February 26

As you may have noticed, there are many changes underway in the Elmwood commercial district. Five storefronts are in the midst of opening as new businesses, and more remain vacant. I’m sure you share my concern about our small businesses. I’m working very closely with our Office of Economic Development to determine why businesses close and to reach out to landlords about prospective new tenants. So far, stores have closed for a wide range of reasons: owners couldn’t maintain multiple store locations, family members got sick, owners wanted to retire, rental increases, or the franchise decided to close all locations. Needless to say, maintaining the beautiful and thriving commercial corridor is a high priority of mine.

I’m exploring several ways to help our commercial corridor thrive. Berkeley City Council recently heard a report from the Office of Economic Development about the challenges small businesses face and the proactive steps we can take to address them. During our last work session, I urged the City Council to consider putting a commercial vacancy tax on the ballot to prevent landlords from letting their properties go vacant. City Council will have further discussions on ballot measures tomorrow, Tuesday, February 27. The same night, we will vote on an item I authored to request that Mayor Arreguín and I, along with other councilmembers, create a Small Business Subcommittee to better address the challenges and hurdles that our local businesses face. Please feel free to reach out to council@cityofberkeley.info to share your opinion on these proposals.

The Office of Economic Development also has released their February economic dashboard report which highlights the Elmwood on p.18. I have heard feedback on how to address vacancies from a wide variety of residents, business owners, and customers.  I also have heard suggestions for desired businesses on the corridor as well. Some of you have asked how Berkeley’s College Avenue regulations differs than Oakland’s College Avenue regulations. The two biggest differences are 1) Berkeley prohibits stand-alone alcohol sales (e.g. wine bar) and 2) Oakland doesn’t impose quotas (caps) on restaurants. I’d love to hear your thoughts as I’m compiling this feedback. As always, please shop at our local stores!

TomorrowFebruary 27th, Council is deliberating, discussing, and voting on several important measures related to community safety. We will address fire safety and undergrounding utility wires. Our commissioners on the Fire and Disaster Safety commission, Public Works commission, and Transportation commission are doing amazing work for our community.