I wanted to update you on several key developments within Berkeley as they relate to public safety. Public safety has always been a priority of mine and I’m increasingly alarmed by the crime reports in Berkeley, and particularly in the Elmwood. I want to state very clearly that you have my commitment to pursue policies to improve the lives of our residents so everyone can feel safe. Please take a moment to complete this public safety survey. My fundamental focus during this budget cycle will be infrastructure and public safety and health. This budget cycle will be incredibly important and I encourage you to provide your thoughts on our budget. You can email me, City Council, and/or attend and provide feedback at the Mayor’s forum on the budget on June 8th at 5:30. You can also submit a question for the forum here. Details are available on the Mayor’s website here.
Additionally, mark your calendars for a public safety forum with Mayor Arreguín, City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley, Interim Police Chief Jen Louis, Public Safety Committee Member Susan Wengraf, and Health, Housing, and Community Services Director Lisa Warhuus on June 24th at 7:00pm. Please RSVP by emailing Kerry at [email protected] and we will send you a link. You can also submit questions by emailing her as well.
What is the city doing to help unhoused mentally ill individuals?
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the mental health crisis many communities are facing. It is also important not to conflate mental health issues with housing status. We know, however, that approximately 42% of our homeless community self-report psychiatric conditions according to a 2019 Alameda County Everyone Home Homeless Count. While it is important to realize that the vast majority of unhoused individuals are neither mentally ill nor violent, we have seen incidents recently from mentally ill individuals in our community, some of whom are homeless. Our city staff provides extensive resources for services, shelter, and housing to our unhoused population but due to COVID-19 social distancing protocols, city shelters and drop in centers have not been operating at full capacity and individuals are living on our streets. Instead, they pivoted to provide food distribution and increased street outreach.
Regardless of housing status, the City needs to take a proactive approach in addressing the simultaneous mental health and public safety issues occurring in our streets. It is clear our mental health system is broken. Not only is it broken throughout the state of California, it’s fundamentally broken specifically in Alameda County. The Department of Justice said that Alameda County’s mental health system is unconstitutional. For those mentally ill individuals who are unhoused, the problems are compounded. There is much more to say, so please attend our forum on 6/24.
So, what is the City Council going to do about it?
On May 27th, at the budget committee, Mayor Jesse Arreguín and I made a motion to direct the City Manager to bring a budget proposal to Council to expand public safety and mental health services to deal with the present public safety crisis and violence in the community. Furthermore, we are going to engage in further discussions with the county about Laura’s Law and engage with our state officials on pilot programs for conservatorships. I encourage you to participate in both the Mayor’s town hall on the budget, advocate for this public safety/mental health team, and attend our forum on June 24th.
Bay Area Health Officers Support California Face Masking Guidance
The Association of Bay Area Health Officials, representing 12 Bay Area Health Officers and their Local Health Jurisdictions, strongly supports the California Department of Public Health's strategy to continue with current masking guidance until June 15, when the State will align with the CDC's updated masking guidance.
The CDC's updated masking guidance is grounded in evidence showing that vaccines are extremely effective in protecting vaccinated people from infection, severe illness, and death, and preventing them from spreading COVID-19 to others. Additionally, increasing vaccination in our communities helps mitigate the spread of new variants that are more likely to infect those who are unvaccinated. This helps protect people who cannot yet get vaccinated, such as children younger than 12, as well as people who may not get full benefit from the vaccine, such as people with weakened immune systems.
With almost half of California's population over age 16 fully vaccinated, and nearly 65 percent having received at least one dose of vaccine, great progress has been made across the state in vaccinating eligible residents against COVID-19. However, large numbers of residents are still unvaccinated, not yet fully vaccinated, or not eligible to be vaccinated. This next month is critical to ensuring more of our residents can access vaccinations, and that businesses and other entities are able to prepare for implementation of the CDC's updated masking guidance.
Because COVID-19 continues to circulate here and abroad, the best way for residents to protect themselves is to get vaccinated. A person is fully protected two weeks after they complete their vaccine series, which is a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
"Thanks to so many in our community who have gotten vaccinated, we have come a long way and can finally start to see a return to normalcy in our area," said Dr. Nicholas Moss, Alameda County Health Officer. "This next month is our chance to further increase vaccination rates. Wear your mask now, so we can get to June 15 together."
Safe, free, and effective COVID-19 vaccines are now available to everyone age 12 and up. Book an appointment or find a walk-in clinic near you.
Berkeley Vice Mayor
Want to request a City service?
Use Berkeley's online 311 form (either through the General Request form or a specific topic) or call 311 from a landline, or 510-981-2489. Please note that my office routes all the service requests we receive through this customer service center, so your request will be handled most efficiently by directly contacting 311.
