There’s just a little wiggle-room – about $1.5 million – for additions to the new fiscal year budget, under discussion by the council at tonight’s meeting.
Most of the approximate $250 million budget is made up of “fixed” costs, such as personnel, or already-allocated funds. The 2000-2001 budget, which kicks in July 1, is the second year of the council’s first two-year budget.
Groups vying for a piece of the unallocated funds are expected to line up at the public hearing, but the council is not expected to make final budget decisions until later this month.
The Telegraph Area Association, asking for $55,000 is one of them.
Although she will be supporting the request, Councilmember Dona Spring said she has been asking the association for years to become more self-sufficient and to reduce its dependence on the city.
She pointed to the North Berkeley Merchants Association and the University Avenue Merchants Association which generally receive much smaller amounts of funding.
But TAA executive director Kathy Berger argues that her association is much more than a merchants’ group.
Students, long-term residents, representatives of nonprofit organizations, merchants, university representatives and an ex-officio city representative sit on the TAA board.
“We bring all these folks together,” Berger said, likening the TAA to a development corporation, which advocates for the development of an area and not a sector, such as merchants.
Organizing neighborhood watch programs is among the association’s activities. The Telegraph Avenue area is different from other Berkeley neighborhoods in that many of its residents are transient. So it is much more difficult to start a neighborhood watch group or a neighborhood association there, Berger said.
“A resident will call us (when there’s been a break-in) and we’ll bring the neighbors together,” Berger said. Or they could get neighbors together to lobby a landlord to make repairs to a building.
The association is trying to get a grant to hire a part-time organizer to help the area prepare for a catastrophic earthquake.
The south-of-campus area has a number of characteristics particular to it, that make earthquake preparedness a priority.
It has numerous soft-story buildings - apartments with the garage on the ground floor of the building. Many of these kinds of buildings failed during the January 1994 Northridge earthquake. There are a number of unreinforced masonry buildings that have not been retrofitted.
“There are a lot of absentee landlords” who own these buildings, Berger said.
It is the third-densest area in the Bay Area, with only Daly City and areas of San Francisco that are denser, Berger said.
“We have such a diverse and mixed area, with shoppers, visitors, merchants” who do not live in the area, Berger said. “The restaurants do not have back-up generators. There are special needs at the Center for Independent Living.”
The association works on issues of special interest to the merchants. Upgrading the Sather Gate garage is one. Increasing police activity on the Avenue is another.
Because of links between the social service community and TAA, the merchants will begin to offer jobs to applicants recommended by local agencies, she said.
In addition to city funding, TAA gets matching funds from the University and expects to get at least $90,000 in foundation grants this year.
“The organization is working toward becoming more self-sufficient,” Berger said.
The council will entertain dozens of other requests. Those listed below are just some of the requests for funds:
• The University Avenue merchants want pedestrian lighting and extra sidewalk cleaning below Milvia Street.
• If the council does not put a bond measure on the ballot to build a larger, wheelchair accessible council chambers, the disability community is asking the council to set aside $500,000 to remodel the current council chambers. That would provide wheelchair access to and from the council dais, call buttons on the elevator operable to people with manual impairments, accessible restrooms and automatic door openers.
• A volunteer coordinator for the Berkeley Animal Shelter is requested at $55,000.
• Animal shelter needs of about $145,000 include an affordable spay and neuter program, advertising animals in need of adoption, improvements for the health of the animals at the shelter.
• The Humane Commission is asking for $3 million for a new animal shelter.
• The Youth Suitcase Clinic, serving homeless and low income youth, wants $10,000 for acupuncture services for youth with psychosocial needs and drug dependency.
• The Berkeley Dispute Resolution Service requests $25,000, in addition to its current $52,000 funding from the city. The city referred some 150 calls to the agency last year, including police-related cases, tree-view cases, zoning cases and court cases.
• The Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center is asking for $48,000 to increase disabled access, purchase a new ventilation system and replace the dance floor.
• The How Berkeley Can You Be? parade and festival is asking for $1,000 to hire the San Francisco Mime Troupe to perform at this year’s festival.
• The Solano Avenue Association is asking for $10,000 to help put on the Solano Avenue Stroll in September.
• The Strawberry Creek Lodge Tenants Association is asking for $30,000 to fund a meals program for low-income seniors.
There are a number of other organizations hoping for funding from the city. City staff is preparing a complete list of groups, which the council has already “referred” to the budget process. The funding is a two-part process, with organizations first asking the council for a preliminary “referral,” which a majority must approve, then asking for final approval.