March 2, 2020

Voting

The California Primary is tomorrow, Tuesday, March 3rd. You may vote from 7am to 8pm. Find your nearest polling location by using this polling place list

If you already have your vote-by-mail ballot, turn in your signed ballot at the secure 24-hour drop box at 2180 Milvia Street or at any polling location on Election Day until 8pm Election Day. No postage is needed. 

For same day registrants: If you did not register to vote before February 18th, you may register at your polling place on election day. 

Click here for more information.


Coronavirus and Influenza 

Please take the following precautions to keep yourself healthy:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When that is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%-95% alcohol.
    • It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. 

As coronavirus cases rapidly spread in several countries outside the U.S., use public health travel advisories to help guide your travel for spring break. Travel advisories change at a rapid pace, but the CDC advises the following:

  • Everyone should avoid all nonessential travel to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.
  • Older adults or those with chronic medical conditions should also avoid travel to Japan, where there is sustained community spread of coronavirus -- infections where people don't know how or where they became infected.

The CDC also advises that travelers take usual precautions when traveling to Hong Kong, where there has been a limited amount of community spread. 

Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand are at risk of having community spread.

If you're considering a cruise, the CDC recommends that all travelers reconsider cruise ship voyages to or within Asia.  

*****For more information please go to the city press release page at https://www.cityofberkeley.info/coronavirus/ ******


Next Council Meeting:

You can find the agenda for the next Council meeting here.  

Sanctioned Encampments on CalTrans Property

On the March 10, 2020 agenda council will be deciding on an item to negotiate a lease agreement with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for the leasing of state property at University Avenue and West Frontage Road for an outdoor encampment with restrooms, hand washing stations and garbage service. The item also asks that the City Manager should also inquire about whether additional Caltrans parcels adjacent to those being offered are also available for lease.

You may recall that the City Council voted in favor of a sanctioned encampment pilot program (budget for 25 tents for 50 people) in January and allocated  ~$1,000,000. I did not vote for that item for a variety of reasons. First of all, I think it’s important to allocate our City’s finite resources to funding solutions to homelessness. I also simultaneously recognize the importance of addressing the immediate health and homelessness crisis playing out on our streets on a daily basis. People are suffering and we need to help them as quickly and efficiently as possible. So, the question is how do we balance and succeed in these two priorities?

I agree with our staff’s 1,000 Person Plan to Address Homelessness. This is a comprehensive roadmap and I encourage all of you to read it. You will see that the first recommendation is to transition our existing shelters into navigation center models. Navigation centers are essentially shelters that have case managers who connect homeless individuals to housing and services. Unfortunately, the proposed encampment legislation does not emphasize pathways out of homelessness and into permanent supportive housing or services. I am concerned that the City will invest a lot of resources into this without helping people out of homelessness. That does not seem compassionate or fair to me. However, I understand this is a philosophical difference that some people may have different feelings about.

What is not philosophical, however, are the very real and logistical challenges of the proposed encampment. The budget allocations were —and will be—insufficient for the services that an encampment with services would entail. For example, our city staff put together a preliminary proposal (p.26-27) for a sanctioned encampment for 50 people. Their initial estimate came in a little above ~$2 million dollars. The adopted Council item removed the following line items from the staff’s proposal: 

  • rapid rehousing money, 
  • meals, 
  • 25 tents (so now two people share a tent), 
  • staff accommodations and communications 
  • sleeping bags, 
  • drinking water supplies (cut in half so it only serves 25), 
  • porta potties and dumpsters (note: this is still part of the plan and ostensibly will be covered by HEAP funding)
  • 5 program coordinators, and 
  • two outreach coordinators. 

Although these items were removed from the budget allocation, some of these items were re-inserted into the pending proposal (meals, outreach, community tent). If Council decides that this is an appropriate strategy in which to help homeless individuals, then it should allocate appropriate funding and staffing for it. As it currently stands, I have reservations with both this approach and if our budget can sustain all of our new and existing programs and long-term commitments.

Finally, I am concerned with the locations specified in the pending proposal. To be clear, there is no perfect location and I understand that. However, locating individuals in an area adjacent to freeway ramps seems incredibly unsafe and far removed from services. On top of that, I’m concerned with how public works and Paratransit would access these areas. The City would also be taking on all of the assumed liability and risk of these CalTrans properties. I sincerely worry about the safety of the individuals there.

To be clear, I try my hardest to be open to a variety of solutions to best serve our unhoused community but I think the proposal, as currently written, poses some significant challenges. I am more than willing to engage with stakeholders in this process. There are no easy answers. Please send any comments to me or council@cityofberkeley.info

Vision Zero Action Plan

I am overjoyed that Council is poised to vote on the Vision Zero Action Plan. This is the culmination of a year-long effort by the City and various stakeholders to make our community safer for pedestrians and multimodal users. 


Bracing Your Home for Earthquakes

If you are a property owner, you may qualify for a seismic upgrade grant of $3,000 to retrofit your home. Apply online or by calling (877) 232-4300 by March 19th.

Find out how you can prepare for the next earthquake by learning what to do before, during and after the quake.

The Red Cross recommends:


Important Census Information

It only takes a few minutes to fill out the 2020 Census but the impact will last for years. Your response shapes funding for education, transportation, health care, infrastructure, school lunches, and food stamps. You can complete the census by phone, mail or now online! Just make sure you are counted! https://www.cityofberkeley.info/census/


Office Hours

I am holding office hours on the second Monday of every month, from 8-9:30am at Cafe Espresso Roma, 2960 College Ave (on the corner of College and Ashby). No appointment necessary - just stop by!

 

Sincerely, 

Lori Droste

Berkeley City Councilmember, District 8

www.LoriDroste.com