Tag Archives: Berkeley city budget


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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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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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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Op-ed: The decay of Berkeley’s infrastructure

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On May 12, the city of Berkeley’s budget manager, Teresa Berkeley-Simmons, will present to city council the proposed spending over the next five years for capital improvements. This includes money to be spent on sidewalks, streets, parks, storm drains, sewers, and transportation such as bike improvement projects.

Between 2016 and 2020, Berkeley plans to decrease its spending on infrastructure by 43% from approximately $36 million to $20 million, a reduction of $15 million.

This cut is despite an acknowledgment by Christine Daniel, the city manager, that “Berkeley is an aging city and thus its infrastructure faces challenges that other younger cities do not.” … Continue reading »

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Nonprofit accuses city of Berkeley of ‘unethical contracting practices’ for new homeless center

Berkeley's new approach to homeless services. Image: City of Berkeley
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The city of Berkeley says it will change its commission recommendation process after a community agency brought allegations of serious conflicts of interest during a recent bid for municipal funding.

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) raised these concerns in an April 16 letter to city officials after bidding to run a new one-stop homelessness services center for which the city plans to issue a contract next month.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

BOSS and one other agency, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project (BFHP), put in bids in December to run the new center. Both service organizations are based in Berkeley, and have worked in the city since the early 1970s. BOSS requested $450,145 to run the center, and the BFHP requested $996,899 for the job. The city’s Homelessness Commission and city manager have recommended that the contract go to the BFHP, and council is slated to make its decision next month.

The commission report said only that the BOSS application did “not contain all of the necessary functions” required by the city in its request for proposals.

BOSS challenged the commission recommendation in April, saying two Homeless Commission members affiliated with the BFHP and another group, YEAH, should not have taken part in the discussions. BOSS wrote that their “organizations will gain financial resources as a result of their participation in the funding discussions and eventual funding recommendations” made by the commission and the city. … Continue reading »

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Local man pushes for better restrooms at Berkeley park

Berkeley resident Martin Nicolaus has been petitioning for cleaner, more permanent restrooms in Cesar Chavez Park since this March. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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For years, Berkeley resident Martin Nicolaus has been coming out to César Chávez Park to admire its natural beauty and take photographs — a collection of which he published in a book last December.

But over the past four months, Nicolaus, who is arguably the park’s number one fan, has been engaged in a more earnest mission: to persuade the city to install cleaner, permanent restrooms in Berkeley’s largest park.

A Berkeley resident since 1992, Nicolaus sets up his base-camp by the two portable bathrooms by the park’s entrance on Spinnaker Way to collect signatures and video-interview park users on their experiences using the toilets. He said over the past decade he has often seen the portable toilets in near-unusable condition, and has been frustrated by the lack of action to improve them. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Down the garden path with Berkeley City Council

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“The City’s budget is a reflection of City policies, goals, and priorities. The budget process assigns resources to address the goals, objectives, and community priorities set by the City Council.” Christine Daniels, City Manager

When the parks tax (Measure F) was passed by an overwhelming majority last fall, most residents probably assumed that the revenue raised would go toward finally fixing the dilapidated state of the city’s parks. After all, all the city council members were firmly on board … Continue reading »

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