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In this issue:

A Note from Councilmember Capitelli
Public Commons for Everyone
Improvements for Pedestrian Safety in North Berkeley
Customer Service 311
Town Hall Meeting: Budget, Local Crime and Downtown Planning
Residential Traffic Calming: City Council Discussion
H1N1 Update
Thank you, thank you... 

A Note From Councilmember Capitelli

Dear District 5 Neighbors,

One thing I've learned as an elected official is that the wheels of government turn slowly. Very slowly. My staff and I spend loads of time disseminating information and sending it back out to City staff and constituents, with some understanding (and hope) that our efforts will eventually lead to results. Months can go by with seemingly little progress, and then all in one moment there appears real progress on a variety of fronts.

This is such a moment. Below are updates, announcements and few thank yous I want to share.

I also want to share a new outlet for Berkeley news and opinion, for those looking for different perspectives (and who may want to offer a few) on Berkeley and what makes our town such a wonderful place to live: Berkeleyside.

And for news and updates from within the City of Berkeley, be sure to check out the Berkeley News Page.

I wish you all a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Laurie Capitelli
Berkeley City Council, District 5

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Public Commons For Everyone

The Public Commons for Everyone Initiative, enacted in 2007 and realized in late 2008, is a multi-faceted policy approach designed to improve the downtown experience for residents and visitors. One component of PCEI, the City Ambassador Program that brings "eyes and ears" on the street, is celebrating its first anniversary and was recently honored by the City Council (see above). The Ambassadors have proved successful at channeling many in need to available resources, while maintaining an attentive and knowledgeable presence on the street. Other continuing aspects of PCEI include a ban on smoking on the Downtown, available public bathrooms, more public seating and trash receptacles, and expanded housing opportunities for the homeless.

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Last spring I wrote about simplifying or eliminating permitting for landscaping irrigation systems using household wastewater. As of August 1, the state plumbing code, recently updated and adopted immediately as an emergency gesture, allows for this exception. Systems using water from a washing machine or from a single fixture (excluding the kitchen sink and the toilet) may be routed to landscape irrigation without a permit. Our Office of Sustainability will soon provide appropriate guidelines and resources for those who want to use greywater for irrigation.

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Improvements for Pedestrian Safety in North Berkeley

The City has received two grants that will directly benefit north Berkeley. First, Thousand Oaks School is the beneficiary of a Safe Routes to School grant that will fund hardscape changes around the school to improve the pick up and drop off of students, and bus and traffic flow around the school.

And our Office of Transportation just received notice of a Safe Routes to Transit grant targeted for North Shattuck and upper Solano. Projects include sidewalk expansion around bus stops (also available for café seating), sidewalk reconfiguration and bike corrals near major bus stops.

The Solano Avenue/Colusa intersection will soon be restriped to eliminate the eastbound "merge" lane just east of Colusa. Instead, there will be a right-turn-only at the La Farine corner, and the lanes further east will be adjusted accordingly. (Please click here to see an engineer's rendering of the intersection.) Please remember there were two pedestrian fatalities in the crosswalk at Fresno just beyond this merge lane. My hope is that a single lane will be less confusing and distracting.

My office received many comments and suggestions related to my journey on North Berkeley sidewalks reported in last month's news letter. We all need to be conscious of some of the unintended barriers that overgrown landscaping, parked cars, and debris cans present to members of our community. Though the City can enforce encroachment in public right of way, I see this as the sledge hammer in what should be a friendly discussion of neighborhood responsibility. To that end I am working with the Commission on Disability to craft a "courtesy notice" for residents to leave on properties with vegetation that intrudes into the sidewalk area. My hope is that the notice will educate and persuade without being threatening. We have draft examples in my office and will be happy to send them out. You can request them by phone (981-7150) or email. If you use them, let us know if they are effective.

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311 Customer Service

Starting November 2, 2009, the City of Berkeley will be promoting a pilot customer service program, the new City Service hotline at "311." This number is available from Berkeley landlines and eventually Berkeley-originating cell services (in the mean time enter 981-CITY). Call 311 for Public Works referrals — graffiti, pot holes, illegal dumping — to report problems, pay bills and request information.

