The city of Berkeley is reaching out to community members who are passionate about the city’s aging infrastructure and wants them to weigh in on how to spend a new influx of bond money from Measure T1, approved by voters in November.
Three workshops have been planned to collect input and help people learn about the purpose of the bonds, and the first one comes this Saturday, March 18. It’s focused on city parks and general facilities. Another workshop is set to look at streets and stormwater infrastructure, and a third will be a catch-all for further input, as well as a report back to the community. Meeting details appear at the bottom of this story.
The T1 bond will direct $100 million to the city, with about $32 million coming in during the project’s first phase. Streets, sidewalks, storm drains, parks and community centers are all set to be improved as part of the overall process.
“Current projects include seismic and other improvements to the James Kenney Community Center, reconstructing the Berkeley Rose Garden Trellis and improving paths there, renovating the tennis and basketball courts at Grove Park, paving streets, repairing or building sidewalks, and installing green infrastructure projects that help reduce flooding and protect our creeks,” according to a statement released by the city earlier this month.
Timothy Burroughs, an assistant to the city manager who has helped organize the workshops, said the bond money will help the city accelerate improvements to the infrastructure that community members “rely on every day.” He said the city is excited to get information from the community as the process moves ahead.
City staff has created an initial set of recommendations after looking at criteria such as safety needs, geographic equity, environmental sustainability and disaster preparedness. Burroughs said staff looked closely at infrastructure that has a daily function as well as a disaster preparedness function.
The North Berkeley Senior Center is one example, he said. Staff has proposed that the city leverage a time-sensitive grant from FEMA along with Measure T1 dollars to renovate the center, “which serves hundreds of seniors every day and also would serve as a care and shelter site in the event of a disaster,” Burroughs said. Proposed upgrades include seismic work, and energy and water efficiency improvements, as well as “operational upgrades.”
But those staff recommendations are just a starting point, he said: The city wants to hear from the community about what it wants the money to be used for.
To aid in that process, the city has, for the first time, created what it’s calling a “story map” where community members can view three different datasets to get a complete picture of what the city is doing as far as infrastructure: the staff recommendations for Measure T1 projects; projects funded through fiscal year 2017; and proposed projects from July 2017 through June 2019. The map includes basic information about each project, along with its projected cost. The city hopes local residents will use the information and maps to guide their input going forward.
(Though the projects are listed by number, those numbers do not indicate any sort of ranking or priority, the city said.)
The bond will provide important financial support to Berkeley, which has over $500 million in unfunded infrastructure needs: “a significant problem that results in deferred maintenance and disrepair in existing infrastructure and buildings,” according to the prepared statement. “The November bond measure will help address some of the unfunded need.”
In 2017-18, the city has budgeted about $23.5 million for capital improvements and maintenance, which includes recurring capital improvement and maintenance funds for parks, city facilities, sewers, storm drains, sidewalks, and streets. (This does not include T1 money.)
Staff and commissioners are set to make its T1 spending recommendations to the Berkeley City Council in June for the upcoming fiscal year. There will be additional public engagement opportunities for future phases of the project, the city says.
Meeting details and further information
All workshops, which have been organized by city staff, the Public Works Commission and the Parks & Recreation Commission, will be wheelchair-accessible. Community members can also provide feedback to the city by email. Mid-April is the recommended deadline, though no official deadline has been set.
- Workshop #1, parks and general City facilities: Saturday, March 18, 10 a.m. to noon, Frances Albrier Community Center, 2800 Park St.
- Workshop #2, streets and storm water infrastructure: Saturday, March 25, noon to 2 p.m., Live Oak Community Center, 1301 Shattuck Ave.
- Workshop #3, additional input on staff recommendations, summarizing input gathered to date: Saturday, April 8, 10 a.m. to noon, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, 1910 Russell St.