April 29, 2019

Dear friend,

Happy Spring!

I want to let you know that the City Council will hold a Special Meeting related to development of the N. Berkeley BART station:

Thurs., May 9th, 6 p.m.
Longfellow Middle School
1500 Derby St.
At the special meeting, we will consider:
  • Goals and objectives for development of the N. Berkeley BART station
  • Three specific zoning scenarios that will help us to better understand development tradeoffs between, for example, the number of housing units (including affordable units) that we can create versus the number of parking spaces we can accommodate. 

The special meeting is the next step in our efforts to comply with the state law, AB 2923, which requires local jurisdictions like Berkeley to zone BART parking lots in accordance with BART transit-oriented development standards. This is an opportunity for us to address our City’s shortage of affordable homes and meet our climate change goals by locating homes close to public transit .

Please join us to give public comment and learn about next steps in the process. If you’re unable to attend, please feel free to contact me with your input: [email protected] or 510-981-7110. 
Update on N. Berkeley BART Development: Letter to Sponsor of AB 2923
Many of you have expressed to me your desire to ensure that the development at the N. Berkeley BART station fits the scale of the neighborhood . After listening to your concerns, asking questions of BART, and re-reading AB 2923 carefully, I made the decision to co-author a letter with Mayor Arreguín addressed to the Assemblymember who sponsored AB 2923 .
N. Berkeley BART station. Photo:  Pi.1415926535 ( License ).
Our two-page letter, which you can read in full HERE seeks clarification from Assemblymember David Chiu on the flexibility afforded by AB 2923 on the building height for each “place-type designation” specified in the transit-oriented development (TOD) Guidelines report prepared by BART staff. The zoning guidelines and place-type designations specified in this BART staff report are important because they will serve as the minimum density and height to which BART must adhere in developing its zoning standards for BART stations.

We write in the letter:

“We [are] seeking clarification on the flexibility afforded by AB 2923 on the building height for each place-type designation specified in the TOD Guidelines staff report. We note that the TOD Guidelines report only created three place-type designations for 48 BART stations and did so without public input. Therefore, it is our strong belief that local jurisdictions and BART should be granted some flexibility in adhering to these development standards. It is our desire to meet or exceed the minimum density requirement specified in the report (minimum of 75 units per developable acre) in a manner that provides for flexibility in the height of the approved development. ”   

As we continue our efforts to comply with AB 2923, my goals are to:
  • Ensure that our community has a meaningful opportunity to provide input to BART on how the site is developed.
  • Maximize the number of affordable below-market-rate units.
  • Enhance the livability of the neighborhood surrounding the N. Berkeley BART station through green open space, safe access for bicyclists and pedestrians, and a thoughtful approach to traffic and parking
Quarter 1 Council Update
I want to update you on some of the important work that the Council and City staff have been doing over roughly the first quarter of the calendar year.

The list below is not exhaustive, but represents the progress that Council and staff have made on my priority areas of homelessness, affordable housing, street maintenance and roadway safety, clean public spaces, and community safety. 
Q1 Council Update: Addressing Homelessness & Affordable Housing

MEASURE O AFFORDABLE HOUSING BOND . The City is fortunate that voters resoundingly approved the Measure O affordable housing bond last November, which will provide a total of $135 million to fund the development of below-market-rate homes . Every dollar of bond funds will yield about $4 of outside funding sources, quadrupling the impact of the bond .

The Council and Mayor have appointed members to the Measure O Bond Oversight Committee , which holds its first meeting today. Measure O is an incredible opportunity for our community to meet the significant need for affordable homes, and I want to ensure that a portion of the units created as a result of Measure O are used to create permanent supportive housing for our homeless population . To read a full update on the Measure O affordable housing bond, please visit the Land Use, Housing & Economic Development Policy Committee web page , click on the 4/25/2019 agenda packet at the bottom of the page, and scroll to pages 74-80 of the packet. 

MISSING MIDDLE HOUSING STUDY . Not everyone who needs to find an affordable place to live in Berkeley will benefit from the units created as a result of the Measure O Affordable Housing Bond. Many workers who are an integral part of our community like our long-time teachers and nurses, for instance earn too much to quality for affordable housing but not enough to afford the skyrocketing rents and home prices. We all have a family member or friend who is adversely impacted by the high cost of housing. I've met with neighbors who've shared their concerns that their kids won’t be able to afford to live here as adults. One mom told me that she fears that her high-school-aged son or one of his friends could end up homeless under the freeway.

