July 12, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

I hope you are enjoying a beautiful Berkeley summer.

Reflecting on the Fourth of July last week, I know some felt conflicted about celebrating with festivities and fireworks when we as a country are failing to guarantee even the most basic safety and dignity to children and families at our southern border. Here in our own community, we are reminded everyday of searing inequality when we see people sleeping in doorways or camping at the freeway underpass.  

But on the Fourth of July, let me submit that we celebrate the idea of America inscribed on the Declaration of Independence. The idea that all are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
In his 1852 speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, himself an escaped slave, spoke of the stark contradictions between our nation’s ideals and its treatment of certain people. Delivering his address in Rochester, New York the final stop of the Underground Railroad to freedom he spoke of the Fourth of July as “a day that reveals to him [the American slave], more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” But he also spoke of hope in the thought of a young 76-year-old nation: “a mere speck in the life of a nation.” Now, 243 years on from 1776, let me suggest that we are just a slightly larger speck, still doing the unending work to perfect our union so that all can truly be equal. 

Please join me in that work:
Our  City-sponsored Rally for Children in Federal Migrant Detention Centers  will take place TOMORROW , Sat., July 13th  from  12-2 p.m.  at  Berkeley Civic Center Park .

The event will feature Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, City of Berkeley Poet Laureate Rafael Jesús González, DREAMers and immigrant rights activists, protest songs by Musicians Action Group and Occupella, faith leaders, and others.  The event will also include representatives from immigrant rights organizations, sanctuary congregations, and other groups so protest attendees can learn more about how they can get involved.

Attendees are encouraged to take public transportation, walk, bike, or carpool to the rally.   
Council Approves Budget for FY19-20 & FY20-21
On June 25th, the Council adopted the City's two-year budget for FY19-20 and FY20-21.

The two pie charts below provide an overview of General Fund revenues and expenditures, followed by a summary of strategic investments.
General Fund Revenue $414.5 Million
Two-Year Budget for FY19-20 & FY20-21
(Dollars in Millions)
General Fund revenues total a projected $414.5 million over two years (displayed below), which includes a total of $22 million from recently-passed Measures U1 ($10 million) and P ($12 million) to be fully allocated in November. At this time, the City Council adopted a two-year budget that allocated a total of about $398.4 million in General Fund revenue.
City Manager's Proposed General Fund Expenditures by Department $386.1 Million
Two-Year Budget for FY19-20 & FY20-21
(Dollars in Millions)
The City Council allocated $12.3 million on top of the City Manager's proposal displayed below to reach the total adopted two-year budget of $398.4 million General Fund . When reviewing the General Fund expenditures pie chart below, it’s important to keep in mind that some departments, like Planning and Public Works, receive most of their funding from special funds, not the General Fund. For a budget overview of each of the major City departments, please click HERE .
Highlights of Budget Augmentations Approved by City Council
For the complete list of all budget augmentations, please click HERE (scroll to Item #39 and click "Supplemental materials - Mayor (Supp 2)."

  • $1.8 million over two years from Measure U1 to fund anti-displacement programs including eviction legal defense, social worker assistance, one-time housing assistance grants, and rapid rehousing subsidies for individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • $100,000 General Fund to fund "Missing Middle" Housing Study to explore addition of duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes into single-family home neighborhoods.
  • Measure P homeless services funding decisions will occur in November, with $12 million estimated to be available over two years; housing projects to be funded by the Measure O affordable housing bond will be determined around that time as well for the first $30-$40 million bond issuance.
  • The state budget makes $650 million available for one-time homelessness grants to cities, counties, and continuums of care to support regional coordination, expand or develop local capacity, and address immediate homelessness challenges. All funding will be based on our proportionate share of the state’s total homeless population.
  • $1 million over two years in additional funding from excess property transfer tax revenue (to be allocated in November) to work through the backlog of sidewalks in need of repair on the 50-50 cost-sharing program list.
  • $3.5 million over two years from excess property transfer tax and/or excess equity (to be allocated in November) to address emergency infrastructure repairs at the marina.
  • Funding for four additional Transportation Division positions to implement Vision Zero roadway safety improvements with a goal of achieving zero fatalities and serious injuries on our streets.

