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City Council To Consider Public Commons Initiative—Again

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday June 12, 2007

The Berkeley City Council tonight (Tuesday) will take another look at the mayor’s controversial Public Commons for Everyone Initiative. At the last meeting, an exhausted council did not address the specifics in the measure intended to enhance shopping areas by removing persons whose behavior is unacceptable.  

Another controversial item is likely to be an appeal by Elmwood neighbors and merchants of a plan to transform the Wright’s Garage Building into a four-to-seven unit commercial building that would include a restaurant, exercise or dance studios and five retail spaces. 

Commenting on the 1,300-plus page agenda packet, Councilmember Betty Olds said the City Council is consistent in the way it handles business. “First they discuss it, then they send it to a committee, then they put up a sign about it,” she said. “If all else fails, we’ll talk it to death.”  

The first order of business will be a joint session with the new Berkeley Housing Authority board. Then the council will meet briefly as the Redevelopment Agency.  

The council meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and in addition to the Public Commons Initiative and the Wright’s Garage appeal will include a budget discussion; the creation of a new city position for a Revenue Development Officer, with a salary range of $6,395-$7,730 per month; extending evening hours of operation for businesses where there is no sales or service of alcohol, ensuring equal opportunities for people re-entering the work force after prison, opposition to transit funding reduction in the governor’s budget and city sponsorship of the Solano Stroll. 


Public Commons 

At the May 22 meeting the council had voted to separate out the various component’s of the mayor’s evolving proposal to curb anti-social street behavior. It was about midnight and the worn-out council adjourned without going through the proposal. At this meeting, Councilmember Kriss Worthington has added his own recommendations. 

Bates proposal includes: 

• Generating income to fund the plan with increased parking meter fees and an increased number of meters. 

• Hiring a six-month planner to refine the plan. 

• Writing a no-smoking ordinance for commercial areas that would include designated smoking areas. 

• Improve signage and adding hours of access to public bathrooms. 

• Making public defecation and urination an infraction and referring the concept to the Police Review Commission. 

• Enforcing existing laws. 

• Developing more public seating. 

• Expanding supportive housing opportunities. 

• Soliciting feedback from key commissions. 

Worthington’s proposal includes: 

• Compiling information on quality-of-life citations issued and prosecuted in Berkeley and neighboring cities. 

• Compiling data estimating the cost of district attorney and public defender, court, and police time. 

• Delaying any ordinance considering a ban on sitting on the sidewalk for one year, until the results of the other ordinances are in. 

• Delaying the urination/defecation ordinance until the number of public toilets are increased. 

• Implementing community policing to include walking beats, communicating with businesses, residents and others and implementing a police officer’s use of a dedicated cell phone or pager. 


Other items 

In addition to the appeal of the zoning board’s decision to allow development at the Wright’s Garage location, there is an appeal of the Landmark’s Commission’s designation as a landmark of the Maybeck House at 1300 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.  

The council will review the 2008/2009 budget, including the council referrals. 

A number of information reports—not likely to be discussed—are available from the city clerk’s office or on the clerk’s web site. Among them are: a status report on instant runoff voting and installation of surveillance cameras.