Berkeley resolutions for 2013 — and how we did in 2012

Crystal ball

What do you see in the crystal ball for Berkeley in the coming year? We’ve made some resolutions for the city. Photo: CarbonNYC

Berkeleyside has no crystal ball that can foretell the next 12 months of our city (or the next 12 hours), but we annually lay down some markers for what we’d like to see in Berkeley. Tell us in the comments below what resolutions you’d like to see for Berkeley.

1. Gain clarity on the future of West Berkeley. Measure T and its upzoning of parts of West Berkeley was soundly defeated in November. Let’s hope that doesn’t mean stasis in West Berkeley.

2. Get the streets fixed. Councilmember Kriss Worthington decried a “pothole city council”, but Berkeley’s streets really do need fixing. The Alameda County Measure B1 failed by a whisker, which would have provided good support for improving streets and bike infrastructure. Berkeley’s Measure M, which did pass, provides $30 million in bonds, which provides a start.

3. Downtown progress becomes concrete. The past year saw a planned emphasis on cosmetic improvements downtown, but with Acheson Commons and the proposed Shattuck high-rise, 2013 could be the year for the beginning of visible, constructed change downtown.

4. Leadership for Berkeley schools. There’s one simple marker: find a superintendent that can inspire and lead Berkeley’s schools. Good teachers and a hugely supportive community mean that BUSD has enormous resilience, but another failure in the superintendent search would hurt badly.

5. Growing restaurant excitement. Okay: we’re spoiled in Berkeley. There’s a surfeit of wonderful restaurants, but the truth is Oakland has been leading the way in East Bay food recently. Comal marked a change in downtown, but we need more.

6. More edginess in visual arts. Thousands of people flocked to West Berkeley in September for Endless Canvas. Who knew that Berkeley could push boundaries so well? More please.

7. Find a new home for Off the Grid. There may have been good reasons for moving Off the Grid out of the Gourmet Ghetto, but surely the city and OTG can find an alternative site, as well as continuing the Thursday evening OTG on Telegraph.

8. Zero homicides. It was depressing to report on five homicides in 2012. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have zero in 2013? More broadly, let’s hope the trend over the last decade of reduced violent and property crime in Berkeley continues.

9. Find the right solution for the main post office. Councilmembers and many members of the public want to see the downtown post office keep its function. From the US Postal Service record nationwide, that’s unlikely. Finding the right, public use, however, is not unimaginable. Berkeley’s Ferry Building?

10. Keep the differences, but bring back civility. Some major rifts showed in Berkeley politics in 2012, and that’s healthy for the city’s polity. But the disintegration of a July City Council meeting when singing and chanting disrupted debate was a low moment.

That takes care of 2013. How did we do with our 2012 resolutions? Not great. As we do each year, we award ourselves 0 for no movement (or backward movement), a ½ point for some improvement and a full 1 point for true progress.

1. Progress on long-term budget issues. The new police contract was an important milestone, and the city is taking a measured, no-panic approach with well-run finances. But there’s still plenty to resolve. 1 point

2. Something goes right for Telegraph Avenue. There was plenty of optimism at the City Council’s November worksession on Telegraph, and very little naysaying. Now let’s get something done. ½ point

3. Berkeley attracts more retailers that aren’t drugstores. There’s nothing encouraging happening with large former Andronico’s stores on University and Telegraph. Sports Basement, however, will be moving into the old Berkeley Iceland site: ½ point

4. First phase of downtown improvements has impact. The ambassadors and street cleaning crews are making a visible difference. Not there yet, but on the way. 1 point

5. Berkeley site chosen for Lawrence Berkeley Lab second campus. Nope: congratulations, Richmond. 0 points

6. A real start on Berkeley Art Museum downtown. Fundraising has apparently been going well, but there’s been no visible progress on the Diller Scofidio + Renfro design. 0 points