New apartment buildings downtown and along transit corridors like University and San Pablo serve a certain population that can afford market-rate rent. But we also have to think about how we can empower homeowners to convert their single-family homes into duplexes, triplexes, or even fourplexes (i.e., “missing middle” housing) if they choose, so they can better accommodate a range of family situations. For instance, missing middle housing could give young adults who grew up in Berkeley the opportunity to return and live in a unit created on the property of their parents; missing middle could also help an aging senior who needs to create a second unit for a caregiver or for retirement income. Here in District 1, we are fortunate to already have a variety of housing types that were created before zoning rules became more restrictive.

I was proud to co-sponsor the item requesti n g a Missing Middle Housing Study (scroll to Item #32), which passed last week. The study will explore how we can add “gentle density” to our single-family home neighborhoods in a responsible way that protects tenants and low-income individuals as well as our existing affordable and rent-controlled housing. Missing middle housing would give Berkeley families more options, and I look forward to continuing to make progress on this goal.    

1,000 PERSON PLAN TO ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS & MEASURE P FOR HOMELESSNESS SERVICES. Our City staff have prepared a report 1,000 Person Plan to Address Homelessness (scroll to Item #1) , which provides a deeper understanding of Berkeley’s homeless population and offers strategies for getting more people into permanent housing. The recently-passed Measure P, which will raise about $6-8 million annually over the next 10 years to fund homelessness services, will give us an opportunity to implement some of the strategies outlined in the 1,000 Person Plan. The Council will discuss the report on Tues., April 30 th .

Here are a few of the key points made in the report:
  • Shelters can become navigation centers. Berkeley’s shelter system can do more than simply provide respite. By adding staffing and flexible funding, the shelter system can utilize a navigation center model and help people find permanent housing.
  • Strategic approach to prevention. In order to ensure that we are targeting our scarce resources as effectively as possible, homelessness prevention services should focus on (1) previously homeless individuals receiving rapid rehousing assistance or permanent supportive housing, who are at risk of relapsing into homelessness; and/or (2) prioritizing individuals facing imminent homelessness and a relatively higher level of need.
  • Permanent housing subsidies require support from the county. As a mid-size city, Berkeley is not able to raise the revenue needed to fund permanent housing subsidies to fully meet the identified need. Berkeley is better positioned to provide low-barrier, service-rich navigation centers to help transition unsheltered residents into housing. Alameda County must take the lead in piloting permanent housing subsidies for the homeless population.
Q1 Council Update: Maintaining Our Streets & Promoting Roadway Safety

STREET REHABILITATION PLAN . I know we are all concerned about the state of our streets. In December, Council approved a five-year Street Rehabilitation Plan ( scroll to Item #15 and view pages 9-13 to see which streets are scheduled to be paved over the next five years) . In fiscal year (FY20-21), we will be rehabilitating nearly 5 miles at a cost of $17.9 million, which will be paid for through a combination of state, county, city, and grant funds.

Our City streets have an average Pavement Condition Index (PCI) of just 57, meaning they are “at risk” with “deteriorated pavement requiring immediate attention, including rehabilitative work,” according to a recent Berkeleyside article . Our streets have deteriorated over time, and we need a long-term financing strategy if we hope to see improvement in our PCI.

LONG-TERM INFRASTRUCTURE LIABILITIES . In March, the City Budget Manager presented a report to Council on projections of future liabilities (scroll to Item #1). The report noted that the City would need to allocate an additional $120 million to achieve a PCI of 70 within ten years, with an additional $50 million to achieve our “Complete Streets” policy goal of funding improvements to sidewalks, storm drains, curb ramps, and green infrastructure.

I’m honored to serve on the City’s newly formed Budget and Finance Policy Committee, where I will have an opportunity to better understand our unfunded infrastructure needs. In addition, the Mayor’s Vision 2050 Task Force is preparing a report for release in the fall that will provide a comprehensive overview of financing options for our significant infrastructure liabilities.   

VISION ZERO . As we invest in our streets, I want to ensure that we design for the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians and strive for zero fatalities and serious injuries on our roadways. In January, I was proud to co-sponsor a Vision Zero item (scroll to Item #12) with Mayor Arreguín and Councilmembers Droste and Wengraf that authorized the creation of an  interdisciplinary Vision Zero Task Force  comprised of representatives from various  City departments , including Police, Public Works (both the Transportation and Engineering Divisions), Fire, and Public Health. The task force is in the process of developing an  action plan to achieve the systemic changes needed to prioritize safety on our streets .

