Dear District 5 Neighbors,
In my discussions with Berkeley citizens, a continuous lament is the downtown: its lack of parking and shops, the empty storefronts and dearth of welcoming, enriching public spaces. Though in this economic climate we cannot expect miracles, there is some room to celebrate. This month the Oxford Plaza project, at Oxford and Kittredge, comes on board with 96 units of housing and the return of the public parking garage with over one hundred parking spaces. The adjacent Brower Center opens its doors Sunday, May 10 with an open house, free and open to the public. By June the Hotel Shattuck Plaza at Allston and Shattuck will open, restored to its former grandeur. The $16 million project includes 200 fully renovated rooms and a new restaurant. For visitors to Berkeley, the Downtown Berkeley Association has placed "Berkeley Hosts" on the streets; a program through the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative, to guide and provide information for guests and locals, and to be eyes and ears on the street.
It is people after all that will improve the city's most visible commercial area: people who live and recreate locally, who buy groceries and congregate in cafes, and who will demand a certain quality of life. Sheer numbers of local residents will create the critical mass to support it. Let's welcome them.
In that spirit, I look forward to review and approval of the Downtown Area Plan. It is a new vision for the heart of our city that, as it is realized, will bring people back to the downtown.
This is the launch of my new e-newsletter. My goal was to make it more attractive and simpler to navigate, simplify the distribution and maintenance, and archive previous newsletters and make them available on my City website. It is a work in progress, so suggestions and comments are welcome.
One of my other goals is to facilitate a more formal and accessible system of community feedback. I have followed the lead of my colleague, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, and engaged Peak Democracy who, through their Open Town Hall provide a forum for surveys and extended comments about particular issues. In the next week, I will be sending out a link to Open Town Hall and a series of questions about Downtown planning and amenities. These surveys provide another opportunity to receive input and perspectives on the various issues facing the community. Please know I also continue to be available to meet with you individually or in groups. Of course I will continue to monitor and review e-mails.
FYI — Councilmember Wozniak regularly posts questions about selected items on the City Council agenda. Check in on Fridays before Council meetings to register comments. To do this, go to Open Town Hall where you can register and participate.