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City Council to consider housing, festivals tonight

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Tuesday October 30, 2001

Among the questions before the council tonight, is a $100,000 contract with the Flamingo Hotel to provide emergency housing for homeless people who are seriously mentally disabled.  

The funds will come from state grant money the city received last November. In the past the city’s Mobile Crisis Team has been able to house people at the Flamingo Hotel on an emergency basis. 

According to the report the contract with the Flamingo is stop gap measure until long-term housing is arranged. 


Homeless survey finds services lacking 

The council will hear a report on the status of homeless people residing in Berkeley. The report is based on a survey by Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency, a nonprofit organization that provides shelter and services for the homeless in Berkeley and Oakland, of 100 homeless men and women. 

The report concludes that Berkeley’s estimated 1,200 homeless are regularly harassed by the police, have insufficient access to shelter, health services and education. 

Among the solutions suggested in the report are that the city add to the number of shelter beds, create a detoxification facility and designate a legal camping area in the city limits. The report also asks for greater investigation of the relationship between the homeless and the Berkeley Police Department. Chief Dash Butler will be present to respond to some of the conclusions in the report. 


Relocating the folk festival 

The Commission on Disability is requesting the council relocate Berkeley’s annual Free Folk Festival to a location more accessible to diabled people. 

According to a COD report, the stage of the current location, Ashkenaz, has an inaccessible stage and the entrance ramp is of an unsatisfactory design.  

The report also claims the venue’s bathrooms, though recently improved, are still awkward to use. Access to them is more difficult during events when the narrow hallway outside the bathroom is crowded with people.  

The report suggests that the current venue does not adequately accommodate the growing number of people who attend the popular festival each year. 

It suggests moving the festival to one of Berkeley’s schools as a possible solution. Some schools have accessible auditoriums and space for workshops and related festival activities. 


Traffic safety for school kids 

The council will consider a recommendation from Mayor Shirley Dean to review the school traffic safety plans. According to the recommendation, the council approved a proposal over a year ago that required each Berkeley school, public and private, to submit a safety plan for picking up and dropping off of children.  

But Dean said there is little evidence that the plans are in effect. The recommendation contends that a police officer, who once enforced a 10-minute parking limit on Ellis Street near Malcolm X School, is no longer there and children continue to cross Ashby Avenue at Ellis Street instead of walking one block west where there is a traffic signal. The report also describes a child struck by a car while crossing Ellis Street to reach a school yard.  


Public hearings 

The council will hold four public hearings, beginning with a proposal to increase parking fees at the Center Street Garage.  

The council will hear public comments on the formation and taxation of businesses in the Downtown Berkeley Business Improvement District. 

It will also hear an appeal of a declaration by the Zoning Adjustments Board that a property at 2507-09 McGee Avenue is a public nuisance.  

Finally, there will be a public hearing on the Draft General Plan and an Environmental Impact Report on the plan. Another public hearing will be held on the draft plan on Nov. 6. 


The council will also look at authorizing: 

• The acceptance of $800,000 in state grant money to construct the Berkeley Bay Trail. The additional funds will make the total state contribution to the project $3.5 million. 

• The city manager to develop a charter amendment to allow the redistricting process to occur after the decennial census is complete and any under or overcounts are adjusted. The recent redistricting process was marred by a Census Bureau undercount of nearly 4,500 people, mostly students in districts 7 and 8. 

• Six months of supplemental military leave benefits to employees called to active duty in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. 


Berkeley Housing Authority 

The Berkeley Housing Authority, which is made of the City Council and two affordable housing residents, will meet in the Council Chambers at 6:30 p.m. just prior to the regular City Council meeting. The BHA will discuss a report detailing an increase of 17 rental units to Berkeley’s section 8 housing program over the last three months. In order for the program to remain viable and to avoid financial cuts by the Office of Housing and Urban Development, the BHA has to reach a goal of 1,620 section 8 leases. Currently there are 1,270. 

The BHA will also discuss a report on the status of Section 8 Resident Council and the Public Housing Resident Council. The council and board are made up of section 8 and public housing residents. According to the report, the effectiveness of the resident councils is impeded by an inability to work together. In addition many of the board’s and council’s meetings have been canceled because not enough members show up to legally take action on items on their agendas.  

Housing Director Stephen Barton will also ask the BHA to approve a $90,000 contract with AA-1 Construction to provide building maintenance for city-owned public housing. 

The meeting will be held tonight at 7 p.m. at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in the City Council Chambers. It will also be broadcast live on the KPFA Radio, 89.3 and Cable B-TV, Channel 25.