking

I understand an RV parking ban is a strong action, and I do not take it lightly. I made this tough call because I have to make decisions that take the well-being of the whole community into account. I also have to be fiscally responsible and consider how much is appropriate for the City to spend to help RV inhabitants , many of whom have a source of income and the wherewithal to have procured an RV. For instance, is it fair to divert funds that would otherwise go to help a homeless individual who is, say, experiencing untreated mental health issues? These are the tradeoffs I have to consider. I do not support a proposal put forward by two of my Council colleagues to permit RVs to park on designated streets citywide for six months, or longer if no validated complaints have been received by the City; this proposal does not take into account the well-being of the whole community, nor does it consider the cost and fiscal tradeoffs of implementing a complex complaint-driven permit system. 
On Tues., March 26th, the Council will need to adopt what is known as the “second reading” of the ordinance that passed on Feb. 28th in order for it to be official. It is possible that the March 26th action will add amendments that change the policy I’ve described above. If you have a perspective on RV parking, I urge you to email [email protected] or to attend the Council meeting on Tues., March 26th at 6 p.m. at the BUSD Board Room (1231 Addison St.) to give public comment. I know that some of you supported my vote on Feb. 28th and others of you have been disappointed by my decision. Please know that I always welcome your input and that constructive criticism is often more valuable than praise. I want to work with all of you to continue to fight for an inclusive, safe, and healthy community for all.   
FAQs & Answers on N. Berkeley BART Housing
I know many of you are very interested in our ongoing process to develop the N. Berkeley BART parking lot as required by state law, AB 2923 . This is an exciting opportunity for us to create homes that are affordable for low- and moderate-income families using our Measure O affordable housing bond—generously approved by voters last November.
A crosswalk near the N. Berkeley BART station.
I’m inspired by your engagement in our community process to date. Through the course of my conversations with neighbors, I have heard some frequently asked questions, and I want to do my best to provide answers below.

Q: I’ve heard there could be a high-rise located at this site. Is that true?

A: No, that’s not true. A high-rise would not be allowed by the zoning that the City Council is planning to adopt for this site. The new state law ( AB 2923 ) requires the City to approve zoning for the N. Berkeley BART parking lot that aligns with BART's 2017 Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Guidelines staff report . The BART TOD Manager who presented during our Jan. 15 th Council Work Session said during this meeting that 7 stories would be the “maximum height envisioned" for the N. Berkeley BART station. We also have to ensure that we meet BART’s TOD guideline of 75 units per acre, and this can actually be done with a maximum height that is less than 7 stories .

There are four developable acres at the N. Berkeley BART station, so the TOD guideline of 75 units per acre means that we will be required to approve a project that includes at least 300 units . The Mayor and I have both expressed our desire to see the development fit the scale of the neighborhood and one important way we can do this is by stepping down the development at the perimeter of the BART parking lot so it blends in with the single-family homes across the street from the station.  

It’s important to keep in mind that the amount of green open space, number of parking spots, as well as the number of below-market-rate units we are seeking to create will all play a role in how tall the development would need to be at its maximum height in order to meet the BART TOD guideline of at least 300 units. Because these aspects of the project have not yet been determined, it is difficult to commit to a specific height at this time. I absolutely want to ensure that the development fits the scale of the surrounding neighborhood.

Q: I don’t agree with the Urban Neighborhood/City Center place-type designation that BART assigned to the N. Berkeley BART station that sets a threshold of seven stories. Can we change the designation to be Neighborhood/Town Center that sets a threshold of five stories?

A: AB 2923 is the state law that gives BART the ability to zone its parking lots for development. The law codified the place-type designations that BART created in its 2017 TOD Guidelines staff report . As the BART TOD Manager noted during her presentation at our Jan. 15 th Council Work Session, there were only three place types for all 48 stations in the BART system. Invariably, this means that the place-type designations are not a perfect fit for all stations.

