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February 16, 2010

In this issue:

A Note from Councilmember Capitelli
Planning Your North Branch Library Project
Saving the Post Office: Use it or Lose It
Plant a Tree: Berkeley becomes a Tree City USA
Meet Berkeley's New Chief of Police
Vote for The New Berkeley Teen Center

A Note From Councilmember Capitelli

Dear District 5 Neighbors,

Berkeley is spectacularly beautiful in the spring. As the days lengthen and the rains subside, our daily lives will subtly transition to outdoor public spaces where we can relax, recreate and enjoy our beautiful city. Sidewalks, parks, outdoor cafes, plazas, recreational facilities — in an urban area these amenities become the social centers, the modern day agoras where we casually interact with our friends and neighbors, where we engage culturally and politically, and where we exchange news of the most local and pedestrian nature.

These spaces and the opportunities for social interaction they foster, bind us together. They allow for common experience and a shared sense of ownership of our neighborhoods and the larger community. As many of you envisioned the Downtown in our Open Town Hall survey, it was the public spaces and cafes — the European model where residents walk to transit, sit at an outdoor café, or listen to music — that was the common thread in those visions.

Berkeley already has wonderful areas to walk and to congregate, but issues of pedestrian safety, equity, appropriate recreational opportunities and even climate change, inspire us to do more.

Many of these issues have been addressed here recently — accessible sidewalks, The Downtown Plan, the Street and Open Space Improvement Plan (SOSIP), King Park, John Hinkel Park — and continue to be on our radar. But there are several opportunities for public comment and celebration coming up this spring.

Arbor Day is a national opportunity to celebrate trees, to educate our children about the social, environmental and cultural benefits of trees, and to plant trees in our neighborhoods. And if Berkeley is one thing (University oak trees aside) it is a tree community. I am excited this year as Berkeley, due to my sponsorship, will be commemorating Arbor Day as a Tree City USA; a program sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, that provides direction, technical assistance, public attention, and national recognition for urban and community forestry programs. Our first celebration as a Tree City USA will take place on March 11 at Thousand Oaks School as part of California's weeklong recognition of Arbor Day. Students will plant trees on the schoolyard, and community members are invited to plant selected City trees on the school periphery.

Ecocity Builders, in collaboration with a group of Berkeley citizens, commissioned a design study from Walter Hood, a local landscape architect, about an expansive public space in the Downtown at Center Street between Oxford and Shattuck. Incorporating a section of Strawberry Creek, Strawberry Creek at Center Street intertwines the natural environment with the urban environment providing one vision of downtown transformation.

The Pedestrian Master Plan will come to the City Council for approval on Tuesday March 23. The most comprehensive project in District 5 is for upper Solano incorporating bulb outs at major pedestrian intersections. (We expect that many of these will be part of the Safe Routes to Transit grant awarded last fall.)

The Community broke ground this month for the new Berkeley/Albany YMCA Teen center. Located at Center Street and MLK Jr. Way in a building graciously donated by PG&E, this center will be planned by and for young people in our community. There is more work to do, and you can help. See below.

On February 9, 2010, the City Council approved a swimming pool renovation and construction bond measure for the for the June 2010 ballot. The $19 million measure would pay to renovate the existing pools at Willard, King and West Campus, AND build a new warm water pool at west Campus. The measure also includes a parcel tax to pay for operating costs and maintenance. The annual assessment will be approximately $54 per year for an average (1900 sq ft) house.

So enjoy the spring. Plant a tree. Meet your neighbor on the avenue. Perhaps I'll see you there.


Laurie Capitelli
Berkeley City Council, District 5

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Planning Your North Branch Library Project

What: North Berkeley Branch Library Design Development Update
When: Wednesday, February 24th - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Where: North Branch Library 1170 The Alameda

The Library Board is looking for citizen input. At this meeting the design team, Architectural Resources Group w/ Tom Eliot Fisch, will present more developed drawings of the proposed design, including materials and finishes.

