Public Comment

Will Berkeley City Council Consider Real Alternatives to West Campus Council Chamber Site?

By Katherine Harr
Monday January 16, 2012 - 09:35:00 PM

Tonight, Tuesday January 17, the Berkeley City Council will review the staff report on “alternate” locations for City Council meetings. Alternate to what? The corner of Browning and Addison – the residential side of BUSD’s West Campus property.

As the DP wrote, "West Campus is relatively far from the action, and would probably impede rather than facilitate citizen attendance at meetings—but perhaps that’s the rationale behind what appears to be the current plan."

Unfortunately, the report doesn’t provide much in the way of facts or details, and two of the three leading locations identified in the report have many of the same problems that West Campus does: The Longfellow School and NB Senior Center are both in residential areas not well served by late-night transit.

Yet so far the only opposition has been from those of us likely to be dismissed as NIMBY ROBOTS, the neighbors. 

Staff analysis was lacking in so many ways, I hardly know where to start. Main concerns are technical – many of the locations considered don’t have all the infrastructure needed to support TV and Web broadcast or close captioning. Yet the report gives no information about costs for adding those capacities. Even when the report addresses transit, it doesn’t spell out that West Campus is served within half a mile by only 3 buses at night, while locations like Berkeley Community College have at least seven buses coming right by. 

Supposedly, the Browning/Addison chambers will have everything the Council needs, and more. According to the October 24 DP article, BUSD’s $2.1 million cost for that facility would be shared with the city. So how is it, with no location decision yet made by Council, that BUSD is constructing that meeting facility right now? 

Could it be that Council moving to West Campus is a done deal, as the Mayor indicated to speakers on November 8th – the FIRST public meeting on the subject - when he said, “I should point out, we’ve looked everyplace.” 

I may be paranoid, but what if West Campus and Longfellow are the lead contenders because they are in quiet, residential areas? What if public comment will be limited so meetings can end early enough to satisfy neighbors? If you care about public discourse, weigh in January 17 on Council item #33.