As last school year’s PTA presidents at Sylvia Mendez, Malcolm X, John Muir, and Emerson elementary schools, we urge the Berkeley City Council to support South Berkeley’s families and children by voting to remodel the Willard Park clubhouse and reject the appeal of a few opponents. Over 80 people wrote in support of the Willard Park clubhouse redesign, the majority being our fellow parents of young children. 

Not only is the decrepit current building inaccessible to those with disabilities, it is currently insufficient for afterschool programming offered to Berkeley’s children. The clubhouse is small and dingy, with a disgusting bathroom. Parents have been concerned about a lack of childcare resources for years, and it is not getting better. The city of Berkeley offers free or subsidized childcare and pre-kindergarten programs, but over 300 children were stuck on afterschool childcare waitlists last year. Without this remodel, many of our lowest-resourced children will continue not to get the care they deserve. 

In the PTA focus group meetings held by the city, parents advocated for the largest possible project to preserve Willard Park’s green space. Nevertheless, city staff proposed a smaller version at that time. While not parents’ preference, we understood the delicate 

balancing act. That proposal was already a compromise. But recently, the city had to scale it back even further because of construction cost increases. The current proposal is the smallest the project can get and still meet the needs of reliable and stable childcare

programming. It provides a beautiful and welcoming community space while maintaining grassy areas. 

Our community and children deserve nice things. The Willard clubhouse will create community space to serve South Berkeley. Hundreds of people and multiple commissions have weighed in throughout a dozen meetings, and a delicate consensus was achieved. Plus, no more funding is allotted to this project, so if the appeal is approved, millions of taxpayer dollars will go to waste. 

Torpedoing this project would be no way to run our city. Don’t let a few obstructionists take this away from our children and flush your tax dollars down the drain. Please write to the Berkeley City Council and ask them to deny the appeal and move ahead with a beautiful remodel of the Willard clubhouse. 

This vote is about supporting Berkeley’s families. Please urge the council to do the right thing and send an email or attend the meeting on Zoom or in person at 6 p.m. Monday, July 24, at 1231 Addison Street in Berkeley. 

If you want to know more about the details of the clubhouse remodel, we recommend reading the city of Berkeley’s Willard Clubhouse webpage and Councilmember Mark Humbert’s informative newsletter, which addresses questions people have had about the project. 

Rana Cho (Emerson Elementary School), Rohini Haar (John Muir Elementary School), Justin Randall (Sylvia Mendez Elementary School) and Heather Ball (Malcolm X Elementary School) served as PTA presidents during the 2022-2023 school year.