Photo: jngai58
The last sunset over Berkeley of 2014. Photo: jngai58

For five years we’ve been making New Year’s resolutions on Berkeleyside, putting down markers for 10 things we’d like to see in the year ahead for our city. Let us know in the comments what your hopes and expectations are for 2015. After our 10 for 2015, we review how our 2014 resolutions fared.

1. Turn the soda tax into something concrete

It would be too easy to take a breather after the clamorous, successful campaign for Measure D, Berkeley’s nation-leading soda tax. But now the legislation has to be shown to work, producing funds for nutrition and health programs on a rapid schedule. Applications for the Panel of Experts, which will advise the City Council on how to spend tax proceeds, are due on Jan. 17. Dithering will be seized upon by the soda industry.

2. More good office space, particularly downtown

There are plans for lots of new housing, particularly downtown. But there remains a huge gap in Berkeley for the provision of decent office space. Depending on who you speak to, developers say it doesn’t “pencil out,” or, more honestly, that there’s much more money to be made from building housing. Let’s see the city use its planning levers to start encouraging some office development so growing businesses can stay in Berkeley.

3. Clear investigation of December protests

There are split opinions on the handling of the protests that turned violent in early December. Was the use of tear gas on Dec. 6 necessary to disperse the crowd? What caused the violence earlier that evening that led to property damage? Was the decision to have the police step back on Sunday, Dec. 7 sensible, or did it lead to increased harm to businesses and violence? A thorough, transparent investigation is needed to establish how decisions were made and how police actions compare to best practice.

4. Continued decrease in crime

We know we’re in an invidious position on Berkeleyside. We work hard to have thorough coverage of crime as part of our core commitment to providing valuable information on public safety and its context for Berkeleyans. But because we’re covering more, we hear a lot of readers worrying that crime is increasing in Berkeley. In fact, violent crime was down 44% in the first half of 2014. Let’s see the strong efforts by the police continue to produce improvements in 2015.

5. A rousing inaugural success for the Bay Area Book Festival

The first-ever Bay Area Book Festival will hit downtown Berkeley’s streets, venues and open spaces June 6-7. A successful book festival will further cement Berkeley’s reputation as a world-leading center for ideas and the arts. We also see the book festival as a natural companion to our own Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas, which will have its third edition on Oct. 23-24.

6. More constructive working across faiths, races

After the chaos of some of the early December protests, the Black Lives Matter Large Scale Demonstration on Sunday, Dec. 14 provided a powerful, moving contrast. Hundreds of people of all ages peacefully staged a die-in on University Avenue and heard speeches about the power of civil disobedience and the issues surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Organized by a number of local faith groups, it showed how Berkeleyans can be galvanized across religious and racial lines.

7. Continued momentum on start-ups

Our hearts are all aflutter at Berkeleyside when we read the regular email blasts from the Berkeley Startup Cluster. More startups each month, plenty of jobs to fill, lots of meet-up events. The activity is not unique to Berkeley, of course, as tech in particular continues to boom in the Bay Area. But for too long, Berkeley wasn’t even in the race. That’s changing, and we want to see it continue to grow and develop. More office space would help (see above).

8. A new activist Berkeley

Those of you who break store windows or wield hammers against non-violent protesters: please stay away. But in demonstrations like the all-faiths die-in, the Berkeley High student march for Black Lives Matter, the broad coalition of support on the soda tax, there were glimmerings of an activist Berkeley that moves beyond nostalgic posturing. That’s a worthy revitalization of a Berkeley tradition.

9. New voices should make themselves heard

No-one could say that change is speedy in Berkeley. But there are signs of welcome new voices in Berkeley politics. Lori Droste, newly elected councilmember for District 8, joins Jesse Arreguín as the sole representatives of the under-40 generation on the City Council. Ty Alper won a school board seat, running against three incumbents. And Tony Thurmond from Richmond captured the State Assembly seat that many thought was held by Berkeleyans as of right. Let’s hear more from these three, and welcome more new faces into Berkeley’s public life.