MILVIA STREET IMPROVEMENTS . Just last week, Council took action (Item #36) to design and construct a pilot protected bike lane on Milvia St. between University and Allston Way to be funded by Measure BB (the county’s half-cent transportation sales tax). Milvia St. currently has the highest number of cycling collisions of any of our bike boulevards. Our Five-Year Street Rehabilitation Plan was also amended in December to move up rehabilitation of Milvia between Blake and Russell Streets to FY19-20. 
Q1 Council Update: Promoting Clean Public Spaces

ADOPT A SPOT INITIATIVE FOR VOLUNTEER STEWARDSHIP OF PUBLIC SPACES. I’m excited that an item I co-sponsored with Councilmembers Droste, Bartlett, and Harrison will empower more neighbors to “adopt a spot,” such as a storm drain, stretch of sidewalk, traffic circle, or a portion of a public park. I know many neighbors already take it upon themselves to keep our public spaces clean by picking up litter when they go for walks, maintaining plants in traffic circles, or removing leaves and debris from storm drains through our Adopt a Drain program .

The Adopt a Spot Initiative (scroll to Item #33) seeks to expand on existing volunteer stewardship of public spaces. If you and your neighbors would like to get started in adopting a spot, please e-mail [email protected] and please cc me at [email protected] so my office can stay in touch and support your clean-up efforts.

CLEAN AND LIVABLE COMMONS . In February, the Council passed the Clean and Livable Commons Initiative (scroll to Item #2) to add additional resources to promote clean public spaces, including the following:
  • Adding additional staff in order to enhance the City’s ability to quickly clear bulky debris and litter from public spaces.
  • Adding additional portable toilets and handwashing stations so that human waste doesn’t end up on our streets and sidewalks.
  • Deterring illegal dumping by increasing fines and adding lighting, security cameras, and signage in areas like West Berkeley that have become dumping grounds.
Q1 Council Update: Community Safety

2018 CRIME REPORT . During a March Special Meeting, our Police Chief presented the 2018 Crime Report (scroll to Item #3), which showed that property crimes and violent crimes were down in 2018 compared to 2017.

POLICE DEPARTMENT HIRING . During the March meeting, I was pleased to hear Chief Greenwood describe recent actions taken by the police department to address the need to fill vacant positions. After hitting a low of 153 filled positions in May 2018, Chief Greenwood said the department was at 164 filled positions (in March 2019) with a goal of reaching 181 .

A full-time recruitment team was established in fall 2018 to recruit for police officer, dispatcher, and community service officer positions. To date, the recruitment team has taken the following actions:
  • Contracted with a professional recruitment firm
  • Hired additional background investigators to increase hiring speed and capacity
  • Accelerated interview hiring panels
  • Visited police academies and recruited unaffiliated academy trainees
  • Conducted ride-alongs and tours for officer and dispatcher prospects
  • Expanded social media outreach and increased presence at job fairs and community events
In five months since its inception, the recruitment team has identified 100 prospects .

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT . The next Coffee with a Cop will take place on Tues., April 30th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with Sergeant Rosie Jung at the Downtown Berkeley BART Station plaza . For updates from the Berkeley Police Department, follow them on Facebook HERE .
Thurs., May 23: Public Workshop for San Pablo Corridor Project
The San Pablo Avenue Corridor Project seeks to develop a long-term vision and near-term improvements for San Pablo Avenue that will allow it to function better and more safely.

The Alameda County Transportation Commission and the Mayor are hosting a public workshop to review three proposed concepts for the future of San Pablo Avenue:
A protected bike lane on San Pablo is proposed for two of the three concepts under consideration for the San Pablo Corridor Project.
Thurs., May 23rd, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Frances Albrier Community Center
2800 Park St.

The three proposed concepts under consideration for the San Pablo Corridor Project are described as follows in the Project Survey :

Concept A: Bus and Bike Lanes on San Pablo
Concept A improves bus speed and reliability via center-running dedicated bus lanes and station platforms. Bicyclist safety and comfort is improved via a protected bike lane along the curb, although it is not a truly low-stress facility due to driveways, speeds and conflicts with turning motor vehicles at intersections. One auto lane is maintained in each direction, reducing auto speeds and capacity. Space for parking and loading would be significantly reduced.

Concept B: Bus and Managed Lane on San Pablo, Bikes on Parallel Facility
Concept B also improves bus speed and reliability via center-running dedicated bus lanes and station platforms. This concept has one auto lane in each direction and maintains most on-street parking or loading for most of the day, except during the afternoon/evening commute, when parking on the northbound side of the street would be converted into an auto lane to provide additional auto capacity. Bicycles would be accommodated on high quality, low-stress parallel facilities that would be improved as part of this project. This concept has the most potential for pedestrian safety improvements at intersections.