7. A new superintendent for Berkeley schools kickstarts optimism. The failed search in the spring was followed by the Heatley fiasco in the fall. Acting co-superintendents Cleveland and Smith are doing a good job holding the fort, but no new superintendent yet. 0 points

8. Continued improvements in crime rates. We don’t yet have the full 2012 crime data, but the year certainly seems to have been one that marked time rather than saw continued improvement. The five homicides was a step backwards. 0 points

9. A year for UC Berkeley to revive. With no help from the state, UC Berkeley managed to navigate through a tough year and come out looking in very good shape. Outgoing Chancellor Robert Birgeneau was understandably exuberant at his outgoing state-of-the-university press conference in August. His successor, Robert Nicholas Dirks, has a hard act to follow. 1 point

10. More laughter. It’s still an area where too much of Berkeley is deficient, but Michaels Chabon, Lewis and Pollan had over 600 Berkeleysiders laughing heartily last month. It’s a start. ½ point

Out of 10 we notched 4½ points. We’ll aim to do better in 2013.

Berkeley resolutions for 2012 — and how we did in 2011 [01.01.12]
Ten Berkeley resolutions for 2011 [01.01.11]
How did Berkeley do on those 2010 resolutions [12.31.12]

If staying informed about what goes on in your city is important to you in the coming year, then please consider becoming a Berkeleyside Member and supporting us. Members get invited to special parties, get first dibs and discounts on tickets to events, a behind-the-scenes newsletter, and the knowledge that a contribution will keep the news reporting flowing.

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  • Tom Leonard

    Berkeley’s new Chancellor is Nicholas Dirks. This breaks the string of two Roberts in a row (Birgeneau and Berdahl). We all have to break our Robert habit in the new year. Tom Leonard

  • motes

    Bring back the ” How Berkeley Can You Be ” parade , please.
    Everyone loves a parade !

  • M.E. Lawrence

    Yes! Autumn in Berkeley isn’t the same without HBCYB.

  • Charles_Siegel

    “2013 could be the year for the beginning of visible, constructed change downtown.”

    Actually, I think it began in the 1990s, when Patrick Kennedy developed a project on Shattuck/Hearst that was the first new housing built in downtown in decades. There has been lots of visible, constructed change since then – the most visible being the Gaia Building and Brower Center.

    I hope the trend continues, and I hope the new buildings are as good as the ones we have built so far. Acheson Commons looks great. The proposed Shattuck highrise definitely needs lots of design review.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    1. Fix the streets.

    2. Institute real enrollment verification for BUSD. Institute meaningful controls to prevent abuses of homeless and caregiver status.

    3. Get a handle on pension costs for city workers. Eliminate the YMCA memberships and other costly perks and crack down on city employees with RPP stickers for areas in which they do not reside.

    4. Eliminate unnecessary city departments. Let’s use Alameda County services where possible: mental health is one example where duplication is not needed.

    5. Reverse the polarity of Berkeley’s homeless magnet. Provide services to those who are from here; stop putting out bait to lure those who are not.

    6. Dismantle commissions of little value: Peace and Justice, etc.

    7. Task BPD with proposing a set of guidelines under which they could get more done with existing staff. Specifically: what would it take for BPD to respond to calls for service without sending three or more officers? If that requires dismantling the police review commission, then do it.

    8. Explore cheaper alternatives to BFD for paramedic services. Reduce the number of firefighters to match the reduction in the number of fires to be fought.

    9. Develop a pools plan that does not include a Warm Pool. Build a facility that serves a lot of residents, not a noisy minority and their out-of-town friends. The Albany Aquatic Center is a good reference model.

    10. Close the BHS campus.

    11. Outsource trash pickup services.

    12. Implement routine enforcement of the 72 hour parking rule.

  • Tizzielish

    I am surprised to read Berkeleyside’s statement that Measure T was ‘soundly defeated’. I thought Measure T lost by an astonishingly narrow number of votes, given the intense vitriol, not to mention huge campaign donations from vested interests holding real estate in West Berkeley.