  • $233,333 General Fund to provide initial funding to the Fire Department for vegetation management in order to reduce the risk of wildfire.
  • $162,520 over two years from the Zero Waste Fund to support businesses implementing the Single-Use Disposable Foodware Ordinance to reduce plastic waste.

  • $180,000 General Fund over two years to provide the Fire Department with active shooter training and equipment.
  • $60,000 General Fund to the Police Department for a gun buyback program to remove lethal weapons from our community.

  • $584,254 General Fund over two years to keep West Campus Pool open year-round, including on weekends.
  • $221,838 over two years from Short-Term Rental Tax proceeds and the General Fund to maintain Civic Arts Grants funding at $500,000 annually.
Periodic Update on Managing RV Parking
Our community—like other Bay Area communities—is grappling with the proliferation of individuals sheltering in RVs on the public right-of-way. This situation is challenging on many levels—it reflects the regional shortage of affordable housing, but it is also a health, safety, and welfare issue due in large part to the lack of water, electricity, and sewer connections for RVs.
An RV parked in West Berkeley. Photo: Eric Panzer.
The City has received numerous health and safety complaints related to the concentration of RVs in West Berkeley, such as blocked sight lines on streets and improper disposal of human waste.  

Earlier this year, the Council voted to amend an existing City ordinance in order to add RVs to the list of oversized vehicles not allowed to park overnight on the public right-of-way (specifically from 2 to 5 a.m.). This action does not impact individuals sheltering in cars and is a common parking regulation used by numerous cities to restrict oversized vehicles from parking overnight; Los Angeles, for instance, bans oversized vehicles from parking from 2 to 6 a.m. But I do not believe that enforcement alone is the right approach .

In addition to these new RV parking rules, the Council established a policy of using objective criteria to identify “priority populations,” such as low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children previously housed in Berkeley and to work with these folks to:

  • Provide a three-month “Grace Period” parking permit at a designated location, with the possibility of permit renewal in limited circumstances, such as if folks are continuing to engage with rehousing services.
  • Provide support in identifying permanent housing and/or a long-term off-street location to which they can relocate, such as an RV park.  

Essentially, the concept is that we would create a safe parking site for priority populations and then enforce our new RV parking rules. Individuals sheltering in RVs who do not meet criteria as a priority population would be subject to RV parking enforcement. This is an approach that other cities have taken. In East Palo Alto , an overnight RV parking ban is accompanied by an overnight safe parking lot for 20 RV residents who have access to restroom, shower, and laundry facilities. In Oakland , a City-owned lot will house up to 50 RVs 24-hours a day (with security, restrooms, drinking water, and electrical hook-ups) prior to enforcement of RV parking restrictions in the impacted neighborhood. I support our creation of a safe parking site on a temporary pilot basis to help priority populations who are currently sheltering in RVs on our streets. I believe we should use the pilot to assess the long-term cost and benefits of a safe parking site as a means of assisting future priority populations sheltering in RVs and vehicles.

The City has contracted with Bay Area Community Services (or, BACS)—a homeless services provider that operates our Pathways Navigation Center—to visit individuals sheltering in RVs in order to conduct a short assessment to identify priority populations. As a result of this outreach, we will soon have a better understanding of the number of RVs that will be granted a three-month Grace Period permit.

The Mayor, Councilmember Harrison, and I have introduced a Council item (scroll to Item #39) for Tues., July 23rd that gives further guidance to our City Manager to identify a safe parking site on a City-owned parking lot for priority populations. These are the factors that I believe we must consider in seeking to establish a temporary safe parking site:

  • Is the site of a sufficient size to accommodate the total number of RVs that will be eligible to receive a three-month Grace Period permit as a priority population? This is a significant consideration because it’s not as efficient to establish multiple “micro-sites” that can only house a handful of RVs, given the need to provide restrooms and other services at each location in order to ensure the health and safety of residents and neighbors.
  • Will the site be available 24-hours a day or only overnight? We should explore both options, since there may be more viable sites available for overnight use.
  • Will the site have appropriate services to ensure the health and safety of RV residents and nearby neighbors? At a minimum, we must provide restrooms and security. We must also consider access to water and electricity.
  • How will we measure outcomes? We need to track our progress in assisting individuals to find permanent housing or a long-term location to park their RV in order to assess whether this is a viable long-term model for future priority populations who were previously housed in our community.    