10. Further neighborhood regeneration

Okay, change isn’t speedy. But once it happens, it can take on truly positive momentum. The best example currently is in West Berkeley with an accelerating improvement in Westbrae (hurrah for the Biergarten) and plenty of action in the Gilman District, with the new Whole Foods Market and, across the street, bright new offerings from Farm Burger, Philz Coffee and Doughnut Dolly. There are plenty of candidates for other neighborhoods to get the same overhaul: maybe Sports Basement can be a catalyst for something similar in South Berkeley?

How did we do on our hopes for 2014?

So how did we do on our best hopes for the past year, as outlined 12 months ago? We award ourselves zero for no change (or going backwards), a 1/2 point for some improvement and a full point for true progress.

1. An interesting election year. Turnout was low (under 40,000 votes cast) in Berkeley as elsewhere, but for an off-year election, 2014 really hit the heights: the nation’s first soda tax passed, there was a nail-biting ranked-choice voting finish in Council District 8, and the school board election was a squeaker. 1 point

2. Change on Telegraph. We’re a broken record on this hope. The good news: construction is underway on the Sequoia Apartments replacement and the Mad Monk in the old Cody’s building and the new Sproul Plaza is developing rapidly. The bad: no progress on the abandoned Telegraph and Haste northeast corner. A cautious 1/2 point

3. Restaurants as engines for neighborhood improvement. We’re still eating very well in Berkeley (although Oakland is the hot restaurant scene, certainly). And neighborhoods like the Gilman District (see above) and the Lorin District have seen a flurry of new food-related openings. 1/2 point

4. Improvement at Memorial Stadium. Okay, the Golden Bears fell short of becoming bowl eligible. But from 1-11 to 5-7 certainly counts as significant forward progress. 1 point

5. Continued cheer on the campus. A year ago, we thought Nicholas Dirk’s inaugural term as Chancellor was set fair, as the state had passed its budget crises. But roiling over a planned tuition increase at the UCs could jeopardize an era of good feelings as students worry about increased costs while administrators puzzle aver funding gaps. 0 points

6. A city more attractive to young people. Would “we’re getting there” be a fair slogan? The opening of Berkeley Underground downtown might be a green shoot for more for the non-family, non-grey haired set. But it’s too early to tell just how much progress is being made. 1/2 point

7. Zero homicides. The shooting of Kamahl Middleton on Dec. 29 was Berkeley’s fourth homicide of 2014, the same number as in 2013. 0 points

8. A city, and citizens, prepared for emergencies. City agencies are very conscious of their responsibilities in case of an emergency, with regular drills and scenario work. Berkeley has been pioneering in appointing a Chief Resilience Officer, Timothy Burroughs, as part of its partnership with the 100 Resilient Cities Project. And many Berkeleyans have been diligently working on disaster plans in neighborhood groups. Will it be effective when the Big One hits? We can’t know, but the planning is good. 1 point

9. High-tech Berkeley finds its feet. See resolution 7 above. Good things are happening for tech in Berkeley, with strong collaborations between the city, the university and Berkeley Lab, as well as plenty of pure private-sector efforts. But at least one serially successful Berkeley entrepreneur has told Berkeleyside that many venture capitalists are still suspicious of companies with a Berkeley base. Lots of work to do, but a year of progress. 1 point

10. Distinguished new buildings. If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. It still seems that fear of the many hoops that new buildings need to leap through in Berkeley dumbs down the design qualities. 0 points

Yikes. That’s five and a half points out of a possible 10. Let’s hope we do better in 2015. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Berkeley resolutions for 2014 – and how we did in 2013 (01.01.14)
Berkeley resolutions for 2013 — and how we did in 2012 (01.01.13)
Berkeley resolutions for 2012 — and how we did in 2011 (01.01.12)
Ten Berkeley resolutions for 2011 (01.01.11)
How did Berkeley do on those 2010 resolutions (12.31.12)

If staying informed about what goes on in your city is important to you in the coming year, then please consider becoming a Berkeleyside Member and supporting us. Members get invited to special parties, get first dibs and discounts on tickets to events, a behind-the-scenes newsletter, and the knowledge that a contribution will keep the news reporting flowing.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...