Establishing a Youth Center in Berkeley has been talked about for many years.
Let's hope the latest discussion in City Council is more than election year posturing by Council Members Breland and Shirek, both of whom, along with Council Members Maio, Worthington and Woolley, have inexplicably opposed building a much-needed multi-sport playing field for youth just six blocks away from Berkeley High School at (District-owned) Derby Street park.
This is the only community-oriented remaining site in Berkeley that is accessible to all of our teenagers because of its proximity to Berkeley High School (no invisible “turf” lines that some kids won't cross), and the only site that can provide the square footage necessary for the integrated design of a youth services center and multi-sport playing field as part of one complete package.
As Ms. Breland says: “We need a central place where they (youth) can all come and feel like they have a voice. A place that takes care of their needs.”
The costs of a Youth Center are not insignificant. The City’s $486,000 grant that is available from the Community Policing program will not be transformed into a Youth Center without making strategic alliances with other institutions or businesses with similar goals and interests.
Happily, the School District owns the Derby Street park land, and possibilities exist for negotiating cost sharing arrangements and fundraising between the District and the City (and other organizations that are supportive of Berkeley youth interests, such as the Ecology Center, Downtown Business Association, Berkeley Partners for Parks, Berkeley-Albany Soccer League, Berkeley Albany Softball League, and Oakland Athletics organization) for capital construction, operation, and maintenance, that could ensure the long term viability of such a center.
Ms. Breland has now been joined by Councilmembers Shirek and Maio on a subcommittee to consider the design, location, and short and long term funding sources for a youth center that could meet all of the wishes on Ms. Breland's list: “... a youth center where they can come to day or night, play games, eat some nourishing food, and find some mentoring or counseling.”
I suggest to the Councilmembers that this subcommittee be expanded to include Terry Doran, Joaquin Rivera, and Shirley Issel of the School Board, and that this group now begin action toward making the Derby Street park Youth Center into a reality for all of our Berkeley kids.
Berkeley resident, taxpayer and parent