Berkeleyside

Berkeley resolutions for 2014 – and how 2013 went

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New year, new dawn: winter solstice sunrise over Berkeley. Photo: Ira Serkes

New years bring new hopes, for cities as well as for each of us individually. Berkeleyside has an established tradition of clearing the decks on New Year’s Day and offering up ten resolutions for what we’d like to see in Berkeley in the coming year. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. In the interest of gauging progress, we also review how our 2013 resolutions fared.

1. An interesting election year

Too often, there’s little mystery in local elections. In Berkeley in particular, incumbents seem to have significant advantage, with challengers regularly frustrated. But this year’s local elections will guarantee some change: on the City Council, incumbent Gordon Wozniak will not run for re-election, and in the State Assembly, Nancy Skinner is termed out. On top of that, redistricting (subject to a possible referendum challenge) could change things for Kriss Worthington in student super-majority District 7. Jesse Arreguín and Linda Maio, in districts 4 and 1, are also up for reelection, and there are three contested school board seats.  

2. Change on Telegraph

Old Cody's building, Telegraph 5/6. Photo: Tracey TaylorHow many years might we have been wishing for this? But there are reasons to think 2014 might be different: first-hour free parking in the Telegraph Channing Garage, construction starting on the long-blighted Telegraph and Haste corner, and, perhaps most intriguing, new vice chancellor for real estate Robert Lalanne’s announced determination to “getting some things done” for the Avenue.

3. Restaurants as engines for neighborhood improvements

The impact of Comal on downtown — and now places like Build, Eureka! and Pathos — has been salutary. Across the border, look at what’s happened to Temescal and Uptown in Oakland. Maybe restaurants can give the same push to the Lorin District and the burgeoning Sacramento St. area, both in South Berkeley.

4. Improvement at Memorial Stadium

Berkeleyside can’t cover everything that moves in Berkeley (although that’s an aspiration), and we probably give short shrift to sports. But even we would like to see a winning football team at Cal (new coach Sonny Dykes has a winning personality, but his team finished 1-11 in 2013) and, more importantly, a big shift in the academic performance of Cal’s football team, which finished dead last among 72 major conference schools with a 44% graduation rate for students who enrolled between 2003 and 2007. Athletic director Sandy Barbour concedes the problem and has said she’s determined to change it.

5. Continued cheer on the campus

CalLuck is an underrated element in leadership. UC Chancellor Nicholas Dirks had the good fortune to arrive just as the state’s budgetary crisis lifted, which helped give his inaugural term a decidedly sunny disposition. The university knows it can never rely on the state again, but let’s hope there are fewer state-driven funding crises.

6. A city more attractive to young people

We all love Berkeley, but a younger generation tends to head to Oakland or San Francisco for fun. We can hope that a restaurant resurgence will also bring with it a more buzzy bar and nightlife scene, coupled perhaps with more cultural events geared to the Millennials.

7. Zero homicides

Nothing original about this: we wished for the same last year. Tragically, four homicides occurred in 2013, although the long-term trends for all crimes in Berkeley remains positive.

8. A city, and citizens, prepared for emergencies

Berkeley CERT training, May 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso Although too many of us like to forget about it, Berkeley will have a major earthquake one day. The city’s emergency services work hard to promote community emergency response training (CERT), but more citizens need to get involved. We certainly don’t hope for the Big One in 2014, but we want the city, and its citizens, to be ready.

9. High-tech Berkeley finds its feet

Exciting things are happening with the Berkeley Start-up Cluster, the Skydeck Business Accelerator, various co-working spaces, and informal groupings of small tech companies in West Berkeley. Let’s keep it going.

10. Distinguished new buildings

We’ve chronicled an impending wave of development in Berkeley. But so far none of the plans rise above slightly better than average. Why can’t Berkeley have buildings that display an ambition in architecture and design that matches the city’s ambitions in other fields?

How did we do on our best hopes for 2013?

So how did we do on our best hopes for the past year, as outlined 12 months ago? We award ourselves zero for no change (or going backwards), a 1/2 point for some improvement and a full point for true progress.

1. Gain clarity on the future of West Berkeley. There’s a burgeoning Maker cluster in West Berkeley, the “drinks district” is gaining adherents, the U and Fourth development is thriving, and SoFo (South of Fourth) is becoming a reality. But the long-term planning issues remain unresolved. 1/2 point

2. Get the streets fixed. You can drive up Dwight without needing a new suspension, but a lot remains to be done. Let’s keep the pressure on the city to keep working. 1/2 point

3. Downtown progress becomes concrete. It’s too soon to consider it job done, but continued improvements and a changed climate downtown are not a blip. With lots of new construction planned, the corner is truly turned. 1 point

4. Leadership for Berkeley schools. We set a low bar: find a superintendent. The school board did that, but it’s going to take more time to judge Donald Evans in the role. 1/2 point

5. Growing restaurant excitement. Oakland deserves more buzz, but lots of good things have happened in Berkeley, particularly downtown: Build, Pathos, Eureka! (can we drop the exclamation mark, please?). 1 point

6. More edginess in visual arts. The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive continues to be a great resource (the Yang Fudong exhibition was a highlight), and we have a lot of time for the Berkeley Art Center, Kala Art Institute and Paulson Bott Press, but this wasn’t the year that edginess reached Berkeley. 0 points

7. Find a new home for Off the Grid. The final deal hasn’t been sealed, but it looks like food truck market OTG will be coming to North Berkeley BART this year. 1 point

8. Zero homicides. A very sad year: 2013 saw four homicides in Berkeley. 0 points

9. Find the right solution for the main post office. There are city-backed lawsuits and protests, but a solution looks as far away as ever. 0 points

10. Keep the differences, but bring back civility. Political debate in Berkeley remains heated, but opponents generally observed the proprieties in 2013. 1 point

Out of 10, we tallied 5½ points. Not bad, but not great. Let us know if you agree with our assessments.

Related:
Berkeley resolutions for 2013 — and how we did in 2012 (01.01.13)
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)

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  • Bill N

    I like #’s 6 and 10 and sadly wish number 7 would come true. Six and ten are within our power but number 7 is more than a local problem. Number 2 (telegraph Ave) be that will be an interesting one but a new VC for Real Estate won’t do much with out Berkeley getting off it nostalgic ass about Telegraph.

  • Charles_Siegel

    “none of the plans rise above slightly better than average”

    I think El Jardin is anything but average. Depending on who you ask, it is either much better or much worse than average.

    I would say that Acheson Commons is an excellent model for architecture and urban design – far above average.

  • Chris J

    A nice general assessment, and hard to dispute your point system as it’s all so subjective and arbitrary, but a good impetus for discussion. More restaurants could be a stimulus for more business growth in various districts.

    I am particularly sanguine about the future of Berkeley economically and follow with interest the new businesses.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Is “More edginess in visual arts” a sensible goal?

    Did Michelangelo or Vermeer deliberately try to be edgy? When did edginess become a goal in art, and has art gotten better or worse since?

    It seems to me that, if artists aim at being edgy, they are likely to focus on ways to be new and different rather than focusing on quality. I suspect that the artist who designed the giant tuning fork at Shattuck and Center and the commission that approved it were trying very hard to be edgy.