City Council Redistricting Update
On December 17, 2013 the Berkeley City Council on a split 6-3 vote adopted a Redistricting ordinance. Here is a link to a copy of a map of the new district boundaries and the Ordinance.
I voted NO on the redistricting ordinance because I felt that it unfairly divided neighborhoods throughout Berkeley and drew out the Northside area and other student housing communities from District 7. The map the City Council majority adopted in my opinion was a partisan gerrymander and I could not vote for a map that divided communities of interest. Just by following the criteria set forth in the Charter, the United Student District Amendment (USDA) map was superior: it used major streets as boundaries and did not divide communities of interest.
The boundaries of District 4 are largely the same in this map with the exception of the area north of University Avenue. The district line would end mostly at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and north of Cedar Street, there would be a one block extension to keep my block in the District. The district also now goes all the way up to Arch Street on the east.
The new boundaries will go into effect in 30 days unless there are sufficient signatures to referend the ordinance. The boundaries will be in place for the next City Council election in the fall of 2014.
In the past 10 years the City Council has faced citizen opposition to their redistricting plans. In 2002 the Council changed its map in response to a citizen referendum. I think it shows that putting the power to draw lines solely in the hands of the politicians who directly benefit is a problem, and the Council has abused this power. Even though voters voted overwhelmingly to pass Measure R in November 2012 to give Council more flexibility to do redistricting, its clear that such a blank check can be misused. I think we need to take a look at changing the way the City does redistricting, but more on that at a future point.
Berkeley Historical Society Exhibit on History of District 4
Stop by the Berkeley Historical Society Center at 1931 Center Street to view the exhibit
The McGee Spaulding Hardy Historic Interest Group (MSHHIG) is a group of District 4 neighbors dedicated to researching, documenting, and preserving the history of the McGee Spaulding Hardy area (bounded by Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Dwight Way, Sacramento Street and University Avenue). Since its founding in 2000, MSHHIG has landmarked two houses: the Hunter House (built 1895) on California St., and the Fish-Clark House (built 1883) on Dwight Way. They have also created walking tours of the District, produced an 80-page booklet on the history of the District, installed several historical plaques and created a website on the District's history: www.mshhig.com
Starting October 13th, the Berkeley Historical Society will be hosting an exhibit on the McGee Spaulding District. Please stop by the Berkeley Historical Society History Center at the Veterans Building, 1931 Center Street. The Summer 2013 edition of the Berkeley Historical Society Newsletter features an excellent article on the history of the McGee Spaulding District which makes up a large part of Council District 4. Click here to download this great article and learn more about our neighborhood's history.
Save the Downtown Berkeley Post Office Update
There have been a number of developments in the fight to save the Downtown Berkeley Post Office these last
few months. In mid-April, the City and community received word that USPS was planning to proceed with the
“relocation” of postal services from the Berkeley Main Post Office, which would pave the way for selling the
In response to this news, the City Council voted unanimously to formally appeal the decision on April 30, 2013
and reiterated its opposition to any sale of the Post Office. Despite strong community opposition, including
Congresswoman Barbara Lee, State Senator Loni Hancock, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, and County
Supervisor Keith Carson, we learned a couple of weeks ago that USPS rejected the repeal and will proceed
with the relocation of postal services from the Berkeley Main Post Office. Unfortunately, we cannot appeal that decision any further and we have exhausted our administrative remedies; however, we are taking legal action to continue to fight the sale.
We are also taking a parallel track to save the Berkeley Main Post Office. Although the building is not officially
for sale yet, whoever would buy the building would have to comply with city zoning regulations that specify
what uses would be allowed at the site. As a disincentive to USPS selling the building, but also to preserve the Post Office building, I recently introduced an item to explore a zoning overlay for qualified buildings within the Civic Center Historic District to restrict uses to only civic, cultural and community-oriented uses, including the Post Office.
Essentially, the proposal would have the effect of discouraging any buyers who have plans that diverge from
our values and it would help keep the Post Office within the public commons. The proposal explicitly prohibits
residential or mixed use, and would not allow the building to be turned into an apartment building, or bed and
breakfast (at a September 2012 hearing, a postal official said that the conversion of a historic post office
building to a bed and breakfast was her favorite adaptive reuse).
City Council overwhelmingly approved my proposal and it will now go before the Planning Commission, which
will take up the issue in early fall. I will let you know when the issue will go before the commission and I will
also update you on the fight to save the Post Office. Rest assured that I will continue to do everything that I can to fight the sale of the Post Office and keep it running. We cannot allow the privatization of more and more of our essential public services.
Visit www.savethebpo.com for more information and check back here for more updates on the USPS's decision to sell the Berkeley Main Post Office.
Map of Council District 4