New Year’s resolutions for Berkeley from Berkeleyside

‘Storm over Berkeley.’ Photo: Daniel Parks

In the early days of Berkeleyside, we took a deep breath at the start of the year and offered some resolutions for the city. We decided at the outset of 2019 – the year in which we’ll celebrate our 10th birthday – to revive our resolutions. We asked Berkeleyside members who participate in our Berkeleyside Insiders Facebook group to offer suggestions, and you’ll see hat tips to those we’ve taken up. Let us know what you hope to see in Berkeley this year in the comments.

1. Don’t forget the sidewalks

As we’ve chronicled on Berkeleyside, the state of Berkeley’s roads continues to deteriorate. Astoundingly, 2018 was a year of zero progress, despite $8.6 million set aside in the city budget (and zero progress means going backwards, since bad streets get worse without repairs). But it isn’t just streets that are a problem. Many of Berkeley’s sidewalks are also in poor shape. For many people – children, the elderly, people who use wheelchairs, the visually impaired – broken or uneven sidewalks make navigating around the city dangerous. Along with improved streets, let’s make sure bad sidewalks are tackled in the coming year. (h/t Peter Sussman)

2. Housing… and more housing

Realists can’t expect dramatic change in a single year to our regional housing crisis, but wouldn’t it be heartening to see some real progress in housing supply?

3. And what about offices?

Development debates in Berkeley have long centered around housing. That’s where the need is most desperate, and it’s also where private sector developers have traditionally found the most opportunity. As a result, there is not much of a Berkeley market for good office space. WeWork plans to open in the fall of 2019 six floors of office space in the university’s new 2121 Berkeley Way building, adding to its existing seven-story co-working space at 2120 University Ave. The old UC Press Building right across the street is being expanded to six stories of new office space. But there’s not much else planned. Meanwhile, neighboring Oakland is going through a real boom in office space. If we want a truly vital downtown Berkeley, more office workers will be key, along with the various apartment complexes that are already planned.


4. Arts debuts

It’s been a long time since there have been major shifts at the tops of Berkeley arts organizations. But two of the local giants – Berkeley Rep and Cal Performances – are in transition. At the Rep, artistic director Tony Taccone gave managing director Susie Medak and the board plenty of time to search for his successor. Johanna Pfaelzer arrives from New York Stage and Film for the 2019-20 season. There’s been no announcement yet about the permanent successor at Cal Performances to executive director Matías Tarnopolsky, who left last summer to head the Philadelphia Orchestra (Rob Bailis and Shariq Yosufzai are running Cal Performances on an interim basis). A new head is expected to be announced early in the year. Let’s hope change at these two flagships produces even more artistic innovation and vigor in Berkeley.

5. Data please

Compare Oakland’s data portal to Berkeley’s. Oakland currently provides 630 datasets, while Berkeley offers 28 (New York City, by the way, offers over 2,000 datasets). Transparency and accessibility of data is key to enabling informed citizens in our democracy. (h/t Steve Kromer)

6. Creative solutions to Pacific Steel site

One of the articles that Berkeleyside was proudest to publish in 2018 was Frances Dinkelspiel’s longform look at the rise and fall of Pacific Steel Casting, which closed after 84 years (one of many stories on the plant that we’ve reported since 2011). There’s now a large site in west Berkeley that could turn into something vibrant and new. Let’s find those ideas in 2019.

7. Police numbers

The Berkeley Police Department is currently more than 20 sworn officers below its fully authorized level. But the more worrying trend was revealed in Emilie Raguso’s recent investigation into the police staffing crisis: “Of the 53 officers BPD has hired since (December 2015), only 27 are still with the department.” Let’s end up with more officers at the end of 2019 than the start. That seems a modest enough resolution.

8. On the waterfront

City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley recently released a report confirming that Berkeley’s waterfront is at a “crisis point.” The Marine Enterprise Fund – which manages waterfront revenues and expenditures – can’t keep up with the necessary repairs, to say nothing of investments for the future of the waterfront. HS Lordships closed in July, and there are no signs that anyone is thinking about a future for the site. The status quo on the waterfront is unacceptable at what should be a civic jewel.

What do you want for the city in the coming year?