Tonight, March 25, at the Berkeley City Council: a neighborhood appeal of a proposed new restaurant in the Elmwood by Comal owners, and public hearings on two new projects planned for Aquatic Park. There’s also a thorough look from the city auditor at the big business of business permits, and items from council members that include a referral to investigate whether Berkeley Police officers should wear video cameras and a resolution to oppose plans to transport crude oil through Berkeley. Don’t forget about the special session at 5:30 p.m. on the annual crime report from the Berkeley Police Department.
Read on for details in this week’s Lowdown. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see how to participate and weigh in about meeting coverage, even if you can’t attend in person.
Special session: Robberies rise, but serious crime down overall in 2013
Coming up at 5:30, Berkeley Police leaders will provide an overview of crime statistics from last year. Berkeleyside covered the preliminary report March 14. In a nutshell, pedestrian robberies, home burglaries, aggravated assaults and vehicle thefts rose in 2013 over the prior year, though the overall number of serious crimes fell. Expect more detail Tuesday evening.
What’s on the action agenda?
Council is set to hear an appeal by the Elmwood Neighborhood Association regarding a new project planned by the owners of Comal to open a new restaurant at 2635 Ashby Ave., just west of College Avenue. Read more about the project on Berkeleyside.
City auditor Ann-Marie Hogan has released an in-depth report about how Berkeley handles construction permits (not business permits as we originally reported), and makes 19 recommendations about how to “improve customer service and equity of service, reduce the high risk of theft, improve efficiency, and increase revenues.” According to her report, the planning office issues over 7,000 permits and receives more than $8 million annually. Revenue and the number of building permits issued in 2013 were both higher than they’ve been over the past five years.
Council member-driven action items include a proposed resolution from Linda Maio’s office to oppose the transport of “hazardous crude oil” through Berkeley; a referral from Jesse Arreguín’s office related to wearable video cameras for police; and questions from Kriss Worthington’s office about disappearing emails related to the city’s plans for owls and squirrels at César Chávez Park. (For those interested in the crude oil issue, Maio has called for a gathering on the Old City Hall steps at 6:30 p.m.)
There are also public hearings about two new projects planned for Aquatic Park: the expansion of Waterside Workshops — to include bike rentals — and a new permanent home for Youth Musical Theater Company. Click the prior links for Berkeleyside coverage, and see Items 25 and 26 on the agenda to learn more.
Other items of interest
The city is launching a pilot program to clean up Telegraph Avenue, and hopes to kick it off with a “Big Splash.” The plan is to take a similar approach to work the city did downtown by contracting with a company called Block by Block to offer services and employ “ambassadors” to help keep order. The program itself has already been funded, to the tune of $240,000, but the kick-off event needs more cash. Mayor Tom Bates is allocating $7,500 from his discretionary fund to the Telegraph Business Improvement District to help out, and invites other council members to contribute, too.
Council is still trying to figure out where to meet in the future, given the current seismic problems with Old City Hall, as well as the expense associated with making needed improvements. Staff has been studying the issue for quite some time, and the background is available in an information report that will be submitted to council Tuesday night. The current proposal involves “retaining a space planner” to look at converting existing city-owned meeting space at 1947 Center St. into an appropriate option.
The city is working to replace its 25-year-old budgeting system, and has been saving up to cover the $7 million price tag for a new system. An information report on the item will be submitted Tuesday night.
Proposed spending on the consent calendar, in part: four new ambulances ($972,000); hazardous waste removal ($200,000); Berkeley Food and Housing Project facility improvements ($139,475); payments to the county for DNA and other forensic testing ($50,000); and payments to the county related to law enforcement records checks
The Berkeley City Council meets Tuesday nights at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Special sessions generally take place at 5:30 p.m. and regular meetings begin at 7 p.m. Council agendas are available online here. Watch the meetings online here.
Berkeleyside often covers council meetings live on Twitter. Others sometimes do the same and the discussion can get spirited. Follow council coverage on Twitter via hashtag #berkmtg. Follow along in real-time here, and tag your tweets with #berkmtg to join in. You do not need a Twitter account to follow along. Just click here.
Council-related Twitter handles:
@MayorTomBates; @LindaMaio (District 1); Darryl Moore @BerkCouncil (District 2); @JesseArreguin (District 4); Laurie Capitelli @berkcap (District 5); Kriss Worthington @k__worthington (District 7); Gordon Wozniak @Gordon_Wozniak (District 8)
Is there something else on the agenda that’s caught your interest? Please let us know in the comments below.
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