Page One

Council Looks At New Hotel; Animal Shelter Likely Off The Agenda

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday October 23, 2007

Although building a second story atop the present animal shelter at 2013 Second St. is on tonight’s (Tuesday) City Council agenda, Councilmember Betty Olds, who served on a now-defunct committee searching for a new shelter, says she’ll ask the council to wait until early next year to make a decision. 

Olds believes a new site for the shelter has been found. She says she’s not ready to reveal the location. 

Also on the agenda for tonight’s meeting, which begins at 7 p.m., is approval of a four-year firefighter contract, hiring consultants for a feasibility study for a downtown hotel, the question of telecommunication antennas at UC Storage and more. 

At 6:30 p.m. the council will hold a work session on the pandemic flu with Dr. Linda Rudolf, head of the city’s public health division. 


Animal shelter 

Five years ago Berkeley voters approved a $7.2 million general obligation bond to build an animal shelter. A committee consisting of Councilmembers Betty Olds and Dona Spring, two members of the humane commission and city staff was charged with locating a site. 

“Every time we found some place, something was wrong with it,” Olds told the Planet on Monday.  

An animal shelter needs to be located where neighbors are not going to get upset by barking dogs. According to a city staff report, it should be near a place like Aquatic Park, where the animals can be walked. 

The problem with rebuilding on the site—adding offices and small animal rooms on a second story—is that the foundation at the site has to be raised three feet because of flooding. In addition,the animals will have to be temporarily relocated at a cost of about $1.5 million, Olds said. 

As for the new site, the councilmember added, “It’s not a done deal.” 


Firefighters’ contract 

The City Council will be asked to approve a four-year contract for firefighters retroactive to July 2006. If the contract is approved, at the end of the four years the firefighters will have received a 13 percent increase.  

Writing to the City Council, Barbara Gilbert asked the body to look at the effect the increase will have on other city workers. “As you are well aware, the domino effect will occur with the other unions who will be demanding comparable increases,” she wrote. 

Furthermore, Gilbert said in an interview with the Daily Planet on Monday, that she had requested comparative costs, but has yet to receive them. 

In a separate interview Monday, City Manager Phil Kamlarz said he was preparing those figures, which will indicate that the city pays a little higher than the median salary. (The comparative figures were not ready by late Monday afternoon.) 

Kamlarz said 13 percent over four years is the approximate growth in city revenues expected over four years.  


Public hearings: Nextel, Verizon 

The question of putting Verizon and Nextel telecommunication antennas atop UC Storage at 2721 Shattuck Ave. will be back before the council again. The zoning board has denied Nextel and Verizon requests for the antennas two separate times, with the applicants appealing the decision both times.  

Both Nextel and Verizon have filed lawsuits against the city on the question. 


The downtown hotel 

Tonight the proposed downtown hotel will be before council, which will be asked to accept funds from Carpenter and Company, the hotel developer, to pay for a “financial feasibility analysis and review of possible mechanisms to provide tax abatement or other subsidies to render the project feasible.” 

Councilmember Dona Spring told the Planet she is a proponent of a downtown hotel, but not in favor of giving the hotel millions of dollars in subsidies. There is a $30 million gap between estimated project costs and projected revenues necessary to make the project financially feasible, according to a staff report written by Michael Caplan, acting director of the city’s economic development division. 

Spring said she believes the developer wants to give the city the funds so the city can contract for the study “to show the council’s open to the idea” of public financing for the hotel. 

Caplan’s report calls on the city to accept the funds for the study. “Solid financial assessment and knowledge of industry standards will assist the city in negotiating a fair deal that protects the city’s financial interests,” the report said. Staff is asking for a sole source contract with Keyser Marston, “which specializes in doing feasibility assessments of hotel projects.” 


Other actions: 

The council will also be asked to address: 

• Increasing the allocation for the winter shelter program by $10,000 for the program at the Oakland Army Base, whose costs have increased. 

• Creating the position of transportation manager, who will head the transportation division in the Public Works Department. The salary will be in a range from $111,000 per year (plus about 50 percent benefits) to about $135,000 (plus benefits). 

• Putting a $25,000 award, which the city received from the National Organization on Disability, toward the purchase of a wheelchair accessible vehicle for City CarShare. Additional costs would be borne by City CarShare. 

• Developing a city “preferred alternative” on Bus Rapid Transit, which would dedicate traffic lanes to buses on Telegraph Avenue; 

• Becoming a city of sanctuary for conscientious objectors; 

• Reinstating $23,000 to Berkeley Food and Housing Project.