Summer 2012: Choose your story!
As many are well aware, the City Council approved the placement of the Anti-Sit Ordinance on the November ballot at the July 10th council meeting. Numerous members of the public, including some of our summer interns, gave powerful speeches and even sang songs in defense of civil liberties and against the measure. If passed in November, the measure would ban people from sitting on sidewalks in Berkeley during the business hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. This law would be implemented on July 1, 2013 and violators can be fined $50 for first offense.
Mayor Tom Bates recently proposed this anti-sit measure to prevent homeless and the poor from sitting on sidewalks in commercial districts with the hopes that it would help businesses hurt by loiterers and that it would “get people out of a debilitating street life and into a better future.” The measure is intended to improve sidewalk conditions for pedestrians and to help businesses, but in reality it would criminalize the poor and infringe on constitutional liberties.
Aside from the $26,000 it will cost to put the measure on the ballot, a number of other costs associated with enforcement of the measure will be a burden on the city. The city will have to pay police overtime for protest enforcement—this already occurred with the agenda meeting sit-in on Monday, July 9th. There is also a precedent of a $400,000 cost to defend the measure in a law suit.
The Anti-Sit Ordinance also has harmful effects on the poor and homeless populations. The homeless and poor are the most likely to be cited for loitering and are unable to pay the fines or relocate themselves easily. Inability to pay fines can result in imprisonment for missing court dates, which would clog up county judicial systems and waste tax dollars. Residents have argued that Berkeley should focus on more important and serious crimes as well as directly address the issue of homelessness. Councilmember Jesse Arreguin stated, “I think we should be focusing on more constructive measures rather than punitive [measures].”
By voting down the anti-sit ordinance in November, citizens will help Berkeley save money, advocate for equal rights for all, and take a step towards more effective policies for helping the homeless. Instead of punishing the people who need help, we should focus on increasing services for the mentally ill and homeless as well as the number of available jobs.
San Francisco Pride Parade
The City of Berkeley contingent participated in this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade on Sunday, June 24th. The 2012 SF Pride Parade attracted thousands of diverse visitors and Bay Area residents. The parade was an eclectic assortment of floats and contingents that promoted various groups and organizations.
The float turned out to be a remarkable representation of Berkeley’s famous LGBT symbols, such as a Campanile, a replica of The Pacific Center, and vibrant signs publicizing The White Horse Inn and Steam Works. Berkeley contingent members also held up signs depicting notable Berkeley firsts, such as establishing the first free speech movement and permitting domestic partnerships, or allowing homosexual couples to cohabitate. The city of Berkeley was the first to establish domestic partnerships.
Approximately 60 people joined Berkeley’s contingent, including some members of Berkeley-based clown troupe “Clowns not Bombs” and various performers, such as local singer Irina Rivkin and a talented pianist. A well-known poet named Terry Taplin also recited a powerful, heartfelt poem. The newly elected Alameda County Superior Judge Tara Flanagan and her partner were also present on the float.
Berkeley’s First Pride Parade Float was a definite success! The enthusiastic participants and contingent members along with the live performances made the parade float an amazing sight to see and created a memorable experience for all.
Off the Grid
Telegraph Avenue’s newest accomplishment “Off the Grid” adds to the lively and eccentric feeling that the street is so well known for. Every Thursday evening, from 5:00 to 9:00, the corner of Telegraph and Haste is blocked off to all vehicles except for eight to ten food trucks. A few chairs are set out, and people flood in to sample the delicious food truck cuisine.
Telegraph Avenue has a reputation for attracting a specific crowd of young, edgy, and unconventional shoppers; “Off the Grid” brings a new variety of people to the Telegraph area. With its comfortable and family-friendly atmosphere, it will hopefully encourage a wider range of people to visit Telegraph Avenue and its unique businesses. Furthermore, as “Off the Grid” has gained publicity, it has also attracted people from outside of Berkeley.
In order to bridge the connection between “Off the Grid” and the rest of Telegraph Avenue, Councilmember Worthington’s office has made a flyer that highlights some of the most interesting and unique stores and restaurants in a several block radius, which will encourage customers to come to Telegraph Avenue, not only for “Off the Grid,” but for other shopping endeavors.
Councilmember Worthington hopes this ongoing event will enrich Telegraph Avenue’s economy and celebrate the historic and happening Berkeley street.
Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee
The Housing Advisory Commission has reached out to the Berkeley City Council in efforts to set an affordable housing impact fee. A developer of new rental housing is expected to pay fees and required to meet certain terms. Our community is in need of specifying a sensible amount a developer can manage. If we do not take necessary action, we can expect funds for the City’s Housing Trust Fund to rise. A resolution for this issue will be discussed at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 2, 2012, at 7:00 pm. Come to hear more about adopting this resolution! The well-being of the city of Berkeley and its citizens is as important to us as it is to you.
Pedestrian lighting is one facet of a greater movement to improve public safety and ultimately make Telegraph a more attractive neighborhood. Much of the lighting on streets is targeted for cars, leaving sidewalks dim and putting pedestrians at unnecessary risk. Improved sidewalk lighting will help deter crime at night, help pedestrians avoid tripping hazards, and even encourage businesses to stay open longer or establish sidewalk seating at night.
Besides improving public safety, the Telegraph Lighting Committee (composed of merchants, business and community members) also seeks to utilize street lighting as a means of enhancing street ambiance and tourism. Unique yet high-quality street lighting can help restore a sense of cultural distinctness that once characterized this great Berkeley street.
Plastic Bag Ban
Over 100 cities across the country have adopted bans on plastic bags at supermarkets and retail stores—an effective environmental policy that reduces land and water pollution. Councilmember Worthington has been trying for the past six years to get Berkeley to adopt a similar policy to reestablish its reputation as a forerunner in environmental policy and to help protect the environment.
By banning distribution of single-use plastic bags in stores, Berkeley will encourage the use of reusable shopping bags. The use of these reusable bags will significantly reduce the amount of non-biodegradable plastic in circulation, freeing up land and water of plastic pollution that can harm animals and disrupt ecological processes. A lower production of plastic bags will also reduce the use of petroleum, which goes into the manufacturing of plastic. A fee on paper bags is another element of the plan to further encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags.
The Berkeley City Council has passed an ordinance to put this plastic bag ban into effect, and Councilmember Worthington recently requested an estimate on a dollar amount for starting the process of the city-wide ban on single-use plastic bags and fee on single-use paper bags in non-restaurant retail businesses. The Zero Waste Commission suggests a 2-phase implementation of the policy, but Councilmember Worthington believes we have waited long enough, and the plastic bag ban and paper bag fee should only need to be implemented in a single phase. The City Council discussed this expanded single-use bag reduction ordinance at the council meeting on July 24th and adopted a compromise between these two plans. This compromise consisted of the two-phase implementation of the plan, but with the first phase including multi-family recycling programs, environmental review, and studies on how to make the rest of the implementation more cost-effective. At the end of the first phase, which will apply only to packaged food stores, the City Council will decide how best to proceed to the second phase, which will expand the plastic bag ban to include all Berkeley retailers, excluding restaurants. Councilmember Worthington is pleased with this decision because Berkeley is finally moving forward in an effort to protect the environment through a ban on plastic bags.
Walk the Beat
Walk the Beat is a joint patrol program between the University of California and City of Berkeley Policy Departments. The program encourages police officers to bike or walk the streets during their normal patrols instead of driving around in a police car. Not only is this more effective in deterring crime, it also gives community members and officers an opportunity to interact and communicate with each other.
Merchants and community members have praised the Walk the Beat program and are excited that it has been working. There has been an immediate effect on increasing pedestrian traffic in addition to attracting a more diverse demographic back into the Telegraph area. It is Councilmember Worthington's and the merchants’ hope that this program continues unabated.
Upcoming Events in Berkeley!
Berkeley Pride Celebration (aka Stonewall Fest) will be at the the end of October. Come celebrate and support the LGBT community at Berkeley's version of San Francisco Pride. To join the planning committee, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. See last year's website for more information.
Elder Voices is an open mic series at North Berkeley Senior Center on the 2nd Wednesday of every month from 1:15-4 pm, starting Wednesday, August 8th. The event will feature performers and allow guests to step up to the mic and perform in any creative fashion they choose.
Looking Back Then Into the Future is an art exhibit on the second and third floors of the Permit Service Center, at 2120 Milvia Street. It is curated by Expressions Gallery and will be on display for the public to view until September 19th.
Summer Lunch Program is free for kids under the age of 18. From June 18th - August 24th, kids can visit seven sites around Berkeley, found here, and eat nutritious lunches and snacks that may not be provided to them otherwise.
Summer 2010 Newsletter
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