AC Transit Projects in Berkeley
Dana Complete Street Pilot Project
The Dana Complete Street Pilot Project in Berkeley’s Southside neighborhood will construct a bus passenger boarding island, a two-way protected bikeway, and traffic signal improvements on Dana Street from Bancroft Way to Dwight Way. The project will improve bus reliability, as well as pedestrian and bicycle safety. On-street parking and commercial (yellow curb) and passenger (white curb) loading zones on Dana Street are proposed to move from the west side to the east side of the street to allow construction of the protected bikeway and bus boarding island, and to provide emergency vehicle access. The Pilot Project is being developed in coordination with the City of Berkeley and is associated with the Southside Complete Street Project.
Telegraph Avenue Rapid Corridors
Telegraph Avenue is being pursued to enhance reliability and reduce travel time by improving traffic signals and upgrading or relocating bus stops along Telegraph Avenue north of 51st Street. The Project intends to enhance transit operations along the corridor and service quality for bus lines 6 and 800, bringing them in closer alignment to the improvements recommended in AC Transit’s Major Corridors Study.
Project web page for the Rapid Corridors Project, including Telegraph Avenue and Dana Street, is found at the following: https://www.actransit.org/rapid-corridors
Fire Fuel Chipper Schedule 2021 - June 7 - September 24th
The Fire Fuel Chipper program is operated by the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department’s Urban Forestry Unit. This program includes the use of an onsite chipper to dispose of vegetation that has been assembled by residents and left near the street. The Vegetation Debris Program, which is operated by Public Works’ Zero Waste Division, offers delivery and pick-up of 30-cubic yard bins to neighborhoods that have a larger need for green waste disposal. Both programs allow residents identified in the Fire Surcharge Area to dispose of hazardous vegetation/fire fuels. https://www.cityofberkeley.info/fire_fuel_program/
Audit Release: Fleet Replacement Fund Short Millions
The City Auditor released a new audit titled Fleet Replacement Fund Short Millions. This audit outlines how the City’s fund to replace city vehicles and large equipment (Replacement Fund) is insufficient by millions of dollars, and has been poorly managed due in part to a lack of information and policy guidance. This shortfall may lead to higher long-term costs and may jeopardize the City’s planned transition to an all-electric fleet by 2030.
Timely replacement of fleet assets is important because keeping vehicles and equipment past their replacement date may result in excessive repair and maintenance costs.
The audit recommends Public Works collaborate with the City Manager’s Office to adjust the fleet funding model to account for the true costs of managing the fleet, update its electric vehicle transition plan, and ensure the new fleet management system has the accurate data needed to manage the Replacement Fund. The Public Works Department agreed with these findings and recommendations.
Virtual Green Home Tours Highlight How Local Residents Are Fighting Climate Change At Home
Learn how your neighbors are upgrading their homes to combat climate change at two virtual green home tours in June. These online events showcase sustainability features in 12 East Bay homes, including all-electric appliances, solar and battery storage, native gardens, and electric vehicle charging.
Each tour will be followed by a live Q&A with residents and homeowners. For those considering upgrades of their own, experts will be on hand to answer questions about heat pumps, air quality, solar storage, power outages, rebates, and more. We’ll even have an induction cooking demonstration.
Tours on Sunday, June 6 and Sunday June 13
There are two tour dates, each featuring six 10-minute home tours, followed by a 10-minute live Q&A:
- Sunday, June 6, 10am-2pm
- Sunday, June 13, 10am-2pm
All the homes in each tour – whether an apartment, house or ADU – are partially or fully electrified. Polluting gas appliances have been swapped out for efficient, all-electric alternatives powered by clean electricity from their local community choice energy provider. Recordings of the tours and expert presentations will also be available on the East Bay Green Home Tour website, along with other resources on electrification.
Green home tours support City climate goals
The City recently released a draft Existing Buildings Electrification Strategy which lays out a plan for the City to equitably electrify all buildings. In Berkeley and throughout the state, fossil-fuel powered buildings are the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Methane, the key component of natural gas, is a harmful greenhouse gas that traps 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide. By transitioning buildings to electricity, we can reduce methane leakages in the natural gas system, from extraction to pipeline to our homes and businesses. As the electric grid gets cleaner each year with the addition of more renewable solar and wind energy, the carbon footprint of all-electric buildings shrinks. All-electric buildings that have rooftop solar or purchase 100% renewable electricity are already zero-emission.
Building electrification is a key strategy to reach the City’s Fossil Fuel Free and Climate Action Plan goals. Building electrification also supports the City's Strategic Plan goal to "be a global leader in addressing climate change, advancing environmental justice, and protecting the environment."
The City is collaborating with local tour producer Verdant Communications & Project Management, the Ecology Center, and the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition Electrification Working Group to host this event. Join the East Bay Green Home Tour and discover from your neighbors how to jumpstart your electrification journey.
- Online registration: East Bay Green Home Tour
- East Bay Green Home Tour schedule and speakers
- Draft Berkeley Existing Buildings Electrification Strategy and Electrification Resources
- Opt Up for 100% Renewable Energy through East Bay Community Energy