A Note From Councilmember Capitelli
Dear District 5 Neighbors,
March 11, 2010 — Berkeley's first Arbor Day as a Tree City USA was a glorious early spring day. The celebration of trees was loud, enthusiastic and productive. Thirteen new trees were planted — two at Thousand Oaks Elementary School, four on the school planting strip and seven in the adjacent park — and countless Thousand Oaks School students got their hands dirty liberating roots and gently arranging mulch. The City Council will acknowledge our new status as a Tree City USA, as designated by the National Arbor Day Foundation at their next meeting on Tuesday April 20.
Check out the photos of the Arbor Day event and video accounts on YouTube, Arbor Day Part one (TO School) and Part Two (formal presentation of Tree City honor.)
As I look to upper Solano Avenue for our next year's Arbor Day project, I want to acknowledge the many calls and e-mails we have received from residents about a couple of other Solano issues: the Post Office and the Oaks Theater. Though the Landscape Station Post Office is still on the USPS list for potential closing, the USPS has extended the comment period to April 30. We have learned from other nearby communities that a groundswell of local support will play a critical role in the final decision. For more information, including where to find petitions, go to Update on the Landscape Station Post Office (below) or to Saving the Landscape Post Office.
And Good News on the Avenue: I learned this week that the Oaks Theater will remain a movie theater. According to the property owner, a lease was recently signed with a group of South Bay investors who plan to show both Bollywood films and first run Hollywood films. They may choose to revise their business plan, so further work with our Zoning Department will be in order before a grand opening. We'll keep you informed.
I want to thank Police Chief Michael Meehan for coming out to meet north Berkeley residents last month. From my perspective, attendees were reassured by the chief's commitment to proactive policing, his acknowledgement of the high rate of property crime, particularly in North Berkeley, and his respect for Berkeley's history and citizenry. We wish Chief Meehan and his family all the best during this transition period and in years to come.
Recycling and our Solid Waste program budget were also on the agenda at our March Town Hall Meeting. There has been much press about both our deficits and potential remedies. Berkeley Citizens are concerned about another rate increase, the frustration of recycling poachers and the erosion of resources that should be going into the City's programs.
For generations Berkeley has based its Solid Waste rates on the quantity of trash hauled away from properties through the size of the trash cans. Thirty years ago with the beginning of curbside recycling, and more recently with the adoption of a "Zero Waste" goal, the goals of our Solid Waste program radically changed. The business plan did not. Consequently, our recycling and green waste services expanded to facilitate the tremendous reduction in "trash," but revenue to fund those services decreased as residents reduced the size of their trash cans in order to reduce their garbage fees. This model is not sustainable.
Last summer we completed a Solid Waste rate study that ultimately resulted in a rate increase. This increase is based upon an antiquated vision of goals of trash hauling. What we really need is a comprehensive look at our entire system of trash reduction, recycling and green waste diversion, and decide how to fairly assess community members for the benefit they receive. We need a new business plan.
I have heard from many of you about recycling poachers and your frustration that they are "enabled" in the diversion of City resources. Why should citizens have to pay for recycling services that poachers prevent them from using? Good question. Chief Meehan was very clear that enforcement of recycling poaching is a low priority for our Police; preventing violent crime and property crime and addressing traffic enforcement will always trump the pilfering of recyclables. And even if Berkeley Police did cite offenders, the County District Attorney does not have the will or the resources to prosecute.
This is a challenging issue. I look forward to your comments and ideas as we move forward toward a new and sustainable waste management business plan. And speaking of curbside. . .
Councilmember Susan Wengraf and I have referred to City staff the challenge of recharging private electric vehicles where there is no appropriate off-street parking (and easy access to an electric receptacle). Many homes in Berkeley, particularly in the hills, either have no driveway, or have a drive too small for a contemporary vehicle. There are access and right-of-way issues that need to be addressed. I look forward to some creative solutions.
Please read below for some important community announcements, including the next community meeting about restriping The Alameda, the next community meeting about our North Branch Library remodel, a fun family event (and fundraiser) for King Park, the final community meeting for the Summit reservoir replacement, and a short update on the proposal to ban plastic bags.
Not interested in a community meeting? Then visualize trees on Solano Avenue. And enjoy the spring.
Berkeley City Council, District 5
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