October 19, 2020
Dear Neighbor,
I have heard from many of you about your concerns related to crime during the pandemic.

Last Tuesday, the City Council approved my item authorizing the installation of security cameras at the marina (see Item #12), and Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood presented the 2019 Crime Report (see Item #19). While 2020 crime statistics have been relatively flat overall compared with the same time period last year, some types of crime are on the rise.
Aggravated assaults, including shootings, are on the rise in Berkeley, following regional and national trends. Vehicle thefts, grand thefts (catalytic converters from Toyota Priuses in particular), and so-called Estes robberies (in which any amount of force is used during a shoplifting incident) are also on the rise in 2020.

Please SAVE THE DATE for a District 1 Zoom meeting to discuss Berkeley crime trends and strategies for enhancing personal and community safety.

Sun., Nov. 8
4-5:30 p.m.
To connect by phone:
+1-669-900-6833, 97790686913# 

Please RSVP by e-mailing my Legislative Aide Beth Gerstein with the subject line "Public Safety Zoom" at bgerstein@cityofberkeley.info.
More Activities to Reopen with Restrictions, Including Playgrounds
Collective actions taken by residents of Berkeley and Alameda County, along with diligent public health work, have led to decreasing daily Covid-19 case rates and lower test positivitymetrics that enable more activities to reopen in a phased manner using safety protocols.
This marks the second consecutive month in which key state metrics have gone down, allowing the City and County to reopen activities in a manner that minimizes the potential for a surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Elementary schools, personal care services, gyms, indoor museums, and galleries are already permitted to reopen with restrictions, aligning with the state. In addition, all City of Berkeley playgrounds have reopened as of Fri., Oct. 16. Other activities may open with restrictions starting Mon., Oct. 26, including:

  • Indoor dining up to 25% capacity or less than 100 people, whichever is less
  • Indoor worship services up to 25% capacity or less than 100 people, whichever is less
  • Indoor movie theaters up to 25% capacity or less than 100 people, whichever is less
  • Expansion of indoor retail and malls at up to 50% of capacity and permitting food courts

Businesses can now serve more people outside, as the City has streamlined permitting processes and significantly expanded the range of allowed outdoor activities on both public and private property. See the outdoor commerce guide for assistance.

Just because an activity is permitted does not eliminate the risk of infection. In fact, we know that indoor activities pose a greater risk of transmission than outdoor activities. High-touch shared surfaces remain a potential source of exposure. People age 65 and older or those with underlying health conditions remain at greater risk of severe illness.

"Covid-19 remains a threat, so each person will need to evaluate their own risks and assess which activities they would like to prioritize and participate in," said Dr. Lisa Hernandez, the City of Berkeley Health Officer. "Developing good habits and making good choices collectively allow us to advance together."

Playgrounds reopen, but risk remains
All of the City's 66 playgrounds are now open, but everyone should use caution as high-touch shared surfaces and gathering places for crowds remain potential sources of virus transmission.

Anyone at these playgroundsor those at any park, campground, or public facility in Californiashould follow state guidelines:

  • Wear a face covering if you're age two and older
  • Use playgrounds only when you can keep six feet of distance from anyone not in your household or stay within a capacity limit
  • Consider alternate, less busy times
  • Don't eat or drink while at playgrounds
  • Wash or sanitize hands before and after playground use
  • Limit use to 30 minutes or less
  • If you are age 65 and older or have underlying health conditions, avoid playgrounds altogether as you are at higher risk of severe Covid-19 illness

Get a seasonal flu vaccine shot to reduce the chance of catching or spreading potential flu viruses.

Come prepared to do your part, including leaving if crowds gather at playgrounds
Playgrounds are unmonitored spaces. Parents and guardians will each need to do their part to follow safety guidelinesespecially the need to wear a facial covering, observe the half-hour time limit, and keep six feet of distance from people outside your household. Be prepared to leave should crowds gather.

In the event of a crowd that you should avoid, parents should come to playgrounds with a backup plan for an alternate destination.

These playground openings are possible because of declining rates of daily Covid-19 cases as well as lower test positivitymetrics that allow the City, as an independent health jurisdiction, as well as the County to reopen these facilities.

Good habits and smart choices reduce risk
Assess the risk of any public activity by asking three questions: Where will you go? Who will attend? What will happen? These questions should also help you avoid confined spaces, crowds, and close contact with those outside of your household.

Instead of participating in all available activities, budget your risk by prioritizing which ones are the most important to you and forgoing others.

While making tradeoffs to choose activities, everyone should always follow safety guidelines: stay home when sick, wear a face covering when leaving home, wash hands frequently, and keep six feet of physical distance from those not in your household.

REMINDER: Permanent testing site now open
To help support the community, and especially schools, the City has opened a permanent testing kiosk at the Adult School parking lot (1701 San Pablo Ave.) in partnership with Curative, which had previously been working in the City on a pilot basis.
This walk-up site is open to the entire community and has reserved times to increase testing for teachers and staff.

You can make an appointment online.

People can also use a state-run South Berkeley site that's also coordinated through the City.
Update on Zoning for Homes at Ashby & N. Berkeley Stations
I want to thank everyone who continues to share their input with the City Council on what they would like to see in an eventual project at the N. Berkeley BART station.

