Although Measure R has not generated much controversy — there is no organized opposition — its scope may be more ambitious than other city measures on the ballot this year.
The measure asks Berkeley voters to approve a “community process” to create a 30-year strategic infrastructure plan for the city dubbed Vision 2050. This plan builds off previous strategic plans and projects such as Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan and its Resilience Strategy to help it prepare for future climate change, aging and failing infrastructure, population growth, and new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and novel energy systems.
The initiative asks the city to implement “climate-smart, technologically-advanced, integrated and efficient infrastructure” in future city planning and development. The city’s infrastructure—streets, sidewalks, storm drains, and parks—is aging, according to the measure’s text, with much of it built more than 70 years ago during the Work Projects Administration of the New Deal.
Measure R is an advisory measure, meaning that if it passes — it needs more than 50% voter approval — it won’t increase taxes or city fees directly. However, the city has already tapped citizens, local experts, and staff to form four working groups that will make specific recommendations to the city in the areas of quality of life, environment, technology, and finance that will have associated costs if they are enacted.
In 2016, voters passed Measure T1, which raised $100 million to repair the city’s most pressing infrastructure needs. Yet there is still much that Measure T1 was unable to address, according to the City Council, which unanimously voted to put Measure R on the ballot. Add to its aging infrastructure, rising seawater levels in the San Francisco Bay, increased and more severe wildfires, and the promise of new technologies that could help mitigate such threats and a broader, more future-looking plan is necessary, according to those who signed the official letter of support, which included Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, Northern Alameda County Sierra Club Chairman Luis Amezcua, and former Councilman Gordon Wozniak. The League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville, the Sierra Club, and the East Bay Young Democrats have also come out in support of the measure.
Reached by phone, Mayor Arreguín warned that the city still has at least $400 million in unfunded capital projects looming. The goal of Measure R and more broadly the city’s “Vision 2050” project is to “make resilient infrastructure a priority,” according to the mayor.
“I can’t tell you how many phone calls I get from residents around the issue of infrastructure,” he said, noting that residents often ask him to fix sidewalks, stop flooding, reopen the closed Berkeley pier, and fill city potholes. “What is the physical infrastructure going to look like 30 years from now? The people should weigh in on this. They should be presented with this vision to help the city develop a plan [for the future].”
According to Ray Yep, the chairman of the Vision 2050 task force, who also heads the city’s public works commission, Vision 2050’s working groups will release white papers in December. That work will be integrated into a comprehensive report by the spring and presented to the public for input via interactive workshops. Yep hopes to send a final report to the city council by November 2019.
The city has already held several information sessions around town, including one in late August and one in late September, to publicize the plan and gather community input. An Oct. 30 public meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at UC Berkeley’s ASUC Senate Chambers in Eshleman Hall on the fifth floor. Another information session is planned for November, but the exact date and location has not yet been set.
If Measure R is voted down, Vision 2050 will not be completely derailed, according to Yep and Arreguín.
“If it doesn’t pass, the city will still address infrastructure needs,” said Arreguín. “[Measure R] is a good opportunity to come together to visualize a future of our city that is technologically advanced, resilient, and addresses climate needs.”