FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 26, 2007
Mayor’s Public Commons Initiative to Increase Services, Provide Housing, and Create Clearer Rules on Smoking and Lodging in Public
On November 27th Berkeley City Council will consider the staff proposal to address problematic street behavior with increased outreach services, more bathrooms and benches, supportive housing, benefit application assistance, expanded no-smoking areas and cleaned up municipal code language and a resolution regarding lodging in public.
Berkeley, CA – On Tuesday, the City Council will consider giving final approval to the Mayor’s Public Commons for Everyone Initiative (PCEI), a major new effort to improve street behavior in Berkeley’s public areas and increase social services.
“The Public Commons for Everyone Initiative accomplishes exactly what the community has asked us to do – address problematic street behavior and provide services and housing for people in need,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. “Over the past months, we have heard loudly and clearly from the community that there is a need to improve our public areas for residents, businesses, and visitors in a manner that respects everyone’s rights and dignity. I am confident that we have met that standard."
In June, The City Council gave tentative approval to the Mayor’s PCEI proposal that included a broad, citywide effort to apply a coordinated approach deploying mental health, social services, economic development, and law enforcement efforts to improve the overall health and climate of our public commons. As part of the Council’s approval, they directed the City Manager to return in November with the specific implementation plan, budgets, and other specifics to move forward on the program. In addition, City staff were directed to engage City Commissions and the public in the development and implementation process.
After months of community process – including discussions with nine city commissions, numerous interviews with community agency representatives and advocates, and a public hearing - the City Manager has come forward with a comprehensive package of policies and services that implement the Council’s direction.
The package includes:
- Supportive services and housing for youth and adults;
- Expanded application assistance for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other public benefits;
- A visitor and street outreach program;
- Improved coordination of shelter services;
- More public bathrooms with improved signage;
- A ban on smoking in designated commercial areas, parks, licensed child care programs and health facilities;
- Clean-up language on Berkeley laws pertaining to lodging in public, and
- Continued exploration of a community court program.
Funding for this initiative will come from a twenty-five cent increase in hourly parking meter rates.
The full report to Council can be read on-line as part of the November 27th City Council Agenda. It is listed as Item #28. (http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil/2007citycouncil/packet/112707/11-27a.htm)
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