The City Council meets tonight, Tuesday, first at 5:30 p.m. as the Redevelopment Agency, then at 7 p.m., in its regular role.
Both as Redevelopment Agency and as the City Council, the public officials will be looking at the Oxford Plaza/David Brower Center, slated, as part of the project, to provide 96 units of housing to people designated as extremely low, very low and low income. The city plans to use $1.5 million redevelopment money from the Fourth Street redevelopment area, though redevelopment money generally goes back into redevelopment areas. However, California law requires cities to use 20 percent of redevelopment funds to support low-income housing, so councilmembers will be asked to agree with city staff that the housing will benefit the project area.
A staff report—released to councilmembers at 5 p.m. on Friday and to the press and public via the city website late Monday morning—says that the project will benefit west Berkeley “by improvement of the supply of housing available at an affordable housing cost to persons who work or live in the Project Area.”
The delay in releasing the report upset Councilmember Dona Spring, in whose district the project sits. “It makes a controversial issue that much more difficult,” Spring said. “There’s so much money involved that the public needs oversight.”
Housing Director Stephen Barton said the delay in releasing the report to the public was unavoidable, with various people reviewing the report. “Adding information seems to go on and on,” Barton said. He defended the late distribution to the public by noting that many times reports to the public come in late—sometimes they even come in at the City Council meetings, he said.
(At the Daily Planet’s deadline Monday, another council item, regarding construction at Alta Bates Hospital, still had no staff report released to the public.)
Warm Pool before voters?
If this item is approved, the City Council will ask the School Board to add a $2 million item to the November parcel tax ballot measure to help fund a new warm pool at Berkeley High across the street from the school. The warm pool is used especially by disabled and elderly people.
Upgrades for $3.8 million to the aging pool were approved by the voters in 2000, but subsequently the pool and the building that houses it were found structurally unsound. The School Board has indicated that it wants to build a new warm pool where the Berkeley High tennis courts had been. This will cost $6-$8 million. The City Council voted to kick in an extra $1 million and needs $2 million from the tax to complete the funding.
Also before the council will be the phasing out of tritium signs in city-owned or leased buildings. These are the glowing exit signs used so that electricity outages won’t prevent people from knowing where building doors are located.
The signs use tritium, which is the radioactive isotope of hydrogen, according to the city’s staff report. The tritium signs can break, although it is unlikely. Breakage could lead to adverse health effects and costly cleanup, the staff report says.
The Berkeley High women’s rowing crew wants to practice at the Aquatic Park lagoon during winter months, which is the time of year when there is a great influx of waterbirds, including bufflehead, American coot and scaup. A staff report, citing a study on the winter waterbirds at the lagoon, recommends that the rowers could be restricted to a central lane in the middle of the lake and that vegetation on the sides of the lagoon could be increased to protect the birds.
In a letter to the Parks and Recreation Commission, Samantha Murray of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, however, said the report was incomplete, having simply looked at the birds and ignored fish and other disturbing factors to the lagoon, such as other year-round paddling, rowing and water-skiing activities.
“Taking a piecemeal approach to protecting wildlife and habitat is problematic because it acts to consider only one or two factors in a vacuum, independently of countless other interconnected variables,” Murray wrote.
This item is for the council’s information only. No action will be taken..