Tag Archives: Berkeley city budget

Opinionator

Op-ed: A catastrophe waiting to happen

College Avenue tree before and after it fell. Photos: Peter Y. Sussman (left) and John Holland on Oct. 24, 2016 (right).
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The tree that crashed down on the sidewalk and one private yard and home on Monday somehow didn’t hit any pedestrians or motorists on that heavily traveled part of College Avenue. Next time we are unlikely to be that lucky.

And there will be a next time, as the stress cracks on surrounding sidewalks make clear.

Those lifted and fractured sidewalk plates — whether damaged by root growth or leaning trees — are already hazardous to pedestrians and wheelchair users, … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Pension problem fairy tale

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Berkeley has more than a half-billion dollar pension problem deficit which will increase substantially for decades to come. This appears to be an insurmountable problem. But it need not be. Consider:

The city has about 216 miles of roads and 300 miles of sidewalks according to the Public Works website. The city website says Berkeley has 400 miles of sidewalks. It costs between one to two million dollars a mile to rehabilitate a badly deteriorated road – therefore I assume that you could build a new road for roughly the same price.

The city should deed its roads and sidewalks to Public Employee Pension Fund ( PERS ) in exchange for PERS forgiving Berkeley’s half billion dollar debt and all future contributions.

This transaction would generate a 1.5% transfer tax to the city of Berkeley immediately ($7.5 million) which the city could squander at the pleasure of the council and staff. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Vote ‘yes’ on Measure T1, the $100M bond measure

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No, infrastructure is not “sexy”, but it is critical to our quality of life. And Berkeley has not invested adequately in it for many years. We need to change that.

Enter Measure T1. T1 authorizes a $100 million bond to renew our parks and failing critical infrastructure. Although bond money from Measure M (streets and watershed, 2012) and parcel tax money from Measure F (parks, 2014) have helped, we have much more to do. Even the highest priority repairs are not being made in some facilities, while parks, storm sewers, and our watersheds need major investments. We’re losing ground.

Now is the time. If deterioration continues, the costs increase dramatically as timely maintenance becomes impossible and we need more repair or rebuilding. And, very importantly, bond prices are at historic lows. We learned from Measures M and F how to cooperate across Commissions in a transparent, robust community process to determine priorities. We can move ahead with T1 investments using what we’ve learned in an inclusive, effective way. … Continue reading »

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12 Berkeley measures will determine city’s infrastructure, education budget, campaign financing and more

Berkeley students carry Yes on E1 signs during the Solano Stroll. Photo: Yes on E1 campaign
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As a presidential campaign colored by controversy inches ever closer, local races and campaigns struggle to be heard amid the cacophony. But Berkeley’s ballot is packed with measures that will determine the near-future of the city’s infrastructure, affordable housing stock, education budget, and campaign finance system.

We’ve rounded up the 12 measures that will be on your ballot Nov. 8, taking a look at what they would change and who is gunning for them to pass.

Click the links to jump to the section of interest.

Measure T1: Infrastructure bond

What it would do: Measure T1 would authorize the city to issue up to $100 million of general obligation bonds to fix and rebuild Berkeley infrastructure over a 40-year period. Initially, property owners would be taxed at a rate of $6.35 per $100,000 of assessed value. That amount would increase as new bonds were issued, up to a high of $31.26 per $100,000. The maximum interest rate that could be paid on the bonds would be 6 percent.

See complete 2016 election coverage on Berkeleyside.

The proceeds from Measure T1 would go toward the repair or renovation of sidewalks, streets, storm drains, parks, city senior and recreation centers, and other facilities. One percent of the proceeds will be used for public art incorporated in the infrastructure. The measure also requires a public input process. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Berkeley’s fiscal condition is not good. Really

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Berkeley’s fiscal condition is analogous to the global climate condition — not at all good, moving in the wrong direction, and portending eventual disaster. The City however, has somehow managed to develop a comprehensive and intricate Climate Action Plan (!) but not a Fiscal Action Plan.

For the last ten years at least, there have been numerous fiscal warnings and analyses from a wide variety of sources — City Managers Kamlarz and Daniel, the City Auditor, concerned citizens including myself, … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley fumbles future: lacks long-term vision and financing strategy for our public commons

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Once again, as in an seemingly endless ‘ground-hog day’ loop, the Berkeley City Council is busy with its every-other-year ballot exercise, considering various bond financing measures for the 2016 November. Much is desperately needed in Berkeley, and many competing needs are being pressed by a large number of community groups.

The city’s neglect of adequate capital and capital repair financing of vital and central public spaces, facilities and services has left these essential elements in disrepair and in unsafe or … Continue reading »

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Community

Berkeley pier unlikely to re-open before 2018

The Berkeley pier was shuttered indefinitely on July 22, 2105 after Berkeley officials determined it was structurally unsound. Photo: Dorothy Brown
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It’s going to cost so much to repair Berkeley’s historic fishing pier that the city can’t even afford to study the issue until mid-2017 at the soonest.

That’s according to a brief report released last week by Dee Williams-Ridley, Berkeley’s interim city manager.