In closing, I want to share the story of Arturo Torres . Arturo has a permanent home in Fresno, the city where he can afford housing and where his wife and kids live. During the weekdays, Arturo works as a painter in the Bay Area because, he says, he can earn $10 to $15 more per hour than he could in the Central Valley. Arturo first tried renting a room with other Bay Area workers, but he says he was paying more than he could afford just for a spot on the floor to sleep. He then resorted to buying an RV to use on weeknights; his monthly payment for the RV is $240. Arturo parks the vehicle on the streets of Palo Alto, following the City’s rules about moving the vehicle at least a half-mile every 72 hours. On Fridays, he makes the 160-mile drive back home to his family.

Arturo’s story is important for us to think about because it speaks to the regional challenges we face—of working- and middle-class income earners priced out of the Bay Area housing market, of higher wages and better job opportunities in the Bay Area, and the ways that these two factors may compel people to make rational economic decisions about living in an RV on the public right-of-way. I think there is also something that we can all recognize and even appreciate in Arturo’s actions—the desire to work hard and sacrifice to provide for his kids. I don’t think enforcement of RV parking restrictions alone is the answer for the policy challenges that Arturo’s story raises. The reality is, we need painters, electricians, and plumbers; we need restaurant workers, custodians, and medical assistants. We need all of the working- and middle-class jobs that no longer pay enough to keep pace with the Bay Area housing market. On any given night at the Berkeley Marina, 60 to 80 people shelter in their cars and are gone by early morning. Perhaps some of them face a similar predicament as Arturo? This is why it’s vital for us to continue to do our part to create homes at all income levels. At some point, we may also have to consider the creation of a safe overnight parking area for Berkeley workers sheltering in RVs and vehicles. Our effort to create a pilot safe parking site for priority populations of RV residents is an important first step in addressing these challenges.  

This is a difficult issue for our community that engenders strong opinions. I always welcome your input, and I'm working hard to balance the concerns of all members of our community. Please feel free to share your input with me: rkesarwani@cityofberkeley.info or 510-981-7110.
BART Board Discusses State Law AB 2923, Impacting N. Berkeley & Ashby BART Stations
On June 13 th , the BART Board held a meeting (scroll to Item D. 18-481) to discuss implementation of state law AB 2923 , which requires BART to zone its parking lots for development.

Two important pieces of news were shared at this meeting: 
N. Berkeley BART station. Photo:  Pi.1415926535 ( License ).
1) BART CANNOT CHANGE PLACE-TYPE DESIGNATIONS. The BART Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Program Manager stated that BART staff consulted with the state and learned that BART does not have the authority to reclassify place-type density designations for BART stations . This means that BART does not have the ability to change the Urban Neighborhood/City Center designation for the N. Berkeley BART station, which I know has been a concern raised by members of our community. The Mayor and I previously wrote a letter to Assemblymember David Chiu , who co-authored AB 2923 in the state legislature, requesting flexibility to meet or exceed minimum density requirements in a manner that provides for flexibility in the height of the approved development. However, the response letter from Assemblymembers David Chiu and Tim Grayson (co-authors of AB 2923) indicates that there is little appetite to make any changes to AB 2923 at the state level.

2) BART STAFF RECOMMENDS NO INCREASE TO DENSITY . BART staff recommended that the BART Board not adopt TOD zoning standards that exceed the minimum zoning guidelines required by AB 2923, which are specified in the 2017 TOD Guidelines staff report . This was a position with which a number of BART Boardmembers appeared to agree, given the limited time to develop TOD zoning standards by the statutory deadline of July 1, 2020 and other factors. This recommendation means that the N. Berkeley BART station would not be required to be zoned for greater than seven stories of height . There are still many open questions, such as whether we will be able to zone for a stepped-down lower height at the perimeter of the station—a concept that was put forward by many of the designs submitted at our visioning event last October. It’s also important to keep in mind that zoning for a height of seven stories does not necessarily mean that the approved project would be this height; there are many factors that will determine the size of the actual development. A zoning envelope of seven stories would require that any future building did not exceed this height. 

