Council to Debate Budget, Gaia Building, Public Comment

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday June 27, 2006

While City Manager Phil Kamlarz has detailed a $220,000 six-month Telegraph Avenue area improvement plan as part of his $300 million mostly fixed-cost budget that goes before the Berkeley City Council tonight (Tuesday), Councilmember Kriss Worthington will ask his colleagues to approve the funds but hold off on the plan specifics. 

“We need to analyze the community’s suggestions to figure out how to spend the money,” said Worthington, whose district includes Telegraph. 

He noted that there are “glaring omissions” in the city manager’s plan, including a lack of solutions to the parking problem on the street. 

The manager’s six-month Telegraph Avenue spending plan calls for:  

• $100,000 to be spent on overtime for increased bike patrol and drug task force officers. 

• $70,000 to add hours for laborers to clean the Telegraph area and downtown sidewalks ($50,000 from the 2005-2006-year budget has been spent recently for two green machines to clean sidewalks on Telegraph and downtown). 

• $20,000 to improve facades, a contribution to a $160,000 fund also supported by the university, the business improvement district, and property and business owners. 

• $30,000 to increase mental health staffing. 

Worthington said it would cost $50,000 to restore the 22 or so parking spaces converted to motorcycle parking last fall. 

He criticized the report for not addressing the yellow zones on Durant Avenue and Telegraph, which allow no public parking. 

The report should have addressed the specific amount of time that a city planner would spend working on Telegraph Avenue-related issues, Worthington said. 

And, when increasing police patrols on Telegraph Avenue, the city needs to address the displacement of drug dealing into the neighborhoods, he added. 


Other budget considerations 

Also coming up in the budget deliberations will be a 25-cent increase in hourly parking-meter fees, expected to raised about $1 million annually.  

Other proposed expenditures, in addition to the approximate $300 million in fixed costs, include: 

• $200,000 for a traffic-calming plan. 

• $2.8 million for street and sewer improvements, as well as affordable housing. 

• The mayor’s proposed $900,000 in expenditures that include funding for implementation of an ordinance to buy goods not made in sweatshops, promotion of business areas, the Ashby BART community process, a watershed coordinator and more.  

The council will also discuss: 

• Cultural uses at the Gaia Building on Allston Way. Owned by developer Patrick Kennedy, the Gaia Building was permitted extra height in exchange for the implementation of cultural uses on the ground floor and mezzanine. 

The council and developer have been at odds over that usage. The council will discuss an agreement between the developer and city staff specifying the amount of time to be used for cultural events. 

• Changing the rules for public comment at city meetings to possibly allow all items on the agenda to be addressed, rather than simply those selected by lottery. 

The change in rules is in response to a lawsuit threatened by the First Amendment Project. 

• Establishing the level of income at $33,500 to exempt low-income individuals and couples from paying certain local taxes and fees. 

• Placing an advisory measure on the November ballot calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney. 

The measure accused them of having “intentionally misled the congress and American people regarding the threat from Iraq in order to justify an unnecessary war” and other crimes. 

• Approving, in principle, an ordinance that would ensure that large-scale hospitality businesses retain workers when the business changes hands. 

The item targets the Doubletree Hotel in the Berkeley Marina, which may change hands in September.