For accessibility information or other questions, go to berkeleypubliclibrary.org or call 510-981-6195.

To see the draft, working plans, go to the Library Board of Trustees website and click on the pdf Agenda for January 13, 2010. Check out pages 13 through 24.

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Saving the Post Office: Use it or Lose It

What: The Closing of the Upper Solano Post Office
When: At a time to be determined
Where: The Landscape Office at 1831 Solano Avenue

As many of you already know, The Landscape Post Office at the top of Solano was proposed for closure. In September, I authored a City Council resolution calling on the USPS to reconsider their plans and to leave this office open. It passed unanimously. I have also learned that the USPS is now surveying the community directly and carefully assessing the current patronage of the office.

What else can we do?

First, use the services at this post office often. Demonstrate that this branch is a critical part of our life on Solano.

Second, it is important that the residents and local businesses express their concern about how the closing of this post office branch will affect our immediate local environment. It not only provides needed services to those who live in the direct community, it is an anchor service that brings patrons to our business district. (Thanks to Colusa resident Ruth Koolish for sharing her research and advocating action.)

Please let USPS know how you feel. Send comments and questions to:

Oscar Munoz
Post Office Operations
1675 7th Street, RM 313
Oakland CA 94615-9992

Questions can also be addressed by calling Bay Valley District Consumer Affairs & Claims Office, at (510) 622-7420

Or send a letter to one of our federal representatives:

Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Oakland District Office
1301 Clay Street Suite 1000-N
Oakland, CA 94612

Senator Dianne Feinstein
One Post Street, Suite 2450
San Francisco, CA 94104

Senator Barbara Boxer
1700 Montgomery St., Suite 240
San Francisco, CA 94111

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Plant a Tree: Berkeley Becomes a Tree City USA

What: Celebrate Arbor Day In Our Neighborhood
When: Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Thousand Oaks Elementary School (Meet at the corner of Tacoma and Colusa Avenues)

Please join us for a tree planting at Thousand Oaks Elementary School. Staff, students and families of Thousand Oaks School will join community members and members of the City of Berkeley Forestry Department to green the planting strip along Tacoma Ave. We welcome anyone who would like to help us establish some new street trees in one of our neighborhoods. We look forward to digging in the dirt with you!

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Meet Berkeley's New Chief of Police

What: Town Hall Meeting to Meet Berkeley's new Chief of Police, Michael Meehan
When: Thursday March 18, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda

Please join Councilmembers Susan Wengraf and Laurie Capitelli in welcoming Berkeley's new Chief of Police to North Berkeley. We will hear the Chief's vision for the Berkeley Police Department, and share with him our concerns about crime and enforcement in North Berkeley. Susan and I also plan to provide an overview of "Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)," or "Instant Run-off Voting (IRV)" that will provide new opportunities on your November Berkeley ballot.

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Vote for The New Berkeley Teen Center

The Albany Berkeley YMCA just broke ground on the new teen center at MLK Jr. Way and Center in downtown Berkeley. The Y's Teen Task Force blog is a great way to keep up with progress on the center and see how our kids are participating in the project.

This Center will allow the Y to expand their thoroughly proven and successful programs including Y-Scholars where 99% of the participants from low income homes have become the first in their family to go beyond high school. They are taking an existing building, generously donated by Pacific Gas and Electric, and renovating and expanding it in a totally environmentally sustainable manner so it will be LEED certified.

As part of their fundraising, the Y and their supporters are asking the community to "vote" a click a day to Pepsi's $1,300,000 campaign to "fund good ideas."

So they're asking you to do 4 simple things:

  1. Click this link 
  2. Watch the video clip and/or look over the details of the project that is being designed by teens for teens if you don't feel up to date on it. (Or just vote, sight unseen.)
  3. Vote for the Y Teen Center.
  4. Bookmark this site and vote for the center every day for the rest of this month.

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