Berkeley resolutions for 2012 — and how we did in 2011

Plenty of Berkeleyans were out on the Claremont Canyon trail today, putting into practice a personal resolution. What should we resolve for the city? Photo: Tracey Taylor

We can take it as read that 2012 will be filled with news. It’s an election year, both national and mayoral, the economy’s glacial improvement still weighs on the city and local business, and, if the lack of rain so far is any indication, we may be facing drought conditions as the year moves on. On Berkeleyside, we take a moment on the first day of the year to make some resolutions for our city. At the bottom of the post, we run a slide rule over the performance of our resolutions in 2011 (spoiler: we did much better than in 2010).

1. The city makes progress on solving its long-term budget issues. There are a host of budgetary issues facing Berkeley, from streets improvement to storm drains to parks. The big prize for improving the long-term outlook is resolving a new contract with the police — police pensions are the biggest liability the city faces, as made clear in the December work session.

2. Something goes right for Telegraph Avenue. We wish it hadn’t been the case, but 2011 was an annus horribilis for Telegraph. Perhaps there’s nowhere to go but up. It’s plausible that 2012 could bring a fast-track plan for the Sequoia Apartments site, progress on the vacant site opposite, and further action by the university in People’s Park to improve sanitation and safety along the lines recommended by the Telegraph Business Improvement District.

3. Berkeley attracts more retailers that aren’t drugstores. The arrival of the Apple Store on Fourth Street was a true business highlight of 2011. The first swallow heralding a new dawn for retailers in Berkeley?

4. The first phase of the downtown improvements really has an impact. Downtown Berkeley became a property-based improvement district in 2011. The funds from the PBID will be flowing to a series of environmental improvements. Together with projects like the Helios Building and the ambitious new restaurant, Comal, let’s hope it catalyzes some real change.

5. One of the Berkeley sites is chosen for the Berkeley Lab second campus. On a pure mathematical basis, the odds for Berkeley look good — it has a hand in three of the six shortlisted sites. Only Aquatic Park West is entirely in Berkeley, but Berkeley land is in both the Golden Gate Fields and the Wareham Emeryville/Berkeley proposal. With any of the three, plenty of spin-off opportunities as well as fuller restaurants and stores will be a consequence for Berkeley.

6. A real start is made on the new Berkeley Art Museum home downtown. Not all of our readers were enamored of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro design for the new BAM on Center Street. But progress on the project would be a great shot in the arm for Berkeley’s growing status in the arts.

7. A new superintendent for Berkeley schools kickstarts new optimism. There are many great things to be said about Berkeley schools, which have weathered tough state budgets far better than most. But the achievement gap remains a persistent problem and parents are concerned that projects they support, like the dual-language immersion programs, are being trimmed. There will be a new superintendent this year, as Bill Huyett retires. Time for a new start.

8. Continued improvements in crime rates. Significant strides were made in 2011 in violent crime in Berkeley. Let’s see more progress in all kinds of crime throughout the city.

9. A year for UC Berkeley to revive. Berkeley was the first public university in the country to launch a program for significant financial aid for middle class families. Maybe MCAP can be the first step in a fight back against the cuts and squeezes faced by what remains one of the world’s great universities.

10. More laughter. Berkeleyans have many qualities, but an ability to laugh at ourselves is not prominent. Let’s find more time to laugh at the occasional absurdities in our city.

That takes care of 2012. How did we do with our 2011 resolutions? Not too bad. As we did last year, we’ve given 0 for no movement (or backward movement), a ½ point for some improvement and a full 1 point for true progress.

1. Berkeley schools weather the budget cuts. Huyett and the school board did pretty well. 1 point

2. Substantial drop in violent crime. From five homicides to just one. 1 point

3. Continue to punch above our weight in arts. Berkeley Rep, Aurora, Cal Performances. No doubt: 1 point

4. West Berkeley to emerge as center for entrepreneurship and technology. A plan was passed, but achievement remains to be seen: half point

5. Business optimism returns. Not quite: zero points

6. University adds to Nobel roster. Saul Perlmutter: one point

7. Politicians concentrate on things that matter. More budget discussions, fewer symbolic resolutions (but some persist): half point

8. Live up to being a bike-friendly city. Repaving a chunk of Sacramento helps, but plenty more to be done: half point

9. More late night eating and drinking. We don’t see them: zero points

10. Stop worrying and learn to love recycling carts. We did it: one point

That’s a very encouraging 6.5 out of 10. Phew.

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  • guest

    May the powers that be support local businesses and end the multiuse building at Telegraph and Ashby.

  • Charles_Siegel

    “the ambitious new restaurant, xxxxx,”

    That sounds more like the name of a brewery than of a restaurant. 

