Tag Archives: City of Berkeley

Government

New deputy city manager has been hired for Berkeley

Jovan D. Grogan
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Come September, the city of Berkeley will finally be getting a new deputy city manager, officials announced Wednesday.

The position has been filled on an interim basis for more than a year, ever since the person who used to hold the role — Dee Williams-Ridley — took over for prior City Manager Christine Daniel when she left for Oakland in July 2015. It’s the second highest position in the city’s municipal leadership.

Jovan Grogan has now been appointed to the role. He is currently the deputy city manager of Concord, “where he has earned the respect of the City Council and staff for his work to improve city services and address budgetary challenges, as the City recovered from the recent recession,” according to a memo to the Berkeley City Council that Williams-Ridley sent out Tuesday.

Concord, which has a population of about 126,000 people, is the largest city in Contra Costa County.

Grogan is set to begin working for the city of Berkeley on Sept. 12. His annual salary will be $200,000.

Grogan has a background in municipal financial planning, along with “skills in labor relations, infrastructure management, performance measurement, and economic development,” wrote Williams-Ridley.

“Jovan is a gifted leader and we are eager to bring him to Berkeley. His strong background in finance and commitment to serving the community make him the perfect fit,” she said in a prepared statement.

Grogan said Wednesday he is excited about his new role.

“Berkeley is an amazing city,” he said. “As a native of the Bay Area, I cherish the opportunity to serve the citizens of Berkeley, and the partnership that I’ll have with the city manager and the council.”Continue reading »

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Photo gallery: Berkeley celebrates National Night Out

National Night Out, Aug. 2, 2016. Photo: City of Berkeley
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Community members all over Berkeley came together Tuesday to celebrate the annual National Night Out event. They danced, held potlucks, and had a chance to connect with police and firefighters as well as city staff and local officials across about 80 different block parties. The event is designed to help neighbors connect with each other in the interest of safety and build stronger ties with a range of city services, too. The photo gallery below captures some of the highlights from this year’s event.

Have more photos? Share them in the comments. Scroll down for a map of all the block parties registered this year, and learn how to sign up next year. … Continue reading »

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Government

Grand jury dings city of Berkeley on email transparency

Rene C. Davidson Courthouse. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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An Alameda County grand jury has criticized the city of Berkeley’s approach to municipal emails, which are automatically purged after 90 days unless employees manually take steps to save them.

The grand jury report, released Tuesday, noted that Berkeley is one of just four cities in Alameda County that does not automatically archive emails and keep them for the two years required by the state for most public records.

The report urged the retention of all city emails for at least two years.

According to the report, city of Berkeley employees “must examine all email they receive with the complicated rules of the PRA [Public Records Act] in mind. They must then take the time to individually save or print each public record prior to its being automatically purged from the email server after 90 days.”Continue reading »

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Berkeley launches first ‘Resilience Strategy’ in Bay Area

Berkeley CERT training, May 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Never one to shirk a challenge, the city of Berkeley has come up with an ambitious plan designed to take on everything from racial and social inequity to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.

And, no, this is not an April Fools’ Day joke.

Friday, the city released its “Resilience Strategy,” a 56-page document that attempts to look at “some of Berkeley’s most pressing physical, social and economic challenges, including earthquakes, wildfire, the impacts of climate change and racial inequity.”

The effort is the culmination to date of work Berkeley is doing as part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s “100 Resilient Cities network,” or 100RC for short. The city was among the first 33 places in the world — along with San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda — chosen to participate in the network back in 2013. (Alameda later lost the grant.) More than 1,000 cities have applied to take part.

Leading the charge in Berkeley is Chief Resilience Officer Timothy Burroughs, who was already working for the city with its Climate Action Plan efforts when he was selected for the gig.

A community event led by Mayor Tom Bates, along with Burroughs, is scheduled to take place Friday from 3-5 p.m. to celebrate the launch. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for details.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley planning chief to leave for Contra Costa County

Photo: Eric Angstadt
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Update, Feb. 26, 10:11 a.m. The city manager’s office sent the following notice to city officials at 10:05 a.m.

