Berkeley City Council Spends $3.3 Million Windfall

By Judith Scherr
Friday March 02, 2007

Among the decisions the Berkeley City Council made Tuesday night was to spend a $3.3 million windfall from unexpected revenues from investments and parking fines. 

The council also voted to uphold a carry-out business on Euclid Avenue, hold a workshop on a loophole in the inclusionary housing ordinance, support the Shattuck Cinema workers and extend permit parking. 

It was past 11 p.m. when the council voted 7-1, with Councilmember Betty Olds having left the meeting and Councilmember Kriss Worthington voting in opposition, to distribute the funds to a variety of projects: $200,000 to continuing Telegraph Avenue improvements, including extra policing and mental health services; $500,000 for economic development activities; $200,000 for upgrades in computer technology for public safety; $100,000 to Sustainable Berkeley to produce a plan for reducing greenhouse gases locally; $1 million to the fire department to end rolling fire station closures and $1.3 million for infrastructure needs. 

Much of the discussion turned around a proposal by Worthington, which went down to defeat, to hold the infrastructure money aside for housing, traffic and crime, specifically to address the increasing number of robberies.  

But Councilmember Darryl Moore was firm: “We have infrastrucure needs in West Berkeley,” he said. “We want the $1.3 million for infrastructure.” 

The council had called for details on economic development expenditures, among which will be: 

• $75,000 for a half-time project coordinator, 

• $53,000 for a half-time data analyst to map the city’s commercial properties, including vacancies 

• $20,000 for a consultant to help set up Business Improvement Districts in south and west Berkeley, 

• $20,000 to support film office activities for the city’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau 

• $50,000 for south Berkeley’s façade grants,  

• $85,000 for short-term work for a senior planner to, according to Economic Development Director Michael Kaplan, “dig into the questions of West Berkeley zoning,” 

• $60,000 for a shop-local marketing effort. 

While detailed questions were asked about most of the expenditures, councilmembers refrained from queries about the $100,000 to be given to Sustainable Berkeley, a grouping of individuals, non-profits and UC Berkeley. Funds supposed to be used to write a plan to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions will not be allocated until a contract is approved by the council, according to Mayor Tom Bates. 


Public police information  

A Contra Costa Times effort to review public information efforts of a number of police departments gave Berkeley a failing grade of F-, along with a number of other cities’ police departments, and so Councilmember Dona Spring called on the Berkeley department for improvements, particularly in keeping neighborhoods current about crime waves and in accessibility to police reports. 

Police Chief Doug Hambleton responded saying that the department has retrained its personnel and would be more responsive. 


Euclid appeal 

While some neighbors were upset with the idea of yet another “carry out” food service outlet, the council upheld the zoning board decision to allow Jamal Fares, owner of the Euclid Avenue Hummingbird Café, to open a second establishment across the street. 

The vote to uphold the decision of the zoning board and not hold a new public hearing was 6-3, with Councilmembers Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington voting in opposition and Spring abstaining. 


The council also voted: 

• To hold a workshop on the loophole in the inclusionary housing ordinance for smaller projects that include a mix of live-work and regular apartment units. 

• To support workers at the Shattuck Cinema, who are working for Landmark Theatres without a contract. 

• To extend residential parking permits to Parker Street between Milvia Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, to Emerson Street between Shattuck Avenue and Wheeler Street and to Prince Street between Wheeler and Deakin streets.