We are still very early in the process, with the BART Community Advisory Group continuing its meetings so it can advise the Planning Commission on zoning—the first major milestone in a multiyear development process.
N. Berkeley BART station. Photo: Pi.1415926535 (License).
The last meeting of the Community Advisory Group took place on Wed., Oct. 14 and addressed the topic of financial feasibility for a development project, including the role that building height and the number of affordable units play in determining whether a project is financially feasible, as well as the role of open space, infrastructure, and parking. You can listen to the full meeting HERE, and/or watch three short videos prepared by an expert on equitable development in order to better understand the topics covered.

Each of the "Housing 101" videos below is about 10-15 minutes in length and provides an excellent overview of the factors we must weigh as a community as we strive to create homes at the Ashby and N. Berkeley stations:

The next meeting of the Community Advisory Group is coming up on Tues., Oct. 20 from 6-9 p.m. and will focus on our "Vision and Priorities" for development of Ashby and N. Berkeley stations. This discussion will help to inform an eventual Request for Qualifications (RFQ) document for potential developers. For the meeting link and agenda, click HERE.

For more information about the Ashby and N. Berkeley BART Planning Process, visit the City's webpage.
REMINDER: Community Meetings this Month for Measure T1 Infrastructure Projects
The City is soliciting input on how to allocate more than $50 million during Phase 2 spending of the Measure T1 bond for infrastructure projects. In 2016, Berkeley voters passed Measure T1a $100 million infrastructure bond. Right now, the City is spending more than $40 million on Phase 1 infrastructure projects. For a complete list of projects and information about the bond, please click HERE.
Ohlone Park could potentially benefit from infrastructure improvements funded by Measure T1.
During the month of October, City staff and community members serving on the Parks and Waterfront Commission as well as the Public Works Commission will host five public meetings to solicit feedback on how Measure T1 Phase 2 funding should be spent. It's critical for community members to attend these meetings in order to advocate for the infrastructure projects you want to see funded in our District 1 parks, fields, streets and public spaces, such as better lighting or restroom facilities.

Here are the two upcoming meetings relevant to District 1:
  1. Thurs., Oct. 22, 6:30 p.m. – Districts 1/4 Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/95483839103 To connect by phone: +1-669-900-6833, 95483839103#
  2. Thurs., Oct. 29, 6:30 p.m. – Waterfront / Aquatic Park / Bay Trail / Tom Bates Fields Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/97699637212 To connect by phone: +1-669-900-6833, 97699637212#

For a full list of all community meetings, click HERE.
This year, all registered voters are receiving a vote-by-mail ballot for the election on Tues., Nov. 3. You can use one of six secure drop boxes throughout Berkeley to turn in your ballot anytime, day or night, until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

To support expanded mail voting during Covid-19, the Registrar of Voters has added new drop boxes across Alameda County, including at four new locations in Berkeley. 24-hour drop boxes are now available at:
  • Berkeley Civic Center Building, 2180 Milvia
  • University of California, Berkeley between Sather Gate and Architects & Engineers Building
  • Frances Albrier Recreation Center, 2800 Park
  • Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue
  • North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda
  • West Branch Library, 1125 University

The Registrar of Voters picks up ballots from the drop boxes every day. The last pickup will be 8 p.m. on Tues., Nov. 3. You do not need postage for ballots submitted at the drop box. The six drop boxes listed above are the only official drop boxes in Berkeley.

Make sure your vote is counted:
  • Use the return envelope provided
  • Sign the back of your envelope
  • Only use a drop box in the County in which you are registered to vote

Accessible Voting Locations
You can also turn in ballots at any of 66 secure drop boxes throughout Alameda County or at any of 100 Alameda County "Accessible Voting Locations" that will be open Oct. 31 - Nov. 3.

Accessible Voting Locations replace neighborhood polling places in this election. These larger spaces are intended to support Covid-19 physical distancing and will be open for voting from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Sat., Oct. 31 through Mon., Nov. 2. On Election Day, voting locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

There are nine accessible voting locations in Berkeley:
  • Berkeley High School gym, 1980 Allston
  • Ed Roberts Campus, 3045 Adeline
  • Lawrence Hall of Science, 1 Centennial
  • Longfellow School Gym, 1500 Derby
  • City of Berkeley facility (formerly Premier Cru), 1011 University
  • MLK Student Union 3rd floor ballroom, 2455 Bancroft
  • Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda
  • Epworth United Methodist Church, 1953 Hopkins
  • Willard Middle School, 2425 Stuart

Track My Ballot
Alameda County has an online tool for tracking your ballot's progress. Sign up at Track My Ballot to get notifications by email, text, or phone when your ballot is mailed, received, and counted. The tool is available in nine languages.

COVID-19 Resources
Covid-19 Town Hall

Listen to the Mayor's Virtual Town Hall with Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez and other Senior City Staff from Oct. 5 HERE.

Give and Receive Help

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, such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (for business owners, self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and others who aren't usually eligible for regular state unemployment insurance benefits).

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 Gouging. Anyone 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.

  • 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