However, the place-type designations are not arbitrary. I have learned that they are based on four criteria:
  1. Residential density
  2. Proximity to major job centers
  3. Transit connectivity
  4. Walkable (small) blocks

Studies (such as this one ) have found that creating homes in a location with the above four characteristics has the effect of lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
BART provided the following explanation for why the N. Berkeley BART station received the Urban Neighborhood/City Center place-type designation: “North Berkeley is a high performing station on three of these [four] factors, with 7- to 8-minute BART headways and close proximity to major job centers. Therefore, focusing more households near the station is one way to reduce driving-related greenhouse gas emissions and increase transportation choice for households. For this reason, staff classified North Berkeley in the middle place type [Urban Neighborhood/City Center] for the TOD guidelines, rather than the lowest place type [Neighborhood/Town Center] assigned to other station areas performing less well on these factors.”
I understand that some of you feel strongly that the N. Berkeley BART station should not be designated as an Urban Neighborhood/City Center station. This is a matter of state law because AB 2923 codified the place-type designations in the 2017 BART TOD Guidelines staff report . I'm continuing to evaluate the best course of action on this issue. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that all place-type designations require a minimum density of 75 units per acre; this minimum density requirement may be a more important metric than zoned height for determining the size and scale of future development. In the coming months, the City will likely enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with BART and that will be an opportunity to specify the terms of a robust community input process that includes design review.  
Q: Are we going to lose all the parking spots at the station?

A: N. Berkeley BART is considered an urban station with parking. I believe that we need to be mindful of seniors, people with disabilities, and others in our community who need to be able to park in order to access the station. Our City Planning Department staff have been in conversation with BART staff to ensure that our decision about parking is based on a traffic study.

At the same time, we need to be forward-looking and imaginative in our approach to parking needs. The reality is that this development will not break ground for five to eight years (or longer in the event of a recession), so we need to think about transportation patterns far into the future. We may want to consider flexible parking designs that can evolve over time as transportation modes continue to evolve. Just over the last two years, we’ve seen the proliferation of dockless and electric bikes and scooters, which will expand the radius of places that are accessible to the N. Berkeley BART station without a car.   

Q: What about green open space?

A: In a word, yes! I fully support the inclusion of green open space and drought-resistant native plants into the design of the project. Because the land above the BART tunnel is considered undevelopable, this is an area that can be used to create green open space that benefits everyone. Some neighbors have proposed connecting Ohlone Park to the greenway or a publicly-accessible rooftop green space. I support exploration of all options to create green open space that can be enjoyed by the whole community.

Q: What about bicycle and pedestrian safety?

A: I’m committed to ensuring that we design for the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians in and around the station. Separate from our development of homes at the N. Berkeley BART station, BART will be making major bike and pedestrian improvements to the station that will likely begin in summer 2020 and take about a year to complete. Some of those improvements will include:
  • Widening of the Ohlone Greenway from the current 8 feet to 18 feet, which will include a two-way cycle track 12 feet in width (6 feet in each direction) as well as 6 feet for a pedestrian path; path lighting will also be added.
  • Within the station, two-way cycle tracks will be added to the existing streets; a designated area will be created for dockless bike and scooter drop-off and pick-up; and 120 secure bike lockers will be added.
  • Pedestrian paths at the corners of the station will be enhanced.
  • Many other improvements are planned to enhance the safety and usability of the station for bicyclists and pedestrians.

This is a lot of highly technical information, and I understand the community has a lot of questions. Some neighbors have asked to meet with me so I can answer questions about development of the N. Berkeley BART station. I welcome these neighborhood meetings. If you'd like to schedule a time for me to meet with you and your neighbors, please contact my office: [email protected] or 510-981-7110.
Next Steps on N. Berkeley BART
A public hearing has been scheduled for Thurs., May 9th at Longfellow Middle School (1500 Derby St.) beginning at 6 p.m.