Calls will be answered by live — yes, that's right — live representatives who will refer your issue to the appropriate staff person and provide you with a tracking number for future reference.

Simultaneously, Customer Service is also available at the Online Service Center. This is an online one-stop-shop for a wide variety of interactions with the City including reporting problems and paying bills.

Staff is eager to hear feedback on the new system. Comments can be sent to 311@cityofberkeley.info

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North Berkeley Town Hall Meeting:
The Budget, Local Crime
and Downtown Planning

What: Community Town Hall Meeting: Districts 5 & 6
Where: Northbrae Community Church, Haver Hall, 941 The Alameda, Berkeley
When: Thursday, December 3, 2009. 7:00 p..m to 9:00 p.m.

Please join Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli (District 5) and Susan Wengraf (District 6) in welcoming the City's Budget Director Tracy Vesely who will provide a budget update, and a representative from the Berkeley Police Department who will review crime trends and preventative measures. The last half of the meeting will be an informational presentation on the Downtown plan including Q & A with Councilmembers and Planning staff.

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Residential Traffic Calming:
City Council Discussion

What: City Council Discussion on Traffic Calming Policy
Where: City Council Chambers, 2nd floor, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
When: Tuesday, December 15, 2009. 7:00 pm*

My office has had many in-person and e-mail conversations with members of residential neighborhoods about relief from out-of-control vehicular traffic. I do understand that every resident wants to feel safe in his or her neighborhood. How we secure that safety is impacted by state regulations, local restrictions, and the unintended consequences of any traffic calming or traffic control device.

In an attempt to make residential traffic calming a more rational process, our new Director of Transportation has introduced a process by which neighborhoods identify the problem and request review from City staff. This new policy comes to the City Council for discussion and approval on November 17. The Director hopes to include in the traffic calming tool kit "vertical speed deflectors" (formally speed bumps). This would mean lifting the moratorium on these devices, put in place some years ago after concerns raised by both public safety (because of increased emergency response time) and the disability community (the bumps can be painful for those with certain conditions).

The City Council will be accepting public testimony on this policy. Please consider speaking at the meeting or writing to the Council.

* The meeting will commence at 7:00 pm. Depending upon the agenda, it may be well after 8:00 pm before the Council receives comments on the new traffic calming policy. Written comments may be sent to "The City Council" c/o City Clerk, 2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94704, or e-mailed to mailto:clerk@cityofberkeley.info

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H1N1 Update

Our Public Health Department posts regular updates on the City's website (link above). They will be providing free, voluntary vaccinations at the public schools, starting with the elementary schools the week of November 16. (Check the BUSD website for future updates.)

Because the vaccine has been distributed inconsistently (Berkeley has received only a small amount to date), City staff suggests that those who want the vaccination consider the following:

  • Kaiser patients can be vaccinated at Kaiser (their website has information about dates, times, and locations).
  • Health care providers in Alameda County outside of Berkeley may have vaccine. Families should check with their providers.
  • The Alameda County Public Health Department is offering public H1N1 vaccine clinics at various locations.

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Thank you, thank you...

. . . to the dozens of Cal students (above) who gave up a Saturday to clean up Thousand Oaks School, Grotto Park, Indian Rock Park and who began the ivy abatement at John Hinkel Park.

. . . to Berkeley Boy Scout Troop 19 and to community volunteers Dave and Charlotte Nicely and David Snippen for their efforts to liberate John Hinkel Park's trees from ivy strangulation during Berkeley Project Day.

. . . to Thousand Oaks School garden coordinator Daria Wrubel and TO parent Rosa Luevano for coordinating with parent volunteers (and Cal students) on 10/10/09 at TO School. Several projects were completed including the clean up of the fence along the south side of the playing fields and weeding of the school's exterior landscaping.

. . . and to north Berkeley resident Rima Kittner who has single-handedly (with some technical assistance from the Berkeley Path Wanderers) made the Solano Avenue Tunnel sidewalk safe for pedestrians and cyclists. If you see her out there sweeping and pruning, say thank you. Or better yet, put on your gloves and offer a hand. Thank you Rima!

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