Council to Tackle Budget, Alcohol Permits, Columbaria and Google Internet Service

Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 09, 2010 - 05:14:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council will start its meeting today with a special 5:30 p.m. budget workshop detailing how the city can balance its 2010-2011 budget. 

The city currently faces a $10 million deficit. Berkeley’s Budget Manager Tracy Vesely is expected to inform the council about state funding cuts which will affect the city’s Public Health funds. The city’s public health programs are estimated to be facing a $2.7 million loss. 


Alcohol Permits for downtown quick-service restaurants  

The Berkeley City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to approve expedited alcohol permits for quick service restaurants downtown. Although the Planning Commission signed off on this recommendation, the proposal has met with opposition from the Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition, which has expressed concern about public safety, health and quality of life.  

Though the City Council had initially included Telegraph Avenue, the Planning Commission, in its final vote, limited the proposed zoning amendments to downtown establishments located more than 200 feet away from a residential zone.  

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, who introduced the item, says that he hopes that an easier permit process will help restaurants during a difficult economy. 


Development of columbaria within city limits  

The Berkeley City Council will also vote on whether to amend the city’s existing zoning codes to permit columbaria (buildings which are dedicated repositories for human ashes) within residential and commercial districts in the city. 

The current proposal would allow a maximum of 400 such sites. Only 5 percent of a site could be used for a columbarium--the rest would have to be associated with religious or related uses. 


Council Considers Google Fiber for Berkeley  

The council will also vote on whether to ask City Manager Phil Kamlarz to submit an application for Google’s Fiber for Communities project by the March 26 deadline. 

Kamlarz will evaluate the application and Request for Information to determine whether the proposed fiber optic network is suitable for Berkeley and report the results to the council. 

According to a report from Councilmembers Darryl Moore and Gordon Wozniak, who introduced the item, “Google plans to build and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the country, which expects to deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections.” The report says that “Google will offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000, and potentially up to 500,000 people.” 

Google is kicking off this program by putting out a RFI to help identify interested communities, including local government and the public. 


The City Council meeting starts with a special workshop at 5:30 p.m., followed by a regular meeting at 7 p.m. Both meetings will take place at the Maudelle Shirek Building (Old City Hall) Council Chamber, 2132 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.