Berkeley Council Approves Local Hiring, Safeway Project--Postpones Funding Sex Reassignment.

By Charlotte Perry-Houts
Thursday January 20, 2011 - 09:23:00 AM

At Tuesday night's regular meeting, the Berkeley City Council took action on the Community Workforce Agreement, discussed sex reassignment surgery, and upheld a ZAB decision to allow the Safeway on North Shattuck to expand and remodel. Councilmember Max Anderson was absent due to back problems. 

The meeting began on a sad note: Tim Moellering, who was being recognized and honored by the City Council for his work as a baseball coach and history teacher at Berkeley High School, had passed away earlier the same evening. Dozens of friends, students, and family members came and held a moment of silence in his memory. Moellering recently helped secure funding for Berkeley's Measure I, and has long been trying to get regulation-sized fields for Berkeley athletics. Council requested that the Derby Street field renovation be made a priority project. Efforts are being made to get the field named “Tim Moellering Field.” 

Councilmember Linda Maio read a proclamation honoring the Covenant Worship Center for its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day community service. This year, 35 volunteers cleaned up the area in and around San Pablo Park and collected 65-75 bags of trash. Councilmember Darryl Moore read a proclamation declaring 2011 the Year of the Black Man, promising that Berkeley will focus on enriching the lives of its black men, particularly through the efforts of the 2020 Vision project. 

The City Manager noted that the citywide homeless count would be starting on January 25th, and expressed hope that it will reveal improvements in the problem of homelessness. 

Non-agenda public commentators included a woman expressing anger about the recent closing of Willard Pool, which community members are hoping will re-open. Another public commentator, who was clearly not in high school, proposed that Berkeley pay its students to go to high school. 

Item 6 on the Consent Calendar, proposing that the city set aside a $20,000 per fiscal year fund to help employees afford sex reassignment surgery, was held off until February 15th for further consideration and re-wording. Representatives of The Pacific Center and the Transgender Law Center, as well as Lynn Riordan, a clerk in the finance department who has undergone sex reassignment surgery, came forward to support Berkeley's efforts to promote civil liberties by creating the fund. There has been some community concern that the city is spending the extra money on this legislation when there is little money to spare for city services and projects, but most Councilmembers and public commentators at Tuesday's meeting seemed to be in support of the legislation. 

Item 9 on the Consent Calendar, regarding early bird parking fees for parking garages, was held until February 8th so that the Transportation Manager could attend and answer questions. 

The Consent Calendar, with the aforementioned items removed, was passed unanimously. It included the repeal of the Zoning Ordinance amendment allowing libraries to make renovations without variance permits. Concerned Library Users opposed the ordinance last year, because the City had not prepared an Environmental Impact Report. The city is now going to prepare an EIR and move forward with the Zoning Ordinance amendment to facilitate the renovation of the South and West neighborhood branch libraries. 

Also on the Consent Calendar were the extension of the 9th Street bicycle boulevard with the collaboration of the City of Emeryville, a $50,000 lawsuit settlement, and a request for a follow-up report on the Property and Evidence Room POST Study. The POST study is designed to evaluate BPD's implementation of 18 recommendations regarding their property and evidence function. 

The main attraction of the evening was the Community Workforce Agreement, which the Council passed unanimously. A large crowd of union representatives and workers appeared at the meeting to encourage the Council to adopt the Agreement, which is supposedly designed to create local jobs. The CWA dictates terms of agreement between contractors and unions for demolition, construction, and landscaping projects worth $1 million or more. Contractors are required to hire within union recommendations, give 30% of the hours worked to Berkeley residents, pay prevailing wages, and give ten cents for every hour worked to the city for implementation of the agreement. If there is not enough labor to hire within Berkeley, second priority goes to workers in the “green corridor” areas, or places that have short commutes to Berkeley, and then to workers within Alameda County. In 14 months, the city will assess whether the CWA is working, and whether it should be extended to projects worth less than $1 million. They will be assessing whether the CWA has done its job in increasing jobs for Berkeley and green corridor residents, whether the costs of implementing the agreement are greater than one per cent of the cost of the construction contracts, and whether there has been an impact on the number of contracts and subcontracts being awarded to small, Berkeley-based businesses. 

Many of the public commentators were Berkeley carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and other manual laborers who have been unemployed lately, partly because other cities are enforcing agreements like Berkeley's CWA. They were pleased with the legislation and urged the city to make a strong effort to enforce the terms of the agreement. 

Council then passed Item 20, inviting proposals and bids for projects that could create some local jobs 

Councilmember Susan Wengraf secured an appointment to the Association of Bay Area Governments, while Kriss Worthington got one for the East Bay group of the League of California Cities, which he joked was a consolation prize, since he'd sought the ABAG post. 

Finally, the Council upheld the ZAB's decision to allow the North Shattuck Safeway to expand and remodel. Two appellants from the neighborhood had complained about the traffic, safety, and appearance of the proposed building, and a third appellant was upset that the project had been characterized as an urban infill project, giving it lots of exemptions and freedom from the California Environmental Quality Act. One neighbor removed her appeal after having discussed the matter with Councilmember Capitelli and Safeway representatives. One of the Safeway representatives referred to Councilmember Capitelli as “the new Henry Kissinger of the City of Berkeley,” which was unprecedentedly controversial-sounding. The Council unanimously voted in favor of Safeway, so look forward to a much larger grocery store on Shattuck and Henry in the near future.