At this meeting, the City Council will consider goals and objectives for development of the N. Berkeley BART station and review three specific zoning scenarios in order to better understand our future options.
N. Berkeley BART station. Photo:  Pi.1415926535 (Creative Commons License ).
TODAY, Sun., March 24: Gilman Art Walk
The Gilman Art Walk is an independent, community-oriented showcase of local artists in the Gilman District neighborhood - happening TODAY! 

The event will feature vendors, food trucks, and an entertainment stage. Ninth St. between Gilman and Camelia will be closed for the duration of the event.
Gilman Art Walk
Ninth St. between Gilman and Camelia
TODAY, Sun., March 24
12-5 p.m.
TOMORROW, Mon., March 25: Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Workshop
I’m excited to team up with our City's ADU Taskforce to offer an ADU Workshop for District 1 residents. If you registered to attend the workshop, I look forward to seeing you TOMORROW, Mon., March 25th from 7-8:30 p.m. at 999 Harrison St. ( Berkeley Repertory Theater Administrative Offices).
A backyard cottage on Berkeley Way.
We had a tremendous amount of interest in this workshop, so I will be exploring the possibility of hosting another workshop again soon. You can still sign up for the waiting list by clicking HERE .
Sat., March 30: Anti-Displacement Workshop
The Bay Area Community Land Trust is hosting an anti-displacement workshop, " Anti-Displacement Tools for Berkeley Citizens: What can you do if you are being priced out of Berkeley?"

West Branch Library
1125 University Ave.
Sat., March 30th
4-5:30 p.m.
My Reflections on Women's History Month
It’s a complicated moment for women’s rights. Prior generations paved the way for women to vote, to have the ability to compete in any field, and to control what happens to our bodies. Over the past two years, it has been empowering to see women from all walks of life find the courage to march, to finally speak up and say #metoo, and to fight for change in their local communities.
A scene from the Oakland Women's March (2017). Photo: Matt Zimmerman (Creative Commons License ).
All of that activism culminated in 36 new women being elected to the House in 2018, and the largest number of women serving in the House in history. I honestly don’t know if I’d be your Councilwoman if Donald Trump hadn’t won the presidency. After the devastation and disappointment of that moment, I focused with greater resolve on trying to make my local community a more inclusive and sustainable place—and it led to the incredible opportunity to bring my perspective as a woman, a new mom, and a public policy professional to the City Council.

We have so much work to do to ensure equal opportunity for all women, including low-income women and women of color. The gender pay gap persists. A woman’s right to choose is under attack in many places. The U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world—and we are the only developed country with an increasing rate. And we are still waiting for our first woman president….

So this month, I just want to remind all of the women and girls in our community that your voice and your perspective matters. Never be afraid to try, never be afraid to fail, and never worry too much about your critics.

As the feminist Theodore Roosevelt once said:   
“It is not the critic who counts; not the [person] who points out how the strong [woman] stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the [person] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends [herself] in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if [she] fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that [her] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 
Save the Date: April Office Hours
Please SAVE THE DATE for my April Office Hours:

West Branch Library
Community Meeting Room
1125 University Ave.
Sat., April 27th
4-5:30 p.m.

I've also launched a new website where I will be sharing information and resources with the community:

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.
Seeking Assistance from the City
Here are key City of Berkeley resources to keep handy:

For illegal dumping, potholes, missed garbage pickups, or graffiti...
Call 311 or (510) 981-2489

For a public works emergency, such as a sewer overflow, traffic signal outage, fallen tree, or toxic spill...
Call (510) 981-6620

For a homeless person who appears vulnerable and in need of services or is demonstrating concerning behavior...
Call the Homeless Outreach and Treatment Team (HOTT) (510) 981-5273

For non-urgent criminal activity with no suspect present...
Call the Berkeley Police Non-Emergency line (510) 981-5900

You can also download the SeeClickFix app to report an issue to the City.