Second Measure M planning meeting comes Saturday

Residents attended a meeting in early May to learn about the planning process for Measure M spending. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Residents attended a meeting in early May to learn about the planning process for Measure M spending. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The second community meeting on Measure M spending will take place Saturday at 10 a.m. at the South Berkeley senior center to seek input from community members on their priorities for street and watershed improvements.

Priorities will likely include accelerating the city’s five-year paving plan and focusing on green infrastructure — such as permeable pavers and rain gardens — that relate to street improvements.

Measure M allocates $30 million toward street and watershed improvements. Exactly how the money will be spent will be determined between now and November when the Berkeley City Council will vote on the spending plan. The money is supposed to begin flowing toward projects in early 2014.

The first session took place in early May in North Berkeley, and was organized by the city’s Public Works Commission in cooperation with the Community Environmental Advisory Commission, the Transportation Commission, the Parks and Recreation Commission, and the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville.

About 50 people attended the session, which featured an overview of the planning process. Attendees included a number of city commissioners, along with council members Jesse Arreguín, Laurie Capitelli and Linda Maio.

Commissioner Ray Yep of the Public Works Commission said in May that the bond measure language was purposefully flexible to let the city determine the priorities after its passage.

“You’re very important and we want to hear from you,” he told meeting attendees. “We need to move quickly but we need to hear from the public. The council is very anxious to get improvements made in the city.”

Andrew Clough, the city’s Public Works director, said, as far as the city’s infrastructure needs, “we need everything,” from sewers and sidewalks to traffic calming, complete streets and storm water run-off improvements. He said the city will take a strategic approach to determine priority projects and, for example, will look at criteria such as which street improvements would raise the city’s pavement index. Priorities listed in the city’s watershed management, paving, and bike and pedestrian plans also will get special consideration.

Berkeley Public Works Director Andrew Clough said the city's infrastructure needs are legion. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Berkeley Public Works Director Andrew Clough said the city’s infrastructure needs are legion. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Margo Schueler, also on the Public Works Commission, said Berkeley residents took “an incredibly solid position” in passing Measure M, which was approved by 73% of voters in November. The next few months, she added, will offer an opportunity to learn “what it is we all want to see as citizens to make our lives more livable in the streets.”

Saturday’s meeting will focus on various potential scenarios the council will eventually vote on. A third meeting focused on draft recommendations for the council will take place in July. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for details.)

One member of the public who attended the meeting noted that the city has more than $200 million worth of needed improvements, and just $30 million to spend. As a result, he said, the city needs to focus on using Measure M money to leverage regional, state and federal grants. Councilwoman Maio said that approach is very much in line with the city’s plans for the bond measure.

Others in attendance said it would be important to fund projects with multiple public benefits — such as bike and pedestrian improvements, meeting stormwater requirements, street tree planting and flood reduction — or that would fulfill requirements already set out in various plans developed by the city. One attendee suggested that the city create scorecards to rank potential projects to show which criteria they would fulfill, as a way of helping the public understand how to get the most bang for the buck.

Measure M will provide more funds for improving streets, but it still will fall short of the need. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Measure M will provide money to improve city streets, but the money available falls far short of the need. Photo: Tracey Taylor

One participant challenged the city to develop an interactive website that would allow the public to submit comments and potentially vote on projects online. Meeting organizers said a website actually had been created, but that the city manager had not approved its launch, citing potential conflicts with the planning process. Organizers also made a point to say they weren’t “taking notes” at the session, and that members of the public should be sure to submit their comments by email to PWEngineering@cityofberkeley.info.

Sherry Smith, president of the local League of Women Voters, said she “sensed a certain amount of frustration” about the lack of notes and website.

“I urge you all to follow the suggestion to send in your comments by email,” she said. “We hope you’ll be coming to the next two meetings. And, if you can’t come, be sure then to send your written comments along to the city.”