Concept C: Bike Lane on San Pablo
Concept C maintains two lanes of traffic, shared by buses, cars and trucks, resulting in slower and less reliable bus service. Bicyclist safety and comfort is improved via a protected bike lane along the curb, although it is not a truly low-stress facility due to driveways, speeds and conflicts with turning motor vehicles at intersections. Space for parking and loading would be significantly reduced.
Update on Managing RV Parking
I want to thank everyone who wrote to me and the City Council to share your perspective on the issue of managing RV parking in Berkeley. I also want to thank the individuals and families who attended the Council meeting on March 28th as we considered the RV parking rules. I understand there were strong emotions in the Council chamber on March 28 th , and I regret that everyone who attended and gave public comment was not treated with respect.
An RV parked in West Berkeley. Photo: Eric Panzer
We must be especially attuned to the treatment of young people at our Council meetings, many of whom are likely to be engaging in civic discourse for the first time. No matter how strongly-held our beliefs may be, we must always hold space in our minds and hearts for the views of others. We all have to work together to find solutions to our tough challenges, and the only way we can find workable solutions is by listening—and challenging ourselves to see an issue from someone else’s point of view .

On March 28 th , the Council made the difficult decision to proceed with placing limits on the ability to park an RV overnight in Berkeley; this action does not impact individuals sheltering in cars overnight. The Council took this action due to the volume of health and safety complaints the City received related to the high concentration of RVs in West Berkeley. In my last e-newsletter , I wrote at length about this issue.

Before we enforce the new RV parking policy, we want to provide assistance and support to individuals in need. In addition to providing  housing problem solving assistance, flexible funding to repair a broken-down RV, and other resources , Council approved a permit system that will enable people to park an RV in Berkeley for limited periods of time in designated locations . Our goal is to implement the permit system before we begin enforcement of the new RV parking policy.

We specified two types of RV permits: 
  • A three-month permit for certain populations—such as seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and potentially others with a connection to the community—to park in a designated off-street location. This permit may be renewed. 
  • A two-week permit available once per year for visitors to park in a designated on-street location.

The high cost of housing means that almost all of us are a job loss, divorce, or catastrophic illness away from contemplating living in a vehicle or an RV. As housing prices continue to rise, we must work to provide safety and dignity for people who are sheltering in vehicles or RVs for short or extended periods of time.  

The immediate action we took to manage health and safety concerns in West Berkeley means that we have a special obligation to find long-term solutions . I will continue to work with City staff to ensure that our permit system is established as soon as possible, and I will continue working with other elected officials to create a regional non-profit RV site.  
What Our RV Community Teaches Us
I listened to everyone who spoke at our Council meeting on March 28th. The stories you shared—of working a full-time minimum wage job that simply does not cover the cost of living in Berkeley, of being financially ruined by a medical bill, of living with the fear of a massive rent increase—left me feeling deep frustration and anger at the injustices of our economy and housing market. It’s not fair that people who work full-time have no hope of finding an affordable place to live in our community. During a recent tour of our homeless shelters, I learned about shelter residents in this situation, working a full-time minimum wage job but unable to find a permanent place to live in Berkeley.

This isn't just a Berkeley problem. Folks who could previously find an affordable place to rent are now resorting to sheltering in RVs or vehicles all over the Bay Area. We are facing a humanitarian crisis on our streets.  

It’s important for us to recognize the connection between the homes that we create (or fail to create) in the Bay Area and the challenge we now face of hundreds of RVs dotting streets in communities across the region.

We need to keep this connection in mind when we think about our local land-use decisions, such as:
  • Creating homes at the North Berkeley BART station.
  • Studying the concept of allowing “missing middle” housing (like duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes) in our single-family home neighborhoods.
  • Making it easier to create backyard cottages.
  • Approving apartment buildings in our downtown and along transit corridors like University and San Pablo.

More broadly, we need to fight for fairness and equity in our country. It’s wrong that a serious illness can lead to financial ruin and losing one’s home. I’m proud to live in a community where so many of us are willing to donate our time and money to causes that we care about. We must continue to think about what we can do—whether it’s each week, each month, each quarter, or each year—to fight for fairness and equity for all. 
Happening in May
  • Police Oversight Forum hosted by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement in partnership with the BART Office of the Independent Police Auditor and the City of Berkeley: Fri., May 3rd (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) at Kaiser Center, 349 21st St. in Oakland; for more info and to register, visit www.nacole.org

  • Free Comic Book Day: Sat., May 4th (1-4 p.m.) at all Berkeley Public Library locations

  • Annual Big Book Sale of the Friends of Berkeley Public Library: Sat., May 11th (10 a.m. -4 p.m.) & Sun., May 12th (1-4 p.m.) at Berkeley Central Library, 2090 Kittredge
Sign up for Alameda County Emergency Alerts
AC Alert is the Mass Notification System used by City and County agencies throughout Alameda County to rapidly disseminate emergency alerts. 
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.