    I don’t have a crystal ball. I go by media reports. The East Bay Express stated, in a Nov 16, 2012 story, that Measure T lost by 512 votes. With approximately 50,000 votes cast on the measure, I do not consider losing by 512 ‘soundly defeated’. Math has never been my strong suit but isn’t 512 votes out of about 50,000 about 1% of the votes cast?

    I was, and remain, strongly opposed to Measure T. Unfortunately, I expect our pushy elected officials (i.e. the Bates cabal), who never let the citizenry’s will get in the way of a campaign donation from real estate owners and developers, to find a way to shove their plans for West Berkeley down our throats, just as they have now shoved a downtown plan at us that was very deceptively marketed.

    I can’t help wondering how many folks caterwauling about the loss of Shattuck cinemas blindly voted for ‘more housing downtown, more density downtown’ without actually having to live downtown. All too often, we voters get what we vote for. Those who went along with the downtown plan to allow vastly denser housing might be sorry to actually see that actually happen. Downtown Berkeley has so few reasons to come downtown. How sadly ironic that the first proposal to try to take advantage of the awful new plan proposes to wipe out one of the best attractions downtown: the Shattuck Cinema. What little traffic there is in downtown, say after 7 p.m. until 10 or so, sure looks to be cinema-and-maybe-dinner-snack related to me. All that traffic will disappear if Shattuck cinema goes down. Where will the residents of the new 350 buildings go to the movies? Oakland and Emeryville, I guess. How much ya wanna bet they also go out to eat in Oakland and Emeryville, even folks living in the new tower that took out the cinema?!!!

    Do many in Berkeley trek over to SF just to go to a movie? Shattuck Cinema has been the only place showing many art films that will never make it to the East Bay once Shattuck Cinema is gone. But we’ll have density.

    In November, I met a close, old friend who had arranged a ten hour layover at SFO so we could spend a few hours together. She was moving to London, England that day. So I took a bus to SF about 4:30 am on a Sunday, before BART was running. And then I had to wait about 40 minutes in the temporary downtown SF transit center to catch the ‘express’ bus to SFO. If I had not waited for the express, I would have had to change buses two times between downtown SF and SFO so I waited.

    The temporary transit center in downtown SF has the appearance of being VERY temporary and at 5 a.m.-ish on a Sunday morning, it is just about dead. With forty minutes to kill, and freezing, I walked to keep warm and to look around a pocket of SF I had never been in before. Very near that temporary transit station are several new-looking condo or apartment towers. Freeway ramps are nearby. The streets are somewhat desolate, with almost nothing but lobbies to buildings (residential and office) and entrances to parking garages. Even if it were not so early and not a Sunday, there was no where for me to go, perhaps to grab a cup of coffee. Just tall towers maxing out profits for whoever built them, as well as making it possible for residents and office dwellers to live/work near downtown SF and, I imagine, have spectacular views. It is a neighborhood sorta underneath the SF end of the Bay Bridge. I am a newbie in the Bay Area and just don’t know the city well so I am belaboring my description cause the area was totally new to me.

    That new building proposal, where Shattauck Cinemas is now, would add 350 or so new apartments on one single block. That’s a hella lot of density on one single block. Did the people who voted in favor of a downtown plan that Bates and his cabal spun with deceptive rhetoric/propaganda, a disgusting display of smoke and mirrors seriously think about how downtown would change with ‘up to six’ high rises added? I bet none of the folks caterwauling about losing Shattuck Cinemas ever imagined something they value about downtown would disappear.

    We tend to get what we ask for. Approving that downtown plan demonstrates why such planning should not be done in broadstroke, vague language that leaves the door wide, wide open to significantly altering the streetscape. But that’s what Berkeley voters did. Not me.

    Whenever I walk to the post office now, I imagine the shadows that 18 story building will be casting.