Williams-Ridley told the Berkeley City Council in the Feb. 9 memo that the city had hoped to have a consultant “investigate possible methods to repair portions of the pier and the potential costs, but the needed scope and cost associated with the work has escalated beyond the limits” of the approved budget.

Williams told council the analysis itself is likely to cost between $150,000 and $200,000, and said that allocation won’t be considered until the budget cycles for 2017-18 and the following year.

Scroll to the bottom of this story for a brief update from the city.

“The pier is a beloved asset to the entire region, and staff will continue to research grant opportunities with the hope of finding funding to repair the pier,” she wrote. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley’s ancient ruins — A photo essay

Berkeley High warm water pool. Photo: Mark Hendrix
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On July 1, 2014, the recently retired Director of Public Works, Andrew Clough, gave a somber presentation to City Council on the condition of facilities in Berkeley.

The information report accompanying his presentation stated the following:

“During the past 25 years, the City has deferred maintenance on many City buildings, decreasing the value of the assets and diminishing the utility of the buildings for City programs.”

The report went on to state (in bold):

 “To reiterate: at the current funding levels maintenance, … Continue reading »

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Equity Residential to sell 8 Berkeley apartment buildings

Four of the Berkeley properties Equity Residential is selling. Photo: Eastdil Secured
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Equity Residential, which owns eight buildings with 452 apartments in Berkeley, as well as the entitlement rights to build the 205-unit Acheson Commons complex on University Avenue, is putting its entire Berkeley portfolio up for sale.

No price is mentioned on the listing documents prepared by Eastdil Secured, Equity’s advisor and broker, but the sale should be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That could mean millions of dollars in transfer taxes for Berkeley’s general fund. … Continue reading »

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Interim city manager talks pensions, parks and perks

Berkeley's new interim city manager fielded question from the North East Berkeley Association at a public meeting Oct. 22
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New to Berkeley and even newer to her role as interim city manager, Dee Williams-Ridley gave residents one of their first chances to get to know her last week at a public forum hosted by the North East Berkeley Association at the Northbrae Community Church.

Questions at the Oct. 22 event from moderators and the public covered a range of issues facing Berkeley, including the minimum wage, city employee salaries, and the NAACP’s recommendation for the creation of a city department that would handle race and equity issues. Throughout the evening, Williams-Ridley took a mostly friendly and humorous, but at times assertive, tone, telling the audience that she had been warned they would be “tough.” She declined to answer some questions, including about potential future ballot measures, saying several times that she is not responsible for policy decisions.

Williams-Ridley inherits the city from Christine Daniel, who abruptly left her post in July for a job with the city of Oakland. The city council appointed Williams-Ridley, who had been deputy city manager since January, to fill the position. An Alabama native and graduate of California State University, Sacramento, Williams-Ridley previously worked as deputy city manager of Modesto for four years. She commutes to her current job from Sacramento and said she spends the night in Berkeley once or twice a week. She receives a salary of $225,000. … Continue reading »

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Photographs: An ode to the shuttered Berkeley pier

The Berkeley pier by Dorothy Brown
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By Dorothy Brown

There is something mysterious and perhaps even romantic about abandoned spaces. The rust and decay can have a certain kind of beauty, and can engage our imaginations as we wonder what the place might have been like in its prime. Movies often employ a time-fade technique where decrepitude is gradually replaced by the life and color of earlier years. A different time.

How strange, then, to witness the day the change happens. The day a familiar site goes from lively to off-limits.

On July 22, 2015, without warning or ceremony, the Berkeley Pier was fenced off and closed to the public. The pier has long been a favorite spot for fisherfolk, runners, strollers, and anyone who appreciates a knockout view and a breathtaking sunset. I always found it a friendly place. … Continue reading »

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Community

Citing structural problems, Berkeley closes historic pier

The historic Berkeley pier has been closed to the public due to structural problems. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The city of Berkeley has announced the closure of its historic municipal fishing pier due to “considerable structural damage” that has made the popular walkway unsafe for the public.

Damage to the concrete decking and support system of the pier was found during an assessment earlier this summer. Signage and fencing have been posted in the area to cut off access pending the repairs, but where the money will come from to fix the problem remains an open question. The city did not respond Thursday to a request for additional information.

The announcement, in a memo from the city manager to the Berkeley City Council, was posted online Thursday. It comes after a decision earlier in the month to prohibit heavy trucks on the pier due to the structural issues. As a result, the city paid $7,900 to set off its Fourth of July fireworks from a barge rather than using the historic walkway, which juts out into the San Francisco Bay at the end of University Avenue.

The city discovered the structural damage prior to July 4 when it began looking into proposed repairs that would have made the pier smoother for wheelchairs, a city staffer told the Parks and Waterfront Commission earlier this month. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: City manager’s departure is big blow to Berkeley

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The North East Berkeley Association (NEBA) recently convened a board meeting for the express purpose of discussing the sudden resignation of the City Manager Christine Daniel.

We believe the loss to the city of Ms. Daniel reflects a very serious and growing problem within our city government.

Although we did not always agree with Ms. Daniel on many policy decisions, we appreciated her clarity, brevity, breadth of knowledge, and amazing ability to stay on top of almost all city … Continue reading »

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