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Parking, landmark status on agenda

By John Geluardi Special to the Daily Planet
Tuesday October 17, 2000

A discussion on providing parking for city and school employees will likely spark some controversy at tonight’s City Council meeting.  

One city official said a decision on the question could affect city policy for years to come. 

In anticipation of the return of city employees to the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Building at 2180 Milvia St. at the end of January, Mayor Shirley Dean has recommended the council recognize “parking for city employees is our priority,” and wants the city manager to move expeditiously to resolve the problem. 

District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who rides his bike to work, argued that the mayor is taking a single-minded approach to the issue. “This is a one-note song and what we need is a symphony to address the complexity of the transportation problem,” he said. 

He said the city commissioned a Transportation Demand Study last year that will make recommendations about car commuting and alternate modes of transportation. The study is due in four to eight weeks. 

“We have a study due and to preempt the results by declaring the creation of parking places a priority is a mistake,” Worthington said. “Our priority should be to encourage public transit and alternate modes of transportation.” 

The mayor said the Transportation Demand Study will not address the issues she has raised in her recommendation and that she knows of no city anywhere that has achieved a 100 percent transit policy. 

There are no specifics in the mayor's recommendation, but she wants the city manager to meet with city unions to determine a reasonable number of parking spaces for each agency including school district employees and police and fire department personnel. 

The police department has made a request for at least 30 more spaces in addition to those already designated for department employees. The mayor said she supports a transit-first policy but the city will never be able to eliminate the need for some parking. “I am particularly concerned about women employees during the winter months who will have to walk many blocks in the dark,” she said. 

Tonight may be the last chance for the public to address the council about the designation of the West Berkeley Shellmound as a historic landmark. The city manager has recommended public hearings be closed and the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation be affirmed. The designation of the property was appealed by Richard and Charlene De Vecchi, who own property under which the shellmound is said to be situated. 

The Landmarks Preservation Commission has designated the boundaries of the historic site as between University and Hearst avenues, and Fourth Street and Interstate 880. The De Vecchis say there is no evidence that the site was a Native American habitat and burial ground and is not worthy of landmark status. 

Among the other agenda items is the approval of plans to renovate the half-acre Berkeley Way Mini-Park in the 1200 block of Berkeley Way. The city approved $184,000 for renovations last year. The improvements, which will be carried out by Playgrounds Unlimited of Sunnyvale, will include two playing areas, one for tots and another for 5 to 12- year-olds. There will also be new fences, drinking fountain and pathways. 

Berkeley adopted an initiative in 1997 to remove and replace all hazardous play equipment. 

Calvin Fong, of the Berkeley Way, Acton Chestnut and Hearst Neighborhood Group, and also aide to Councilmember Margaret Breland, said the park will be nearly brand new. “I’m happy, the neighbors are happy and the kids certainly will be happy.” 

The initiative has been successful so far, said Lisa Caronna, director of the Parks and Waterfront Department. “We are renovating two to four parks a year,” she said 

Other parks recently renovated are the Prince Street and Ohlone parks. 

Other issues on the agenda include: 

• A request from District 8 Councilmember Polly Armstrong for the city manager to  

draft a letter congratulating Washington Mutual for canceling its ATM fees nationwide. According to Armstrong, the Berkeley City Council considered a resolution calling for the rollback of ATM fees two years ago. The city attorney, however, recommended against its final passage. It would have been unenforceable, Armstrong said. 

“I felt the policy would of been pandering,” Armstrong said. “And I think Washington Mutual should be congratulated and Wells Fargo and Bank of America should take notice.” 

• Public Works Director Rene Cardinaux has recommended the City Council approve 

a $318,309 plan to install a new fee collection system in the Sather Gate Garage at 2450 Durant Ave. Patrons and merchants have been displeased with the current pay system since it was installed in 1995. 

• Dean has requested the city clerk draft a letter to Gov. Gray Davis requesting he immediately implement an Executive Order completely banning the use of the additive MTBE in gasoline. The recommendation claims that since Davis issued an Executive Order banning MTBE use by 2002, refineries have increased use of the oxygenate by 14 percent. The controversial oxygenate helps gas burn cleaner but is also known to contaminate reservoirs and ground water. 

Tonight's meeting will be held in the City Council Chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way at 7 p.m. The meeting will also be broadcast on KPFB Radio, 83.9 and Cable B-TV (Channel 25).