Year 2007 Summary and a Look Ahead
I wanted to take a few minutes and share an update on events and accomplishments from 2007 as well as give a preview of some of the issues on the horizon for 2008. I think it is fair to say that this past year has been one of the most remarkable in my time in public office. I want to thank the City Council, our great staff, and everyone in our community for their dedicated work this year.
Berkeley’s New Solar Energy Financing Program
In November, the City Council approved my proposal to make Berkeley the first city in the nation to allow property owners to pay for energy efficiency improvements and solar systems as a voluntary long-term assessment on their individual property tax bill. We hope to have the pilot phase of the program up and running by the middle of the year.
Our Remarkable Measure G Climate Action Effort
Berkeley’s draft plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by the year 2050 will be released for public comment on January 28. You can read it and comment at www.BerkeleyClimateAction.org.
Construction Begins on Downtown Berkeley’s David Brower Center
The Brower Center, which is under construction at Oxford Street in Downtown Berkeley, will be the home for the environmental movement of the 21st Century and an amazing resource for our community.
Social Services and Housing
Council’s Historic Investment in Affordable Housing Bears Fruit
Over 130 units of permanently affordable housing opened in just the past few months and the Oxford Plaza’s 96 units of affordable family housing is now under construction. This is just part of the over 500 units of affordable housing (out of 1,500 total workforce housing units) that we have approved in the last five years.
Ed Roberts Campus Wins Funding, Set to Begin Construction
As the San Francisco Chronicle article noted, “Somewhere, Ed Roberts is smiling.” In December, I joined with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and a group of inspired local leaders in the disability community to secure funding for construction of the $45 million Ed Roberts Campus – an international center for disability services, advocacy, and activism at the Ashby BART station.
Public Commons Initiative Passes – Improved Services and Clear Rules of Behavior
After spending over 10 months learning from other cities, examining policies, talking to neighbors, and meeting with homeless people and their advocates, we developed and passed the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative to provide support services and housing, put “guides” on the street to help people in need, and enforce clear rules of behavior for everyone. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote in an editorial that we “came up with a sensitive, sensible ordinance.”
Housing Authority Overhauled, Made Independent
After years of problems with our Housing Authority, the City Council decided to do a complete overhaul and created a new independent Housing Authority Board to oversee the new agency. The transition has been difficult and not without controversy. However, it appears we are beginning to see real signs of improvement.
Building Berkeley’s Green Economy
In December, we took a big step towards becoming one of the nation’s green economic engines with the announcement of the East Bay Green Corridor Partnership. I joined with the mayors of Oakland, Emeryville, and Richmond, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau,, and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Director Steve Chu to begin a collaborative effort to lead the world in environmental innovation, emerging green business and industry, green jobs, and renewable energy.
Commission Finishes Work on New Downtown Vision
After two years of difficult work, Berkeley’s 21-member downtown planning task force completed its work on a new plan to guide development of our downtown. This new plan is a product of the historic agreement we signed with UC Berkeley in 2005.
Youth & Education
Five New Sports Fields Under Construction on Gilman Street
Five cities partnered with East Bay Regional Parks, State Parks, and the Association of Sports Fields Users to organize, fund, and – soon – operate on five new sports fields at the foot of Gilman Street. I have been honored to lead this partnership since it was created back in 2003 and look forward to opening the fields soon.
City Begins Major Expansion of Youth Job Program
Every year, the City turns away hundreds of eligible teens and young adults from its summer job program. We are working to create a new public-private partnership that will provide all interested young people with jobs.
Expanded Recreation and Enrichment Programs for Teens
We started two new teen nights at the West Berkeley Senior Center and the Francis Albrier Center to give our young people as safe place to go at night.
Expanded Mental Health Services in Berkeley Schools
This year marks the first year of implementation of our new partnership with the schools to provide mental health services. Working together, we have been able to provide mental health services in every Berkeley school.
Kaiser Permanente Awards Berkeley $500,000 for Chronic Disease Prevention
The City and Lifelong Medical Care just received a $500,000 grant from the Kaiser Foundation to initiate a focused, intensive, all-out campaign to reduce cardiovascular disease mortality in African Americans in South and West Berkeley.
What’s Coming Up in 2008?
Here are some of the big issues I plan to spend time on this coming year in addition to following up on the issues above. Please feel free to email me your comments.
- The draft Climate Action Plan, our blueprint for how Berkeley will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, will be released for review and comment on January 28th.
- We will be focusing a great deal of time and energy on public safety issues in 2008.
- The community, Council, and city staff are continuing to work on options for a new warm water pool in Berkeley.
- We are carefully monitoring the deteriorating state budget situation and its potential impact on Berkeley’s budget. The good news is our bond rating was just upgraded is among the top 5% in California.
- We expect a ruling from the judge in the lawsuit over the University’s proposed sports facility by early February. We sued over our concerns about the seismic safety of Memorial Stadium.
- I will be working a great deal on how West Berkeley should continue to grow as a center of innovation and creativity in the arts and clean technology.
- Starting sometime later this year, you will be able to dial 311 to reach a City call center for any non-emergency city service, referral, or question. (In the meantime, you can use 510-981-CITY.)