Our City staff is currently working with BART staff to develop a draft Memorandum of Understanding for our future planning process. I want to thank everyone who continues to reach out to me and stay engaged on this very important issue. I will continue to do my best to represent our community’s interests and to lead with openness and transparency. You can catch up on all the news related to N. Berkeley BART by visiting my website HERE . And please always feel free to be in touch with any input: rkesarwani@cityofberkeley.info or 510-981-7110. 
Street Repaving This Summer & Streets Audit
This summer, the City is repaving 6.6 miles of roadway, covering 40 streets and addressing related repairs such as curb ramps, sidewalks, drainage, gutters, street signage, and striping. 

Selected streets are based on the following considerations: pavement condition; type of repair required; cost effectiveness and budget constraints; road classification as an arterial, collector, or residential street; as well as input from the Public Works Commission.
An adult and child biking in Berkeley.
In recent years, the City has focused its repaving efforts on arterials with the greatest traffic; however, this summer, the proportion of residential streets was increased to ensure that more of those streets receive attention. 
Funding for street repaving comes from a number of sources including: Measure M, a $30 million streets and watershed bond passed in 2014; Measure T1, a 2016 infrastructure bond providing a portion for road repair; Alameda County Measures B and BB sales taxes; the city's General Fund; and state gas tax revenue.
A number of bike and pedestrian safety improvements will also be made:
  • Adeline Street between Shattuck and Ashby avenues will get bus boarding islands to reduce conflicts between buses and bikes while also increasing the reliability of bus routes. This key stretch will also get protected bike lanes in both directions.
  • High visibility crosswalks will be added to many streets, along with other safety improvements such as enhancing a Sixth Street bike lane so it's more visible to drivers.
  • Milvia Street between Blake and Russell streets will get paved, helping bicyclists along this important part of the city's bike boulevard network.
  • Hearst between Shattuck and Milvia will get protected bike lanes, further extending a protected bike lane network moving people to and from campus.
Affected residents and businesses will receive notification with information for relevant contractors and City staff. The last of the projects is expected to be completed by November. Please visit the City’s construction updates page for ongoing details. For general questions, comments, or concerns about the City's repaving program, please contact Public Works Engineering at pwengineering@cityofberkeley.info.
Finally, our City Auditor is preparing to conduct an audit on street repaving, possibly exploring everything from how streets are chosen to the funding needed to increase our Pavement Conditions Index. If you would like to schedule a neighborhood meeting so you and your neighbors can share your input on the upcoming streets audit, please get in touch: auditor@cityofberkeley.info and cc my office, rkesarwani@cityofberkeley.info.     
Do You Live Near Codornices Creek?
A few months ago in early April, Berkeley firefighters put out a dangerous recycling truck fire in close proximity to King Middle School on Rose St. Because of the severity of the fire (including the presence of compressed natural gas tanks on the truck), a significant amount of Class A Firefighting Foam—a highly concentrated soap commonly used to fight fires—was used. 
Visiting Codornices Creek with my friend Adam.
This type of truck fire can be extremely dangerous due to the presence of compressed natural gas tanks, which can cause powerful explosions that send shrapnel flying as far as a quarter of a mile. I’m grateful to our first responders for protecting our community from a more serious incident.
Unfortunately, the firefighting foam entered storm drains and made its way into Codornices Creek in large quantities, leading to a large of number of steelhead trout being killed. As soon as it was discovered, staff from Public Works, Environmental Health, Fire, and Toxics worked to remove the foam from the creek and notified the appropriate regulatory agencies, including the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. Currently, our Fire Department is consulting with Public Works staff to explore options to reduce the likelihood of this type of event from occurring in the future.
This summer or early fall, the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to survey the creek for surviving trout. State biologists need permission to survey on private property.  If you live on Codornices Creek between the Rose Garden and San Pablo Avenue, and would consider allowing trained state wildlife staff to enter the creek along your property, please get in touch with Friends of Five Creeks—a local non-profit that supports our creeks:  f5creeks@gmail.com  or 510-848-9358.
Please consider sharing this request with neighbors who live on the creek.
July Office Hours

Please SAVE THE DATE for my July Office Hours:

Sun., July 21st, 4-6 p.m.
Cafe Leila (1725 San Pablo Ave.)
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.
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.