“It is with sadness that I inform you that Eric Angstadt has submitted his resignation as Planning Director effective March 25, 2016 to become the Chief Assistant County Administrator for Contra Costa County. Eric came to Berkeley in April 2012 as the Planning Director. Among the achievements during his tenure, he managed the expansion of Permit Service Center responsibilities and staff to address increasing demands for land use and building permit approvals for 2,500 units of housing, implemented a balcony inspection program, and adopted revisions to improve zoning and land use appeals. We will miss Eric and I wish him the best in his future role.

“I have asked Carol Johnson, the Land Use Planning Manager, to serve as Acting Planning Department Director effective March 25, 2016. Carol has over 25 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. She has been the Land Use Planning Manager for the City of Berkeley since May 2014. Prior to that she has served as the Planning Manager for the cities of Concord, CA and Phoenix, AZ. Accomplishments in those positions resulted in the Concord Downtown Plan, the Concord Safe Routes to Transit Plan, launching the Phoenix General Plan Update, and creating the Downtown Phoenix Code. Carol has also worked as a planner in various capacities for cities in the states of Connecticut and Washington, and as a consultant in the private sector. Please join me with congratulating Carol on her new assignment.”

Added Williams-Ridley in a statement to Berkeleyside: “The City of Berkeley is losing an exceptional leader and an exemplary professional. We wish him the best as he moves on.”

Original story, Feb. 25, 6:51 p.m. Berkeley planning director Eric Angstadt is leaving the city of Berkeley for a new job as a chief assistant county administrator with Contra Costa County. … Continue reading »

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How the California-wide drought is affecting Berkeley

High School students helped the Friends of Five Creeks remove invasive fennel from the mouth of Schoolhouse Creek in Berkeley in August. Photo: Friends of Five Creeks.
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The brown lawns are the least of it. The effects of the current California-wide drought go deeper than the roots of the grass and will continue several years after lawns turn green again.

Many of the impacts are very evident in Berkeley and the surrounding area. Trees are dying at a higher rate. The creeks are low and might be dry if it weren’t for leaky pipes. And if this winter brings heavy rains, damage to the stressed trees and creek banks could be significant.

One of the most obvious signs of the drought is the early fall color on many trees around town. Tony Wolcott, a master arborist, recently retired as Albany’s Urban Forester, said that the early leaf drop in the fall is a normal reaction to drought.

“It doesn’t mean the tree is dying,” Wolcott said. “It’s not a great thing, but it is a way of surviving,” he said.

But not all the trees will rebound. Wolcott said he’s noticed flowering cherries and flowering plums showing a lot of stress. So are the camphors, which line many streets in Berkeley.

“A lot of the camphors in town are old, but are dying more quickly because of the drought,” he said.  Even redwoods are looking stressed, dropping a lot of needles, he said. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Is the city of Berkeley getting more efficient?

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Maybe the headline should be “man bites dog” but there’s a bit of good news on council’s Tuesday agenda: a vast improvement in timely approval of contracts. Our performance audit “Most Contracts Executed Timely but Contract Project Managers Could Use Better Tools and Guidance” tells the story.

The bigger story here, to me, is the many more substantial improvements I’ve seen in nearly 21 years of auditing city programs and performance. Whether I look at our 2004 audit of contracts, … Continue reading »

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Tilden Park exceeds goals in cutting its water usage

Irrigation was shut down to just part of the Meadows Lawn in Tilden Park, just south of the old pony rides site.
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Berkeley’s Tilden Park reports that it reduced water usage in May — the most recent bill available — by 40% compared to the same period in 2013.  The regional park in the Berkeley Hills has been watering its lawns less and less over the past several years, said Park Supervisor Sergio Huerta.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do, thanks to the creativity of staff,” said Huerta. Huerta was speaking for all of the park grounds except the golf course, which is on a separate water meter. The golf course reports that it has taken one-fifth of the greenways off irrigation — and it’s showing all along the edges.