    Geez. Progress can suck.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    13 fund the sidewalk repair program with savings fom eliminating YMCA memberships

    14 get some undercover police in position to catch the thugs who are jumping people for smartphones.

    15 figure out what it would take to get thugs to stop regarding Berkeley as “candy land” and then do it.

  • Biker 94703

    I’d like to see construction that doesn’t kill established businesses. I suspect the clock is ticking for both Ace and Shattuck Cinemas. Its a shame that student housing needs to destroy services.

  • Delaware Dave

    I’m surprised at Berkeleyside’s concern that “Oakland has been leading the way in East Bay food recently.” Berkeley has long since lost the race on this. New restaurants like Comal, Gather, and Revival are great — if you’re visiting Berkeley to see something at the Rep, but overall Berkeley has grown old and dull. How long are we going to ride Grandma Waters’ coattails?

    Communities like Temescal and the new Shattuck Path (Shattuck between Ashby & Alcatraz) are where new energy is emerging. These are rough areas with promise, lower rents and incentives to try things out. Berkeley, now the land of vacant storefronts (who is Gordon, anyhow?) and restrictive residential measures (still hanging in there, Subway Guitars?), have pushed out the fringe element and alienated the experimental crowd. Artists and artisans are flocking to more hospitable East Bay terrain. THE ONLY SPACE Berkeley still has to foster them is West Berkeley, a tract which remains funky, oddball, and under-exploited. As long as Aquatic Park can foster a “pickle park” there’s hope. But I fear that Bates & Co. will turn it all into one big 4th Street shopping area. Boho housing and Mini-Cooper shopping. Perhaps we can get a Container Store down there! Berkeley used to be an incubator for projects and ideals. Gentrification has largely killed that. I’m sad about that. Luckily Oakland is just next door and (for now) the 51B can still cross the border.

  • You’re right on Measure T. An end-of-year slip on my part. It was narrowly defeated, as we chronicled obsessively throughout November.

  • Corrected. As you note, I’ll have to stop automatically typing Robert when it comes to writing about Berkeley chancellors.

  • We agree completely, Delaware Dave. One of the many reasons we started Nosh was because there’s so much interesting happening in food in the wider East Bay, particularly in Oakland. But these are New Year’s resolutions — it’s stuff we’d like to see happen in Berkeley.

  • Alan

    Let’s not forget that both the Downtown Area Plan and what became Measure T “enjoyed” more than a hundred hours of public comment apiece. It’s a little disingenuous to say after all that input that we collectively didn’t get what we voted for. Which turns out to be a) a thousand new downtown residents with disposable income to spend downtown b) another decade of nothing happening west of 6th street except some starts on improving Aquatic Park.

  • populist

    good list, but this would require common sense and responsible governance

  • Frances Dinkelspiel

    John Gordon is a commercial realtor and property owner. While he owns a lot of property, like the Oaks Theater, the site of Comal and Slow, he does not own everything that has his sign on in. His Gordon Commercial represents the property owners.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I agree. I have said all along that I hope Acheson Commons can include space for Ace Hardware; if we want a walkable downtown, it is essential to have a hardware store that residents can walk to.

  • Charles_Siegel

    “blindly voted for ‘more housing downtown, more density downtown’ without actually having to live downtown.”

    Do you know that there was fierce opposition to the Brower Center project? People even circulated an initiative to stop it, and they did not get enough signatures to get it on the ballot only because other activists followed them around and told people not to sign. They used to show pictures of the parking lot that was on the site and say, “nice looking parking lot, isn’t it?”

    If they had gotten their way, Berkeley would have that much less affordable housing, and you would not have a place to live in downtown at all.

    Would we be better off if they had stopped “more housing downtown”?

  • Charles_Siegel

    Let me clarify: As I have said earlier, I am against making that project highrise. I consider this a matter of good urban design. But I don’t think you are helping to get a better design for that building when you say you are against housing downtown in general.

  • The Sharkey

    I dunno, without a Republican in the White House what will everybody complain about?

