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.
Berkeley City Council, District 5
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