The next Measure M community meeting, focused on a range of scenario alternatives for spending, will take place Saturday, June 8, at 10 a.m., at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. A final meeting to discuss draft recommendations for city officials is set for Thursday, July 18, at 5:30 p.m. (See a flyer about the meetings here.) Those with questions can email Ray Yep of the Public Works Commission at rayyep1@gmail.com, or Sherry Smith of the League of Women Voters at president@lwvbae.org. The public may also send comments to PWEngineering@cityofberkeley.info

Related stories:
City asks residents to brainstorm Measure M spending [04.23.13]
South Berkeley neighbors ask city for help to improve [04.19.13]
Ambitious public works program falls short of need [03.21.13]
Pensions, infrastructure key Berkeley budget liabilities [02.20.13]
Budget: Spending cuts needed to avoid shortfall [01.28.13]
Council supports Sunday Streets, looks to find funds [01.25.13]
Berkeley General Fund revenues may fall short in 2012-13 [12.12.12]
Average Berkeley street in at-risk condition, many worse [11.16.11]

At a glance: Measure M fact sheets
Process overview (2013)
May meeting overview (2013)
Street rehabilitation and repair policy, and 5-year paving plan (2013)
Active transportation (2013)
Watershed management plan (2013)

Other related documents and resources from the city of Berkeley:
Measure M expenditure plan: Development and implementation (2013)
Update of the 5-year street paving plan for 2013–17 (2012)
Watershed subcommittee meeting, with watershed plan update (2012)
Permeable concrete paver report on ‘sustainable paving for the 21st century’ (2012)
City auditor’s report on Berkeley’s “failing streets” (2011)
City street rehabilitation and repair policy (2009)
Measure M overview
Measure M, via smartvoter.org
Watershed management plan resources

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  • The_Sharkey

    Permeable pavers and rain gardens are all well and good, but why not first focus on repaving the god damned roads that are falling apart?

    If we already know that the $30 million dollars is going to fall far short of the need just to do basic repair, why are we focusing so much on pie-in-the-sky wish list items?

    What the hell is wrong with the members of the public that go to these meetings, and why is the City Council pandering to them?

  • guest

    Perhaps some of those pie-in-the-sky ideas may actually turn into money saving ideas. They may come up with ideas that qualify for state or federal monies to help stretch the $30 million.They may discover ways to do the jobs in a way that will answer more than just the condition of the road surface but also of water run-off issues and future maintenance, thereby saving money.

  • Tree person

    Green infrastructure can often be implemented at low or no incremental costs. In some cases, it just means pouring less concrete and being conscious of the issues during planning and design. For example, the City is redoing the sidewalks in my neighborhood and, at least in some cases, is pouring more concrete than was there before. This costs more, means less infiltration, and results in more stormwater runoff, contrary to the Water Board’s stormwater permit that the City is supposed to comply with. Placing concrete very close to existing trees is heading in the wrong direction and just means the next replacement project happens that much sooner.

    Repaving streets can be done including bioinfiltration areas that also result in less runoff and more soil moisture for trees and plants. Curbs and gutters can be made from porous concrete, which does cost more. In some cities, the the parking area next to the curb is replaced with pervious pavers or pervious cement. Santa Monica, Portland, and Seattle are good examples.

    If the green infrastructure is implemented during regular maintenance and renovation, the costs are potentially offset by the savings on addressing stormwater runoff–the major source of pollution in the Bay–and by a better environment for plants and trees. More greenery will also make Berkeley a nicer place to live.

    I also hope that that the City considers aesthetics – everything doesn’t have to have straight edges and rectangular corners.

  • T

    Under Measure M, the focus is on repaving the roads and, slowly but surely, improving Berkeley’s pavement index. However, Measure M’s broad language calls for money to be spent on paving projects that will also improve Berkeley’s green infrastructure, including methods to reduce flooding in West Berkeley (for example). Many of the projects under consideration are not based on wishful thinking but instead have a proven track record of improving the road surface and reducing run-off.

    Berkeley can meet both goals of Measure M without wasting money on pie-in-the-sky ideas.

  • The_Sharkey

    Perhaps space unicorns exist and we can harness their celestial powers to create perpetual motion machines that will eliminate the need for fossil fuels and use the money saved to pave the streets with platinum.

    Saving money is not something that the Berkeley government has any history of doing, and considering that we can’t even maintain our current very basic infrastructure without having to float bonds I don’t think we’re in a position where we need to be hunting down more projects right now.

  • Bill N

    Clearly you don;t understand the plan. You see since part of the plan is “traffic calming” letting the streets turn to pot holed gravel will calm traffic.

  • Bill N

    I look forward to seeing if the city can manage a balanced project that does all that is possible with the relatively (in relation to the need) little funding that is available. Citizen input is particularly important here.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    How much of that do you seriously consider likely?

  • nancy bickel

    Hey, Berkeley folks, this is your chance to let the City know about flooding or broken roads you think should have high priority. Come on down to South Berekeley Senior Center tomorrow, Saturday, at 10.00. Let’s hear from you.