With the Berkeley City Council beginning its 2014 season this month, Berkeleyside is trying out a new short overview in advance of each meeting, time allowing, after taking inspiration from the East Bay Citizen, an independent local news site to the south.
Special session on violence prevention
Tuesday night, Jan. 28, council will hold a special session at 5 p.m. on violence prevention (Item 1), along with a status report on its 2020 Vision initiative (Item 2). The violence prevention session came out of a referral from Councilwoman Linda Maio following several homicides in 2013 that took place in her district. It resulted in a 7-page report from Deputy City Manager William Rogers that takes a look at youth violence prevention efforts underway by the city and the Berkeley Unified School District. The 2020 Vision report will include updates from City Manager Christine Daniel and school Superintendent Donald Evans. The session is a joint meeting between the council and the Berkeley School Board. (Read more on Berkeleyside about 2020 Vision here.)
What’s on the regular agenda?
During its regular session at 7 p.m., council is slated to take action on several items, including a property at 2133 Parker St., which previously had been deemed a public nuisance due to issues there related to the mini-dorm problem (Item 6); and how to handle a proposed historic overlay district downtown (Item 8) that’s been suggested as a way to protect the downtown Berkeley post office, which has faced threats of sale. See the full agenda.
Nuisance conditions at 2133 Parker: What it means The property owner at 2133 Parker St. agreed on a settlement with the city last fall, which triggered a public hearing about what will happen on the site moving forward. Under the agreement, the owner “would be obligated to perform certain pro-active measures to avoid nuisance conditions through the end of 2014.” In return, the city would backtrack on a demand that the property owner remove 10 bedrooms from the home. The owner had filed a lawsuit against the city following that determination. If the settlement terms are met, “the owner would dismiss his suit and the City would retain full authority to address any future nuisance conditions or Zoning Ordinance violations at the property.”
Proposed historic overlay: What it means The city’s Planning Commission has been hard at work since last summer on a proposal for a “historic overlay” downtown that’s designed to “preserve and enhance the civic uses” in the downtown core. According to the staff report, during three commission meetings last year, “over a hundred citizens showed up and expressed their firm support for such an overlay. Several speakers dissented due to their belief that the overlay would needlessly constrain allowable uses within the historic buildings and could possibly lead to vacant or underutilized spaces when such buildings are vacated by their original tenants.” The city already has a Civic Center Historic District, which was established in 1998. Though discussion of the post office is conspicuously absent from Tuesday night’s staff report, according to an earlier report by Councilman Jesse Arreguín, the new overlay “will also ensure that the Downtown Post Office can only be utilized for a civic or community-oriented use, and may help influence the USPS decide a more favorable future use for the building.” City staff are looking for feedback from council about the overlay idea, which could result eventually in a proposed ordinance to be considered later.
A 10% increase for Gilman Field permit fees (Item 7) is also on the agenda.
The consent calendar includes council donations to community groups and efforts, including Resources for Community Development, the Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center, and Black History Month.
Save the Post Office demo also happening
Tonight, separately to the meeting, there’s also a rally before council sits organized by the Campaign to Save the Berkeley Post Office. It’s at 6:30 p.m. outside Old City Hall and some demonstrators are likely to also attend the meeting.
The Berkeley City Council meets Tuesday nights at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Special sessions generally take place at 5:30 p.m. and regular meetings begin at 7 p.m. (The Jan. 28 special session begins at 5 p.m.) Council agendas are available online here. Watch the meetings online here.
Berkeleyside often covers the city council meetings live on Twitter. Others sometimes do the same and the discussion can get lively! Follow council coverage on Twitter via hashtag #berkmtg. Follow along in real-time here, and tag your tweets with #berkmtg if you’d like to join in.
Council-related Twitter handles: @MayorTomBates; @LindaMaio (District 1); Darryl Moore @BerkCouncil (District 2); @JesseArreguin (District 4); Laurie Capitelli @berkcap (District 5); Kriss Worthington @k__worthington (District 7); Gordon Wozniak @Gordon_Wozniak (District 8)
Learn more about the Berkeley City Council and how to connect with local representatives via the city website.
Is there something else on the agenda that’s caught your interest? Please let us know in the comments below.