  • Janet Byron

    Re: the Post Office – move post office function to old Walgreens location. Convert the old Post Office into a Berkeley Museum and Visitor’s Center.

  • Howie Mencken

    If the rest of the world could make America’s New Years resolution for us it would be:

    Think Locally. Act Locally.

    And that goes double for Berkeley.

  • The Sharkey

    Great list, both parts.

    But anyone who tries to implement this stuff is going to have public employee unions fighting them every step of the way.

    Nobody wants to be the one to stand up and make the hard decisions, and voters usually just want feel-good fluff governance that lets them kick the can down the road.

  • The Sharkey

    That’s a very nice idea. Good location for something like that too.

  • EBGuy

    Should I not google “pickle park” at work?

  • Fran Haselsteiner

    You know, a Container Store in Berkeley would be great–and a great location would be on Telegraph, serving as an anchor store for the street’s retail redevelopment.

  • The Sharkey

    I fear that Bates & Co. will turn it all into one big 4th Street
    shopping area. Boho housing and Mini-Cooper shopping. Perhaps we can get
    a Container Store down there! Berkeley used to be an incubator for
    projects and ideals. Gentrification has largely killed that.

    Was gentrification one of the reasons Clif Bar said they were leaving Berkeley? Or one of the reasons Pixar decided to locate in Emeryville instead? I guess I don’t remember that specific complaint from any of the actual companies that have eventually left Berkeley for greener pastures with less restrictive zoning.

    If you’re referring more to young folks doing startup businesses or art communes in garages, Berkeley will never reclaim that market as long as nearby Oakland has dramatically depressed property prices thanks to high crime rates.

  • foobar

    “They used to show pictures of the parking lot that was on the site and say, “nice looking parking lot, isn’t it?””

    Really? They’d rather have a parking lot than Brower Center? Wow.

  • deirdre

    Wow, this is a carefully-thought-out list. I don’t agree with 100% of it but I understand the rationale for each point. (Thought about running for city council, P.P.?)

  • deirdre

    Oh, but there is so much silliness here that needs to be celebrated….

  • leeski

    does anyone have any info on the building of the berkeley ferry to SF. I remember reading that an architect firm was chosen and they had the designs ready??? I would love to not take bart to sf a couplr of times per week.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Thanks Deirdre, but my work schedule wouldn’t permit it.

  • EBGuy

    Re: 10. Close the BHS campus.
    Didn’t you get the memo? It is a closed campus (except during lunch). Can anyone comment about ‘student activity’ around Civic Center Park during the none lunchtime hours? I’m wondering if the situation has improved.

  • EBGuy

    Should read “non-lunchtime hours”.

  • Howie Mencken

    Reheating the creative vibe in rougher, cheaper places IS the first step toward gentrification and THANK GOD! Otherwise we’d have no urban renewal in Berkeley!

  • I’m with PragProg

    Consider trading your current work for BUSD Superintendent? I’d suggest City Manager, but that position was just recently filled. With City Council, you’d need to run with a new PragProg slate to make any headway!

  • Zelda Bronstein

    Fran, when I was on the planning commission, I called the Container Store headquarters and asked, why not a store in downtown Berkeley? I was told that our median household income wasn’t high enough to merit one of their shops. Also that they are very picky about where to locate.

  • David D.

    You had me worried there for a minute, Lance. 50.51% (final tally) is hardly a landslide! I suggest a minor language revision so casual readers don’t get the wrong impression.

  • Oakly

    There is a serious rat and rat mite problem in Berkeley. Rat mite bites (which affect mainly babies, and women) are painful and tenacious, but most people who suffer from them are miserable but don’t know the cause because no one talks about it. Even physicians seem to be in the dark. Speaking of which, why doesn’t Berkeley have even one comprehensive health clinic for adults and children? And “criminal justice” is an oxymoron. Sometimes I think this place just broke down in about 1968 and nobody bothered to fix it.