Throughout the rest of Tilden Park, Huerta said, the lawns have been divided into four categories for watering: reduced, minimal, sporadic and zero. Lawns getting no water this year include the large picnic area called Padre on South Park Drive and the group campsites, Gillespie near the south end of the park, and Wildcat View near the north end. … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley unveils new open data portal

This municipal water map is one of 40 data sets now available in the city of Berkeley's new open data portal. Image: City of Berkeley
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The city of Berkeley has officially launched a new website featuring 17 data sets related to everything from municipal water usage and employee salaries to crime heat maps, energy consumption, restaurant inspections, registered business licenses and much more.

The city unveiled the website, which began on a pilot basis in December, on Thursday. City spokesman Matthai Chakko said the most exciting thing about the project is what the public might do with the information now that it’s available.

“What can be done with open data is limited only by the imagination,” said Dee Ridley-Williams, the city’s new interim city manager, in a prepared statement. “We’re excited to see how the Berkeley community will utilize this new tool.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to repave 11 miles of streets by October

For the complete map, click the image. Photo: Google Maps
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The city of Berkeley is set to repave 11 miles of about 40 streets this summer.

The extensive project is part of an uptick in roadwork that is moving at more than twice the normal rate, according to a statement released by the city last week. The work is funded in large part by Measure M.

The projects, which begin this month and are scheduled to be completed by October, focus on reducing flooding and stormwater runoff by using green building techniques. Pothole repairs and general street repairs were not included in Measure M and are not the focus of this summer’s paving projects, the city said. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley launches public meetings on health inequalities

Age Adjusted Diabetes Hospitalization Rates by Zipcode in Berkeley. Graphic: Berkeley's 2013 Health Status Report
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Berkeley is gearing up for a series of town hall meetings about the state of public health in the city to allow community members to share their thoughts and concerns regarding the improvement of city-wide health priorities.

The discussions are envisioned as a collaboration between Berkeley’s Public Health Division and the community in a “shared effort” to realign public health resources to communities with the greatest needs.

Berkeley released a Health Status Report in 2013 that outlined issues of health inequities between different socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups in the city, prompting a report to the Berkeley City Council recommending that the health division prioritize work to diminish these disparities. It was the city’s first health status update since 2007.

“One of the challenges that we give to ourselves is how can we be sure that even though we’re small, we’re doing the very best that we can to address the health issues in Berkeley that are of top concern to the community, and to us,” said Dr. Janet Berreman, Berkeley’s director of public health.  … Continue reading »

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City, already cutting, digs deeper to slash its water use

A rousing game of capture the flag occupies city of Berkeley campers until their parents pick them up. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Don’t expect lush green parks in Berkeley this summer, unless the watering is a surprise from the skies.

Already slashing its water use 26% last year, the city is taking steps to cut even more, it announced last week. Many of the cutbacks are required by Berkeley’s water supplier, the East Bay Municipal Water District (EBMUD), and/or by the state. They include:

  • No watering of street medians
  • Minimizing vehicle watering
  • Landscape watering, such as in parks and city grounds, twice a week before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. (already in effect last year)

“The City is also . . . exploring the use of reclaimed water for irrigation and street cleaning, and researching options for converting certain landscapes to more drought-tolerant ground cover,” the city said in a recent press release.

Read more on how the drought is affecting Berkeley.

Worth noting: The city’s only water fountain at the Marin Circle uses recycled water, which means it can be kept on as it meets a new state requirement calling for a shutdown of all fresh water fountains. … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley (finally) goes live on Twitter

City spokesman Matthai Chakko. Photo: Matthai Chakko
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After four years of consideration, the city of Berkeley launched its Twitter account Monday afternoon to help improve the consistency and flow of information it provides to the public.

The first tweet from the city? “Hi, Berkeley, we’re here!” was posted just after 12:20 p.m., and followed quickly by a link to a news release about the launch.

The account — @CityofBerkeley — will be a conduit of information from every department, said city spokesman Matthai Chakko, who will run the account. It already had more than 3,400 followers before posting a single tweet.

“The goal is for departments to be communicating much more,” he said. “We want to improve the amount, and the quality and consistency, of information to the public.”

Chakko said last week he was looking forward to the launch.

“What I’m most excited about is that we’ll be communicating with a voice that represents the whole city,” he said. “To have every department involved and communicating is a big step for us. It’s a good step.” … Continue reading »

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