    (Trying to take your advice about laughing at ourselves.)

  • Bill

    Let us hope these come to fruition. Laugh at ourselves would be near the top of my list along with the city’s budget.

  • Yikes. Thanks, Charles. The name is Comal. I couldn’t recall it when I first wrote it and left it to circle back later. A new year’s day slip.

  • BUSD parent

    I think you have it wrong, when you say “parents are concerned that projects they support, like the dual-language immersion programs, are being trimmed”.  If you truly followed the waste of money of the so-called “TWI Consolidation Plan” you would know that dual language immersion programs are NOT being trimmed.  Instead, when educational dollars are in short supply, the BUSD is trying to buy a Mercedes Benz (i.e. make a Language Academy) at the expense of all the kids in the district and all tax payers in the CIty.  The justification for this incredible expenditure is a study done by a graduate student commissioned by proponents of the Language Academy.  Do your homework, before you make blanket statements!  I would rather more money be put into helping all the struggling kids in the district, instead of a Language Academy that claims to be for helping struggling EL kids.  The District doesn’t even know how many EL kids in the dual immersion program really don’t know English!  So, if they don’t know this number, then how can they claim a Language Academy will help struggling EL kids?  There is a story for you to investigate!

  • O Chame customer

    Many think that the 4th St Apple Srore is a blight on the neighborhood. It is totally our or keeping with the ambiance of Berkeley’s most successful retail and restaurant district. Bright lights overwhelm everything else on the street, including the charming holiday lighting on the trees.

  • Heather W.

    I agree about the Apple store. It’s an eyesore and a big plot of Corporate America overwhelming the character and ambiance of what was a small-store street. The lights are bright and garish and the open-ness of the space makes it so conspicuous. I hate it, and think it would have been better suited to the corporatized Disney-like Bay Street mall area. 

  • Bill

    A agree that the 4th street ambiance of the store sucks (matching the ambiance of the Apple Corporation) but this city pretty much lives by sales tax revenue and I prefer an Apple Store to be here rather than in Emeryville or SF.  Better than a drug store!

  • Doc

    As to number two, Telegraph can’t improve untill the city,University and community want it to. That means building something good out of the abandoned lots, particularly People’s Park. Once we want Telegraph to succeed it will, not before.

  • the District also has a — repeatedly — acknowledged problem of enrolling students who use falsified residency information.  These folks bring ADA dollars to the district but they do NOT bring BSEP or Measure BB money.  Since the District does such a terrible job of verifying residency, they really don’t know — or worse, they do know and won’t acknowledge — whether the programs being implemented — often with the help of those BSEP funds — match the needs of the City’s actual residents.  

  • Laura Novak

    Whether it’s the issue of schools, Telegraph Avenue, or the “powers that be,” there is a lot to laugh at and about in my new novel which hit the top 20 books sold in comic fiction over the holiday:

    Finding Clarity: A Mom, A Dwarf and a Posh Private School in the People’s Republic of Berkeley. Please check it out and pass it on. Thank you, and Happy New Year to all.

  • Considering that Anthropology,  CB2 and a Crate & Barrel Outlet are just down the street, it seems weird to pretend that 4th Street was all Mom & Pop businesses before Apple rolled into town.

  • Bill


  • Bill

    If it’s not sold locally I’m not sure if we’re allowed to buy it here.  Do any of the characters work in a drug store?

  • Bill

    So true, we knew several parents who lived in Kensington and “arranged” a Berkeley address.

  • Thanks, Bill.

    For context, consider these facts:

    Berkeley’s median income for 2005-2009:  $59k.  Kensington’s is more than twice that at $125K.  

    Yes, Berkeley has students who lower the median, but those students still pay rents that  reflect parcel taxes for BUSD on Berkeley property.  And in the same time period, Berkeley had 18% “living in poverty” compared to Kensington’s 3%.

  • Heather W.

    Wasn’t “pretending” it was all Mom & Pop, obviously it’s not. 

  • It’s an eyesore and a big plot of Corporate America overwhelming the character and ambiance of what was a small-store street.

    Just pointing out that 4th Street was already full of Corporate America, at about a 2:1 square footage ratio compared to small-stores.

    I don’t like Apple’s corporate structure and the way they control content streams with an iron fist, but I sure do love my MacBook. Plus I find MAC to be way more garish, since it has that corner space right at the front of the strip.

  • Elisabeth

    Hmmm…based on the comments so far, we don’t seem to be doing very well on 2012 resolution number 10!

  • Bruce Love

    Speaking of LBNL and west berkeley:   Why did The Crucible leave Berkeley?   Seems like quite a lot of opportunities lost there, albeit not any with the LBNL/Cal stamp of approval.