Berkeley Neighborhoods Council

 

Dedicated to improving the quality of life for all
by creating a unified neighborhood voice
for promoting livability and resolving problems

 

What We're Thinking About

Neighborliness

No matter how, why or where you celebrate the Holidays, most people will pause, maybe late at night, and give a thought about what happened in 2013 and what will be coming at us in the New Year.  In those thoughts, you might want to consider what it means to be a neighbor.  Most of us have so many obligations, responsibilities and just plain old “stuff” happening in our daily lives, that we experience a certain amount of isolation from our neighbors.  Sure, we know the people on our block and we smile pleasantly when we pass by, but is that truly what being a neighbor means?  Here are some “neighborly” suggestions you might try just for the fun of it.

  • Share a homemade treat with the new family on the block, or someone who has experienced a loss, or is struggling with health problems, or a disability.
  • Offer to take that elderly neighbor grocery shopping.
  • Take some neighborhood kids to the park or for a hike.
  • Have neighbors over for afternoon coffee or tea.
  • Give a special thank you note to neighbors who have given their personal time to organizing such activities as disaster preparedness or crime prevention.
  • Take a few moments to say hello and briefly chat when the opportunity presents itself.

Nothing that you do need be expensive, complicated, or time-consuming.  It may be the beginning of something very special for everyone.

Here's another thought before the end of the year.  The City of Berkeley Police and Fire Departments are once again teaming up with the U.S. Marine Corps Foundation Toys for Tots Program.  Each year toys are given to Berkeley children who might not otherwise receive any toys during the Holidays.  The goal of the program is to deliver a message of hope and belonging to youngsters whose families are in need.  It is expected that over 3,000 new toys will be given out this year to Berkeley families who have pre-registered in the program.  People wishing to support Toys for Tots are invited to drop off new, unwrapped toys for any age at any Berkeley Fire Station and/or the Ronald Tsukamoto Public Safety Building next to Old City Hall on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

The Challenge We Face as We Enter 2014

In previous issues of the eNEWS, we reported on issues involving inadequate notice, buildings where the zoning provides for 50 foot buildings but turn out to be 82 feet tall, and decisions that failed to take into consideration the surrounding neighborhood.  We presented real life examples that indicated our City seemed to have forgotten that Berkeley is a City of Neighborhoods.  Our neighborhoods are the foundation that maintains Berkeley as a livable and enduring community and prevents it from becoming the plaything of faceless speculators whose only goal is economic gain.  BNC started with the firm belief that some growth is inevitable and that problems can be resolved by neighborhoods united across the City working together to both preserve the neighborhoods and provide for reasonable growth.  There have been some wonderful success stories you can read about in this eNEWS issue, but we must build on those successes.  In 2014 our challenge to every neighborhood is to start thinking about how neighborhoods want Berkeley to evolve other the next decade.

As a part of that effort, BNC told you in the October issue that we were working on setting up a future Neighborhood Forum.  The purpose of the proposed Forum was twofold, (1) to identify the major concerns of neighborhoods and (2) to develop short and long term solutions to those concerns.  Because such an idea is not a simple event, we are still working on it and gathering suggestions.  We need to hear from you because BNC functions for you and about you.  Therefore, we are asking each of you to send to us a brief reply to the following:

  1. What should BNC be doing?
  2. What is important to you in preserving your neighborhood?
  3. What do you think makes Berkeley a livable community?

Replies should be sent to newsletter@berkeleyneighborhoodscouncil.com.  In sending a reply, please do not give your name.  BNC will delete your e-mail address, so you won't be receiving a reply from us and no one will be able to connect you with your reply.  Please provide in your reply the general area of your neighborhood to put your comments into context (e.g. include the name of a nearby intersection, for example, if you live a few houses from Chase Bank on Solano Ave, you would put “Fresno/Solano” as your neighborhood.)

Please do reply, even if you don't address all three questions, or if you want to add something else.  We'll listen.  Our readership is growing with each issue, and as we are neighborhood-based, our focus will result from hearing about your concerns.

Redistricting:  Neighborhoods Ignored and Students Divided

On Tuesday, December 3, 2013, the City Council met to consider two proposed redistricting maps.  The two maps were the Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC) map and the United Student District Amendment (USDA) map.  The basic issue in both maps centered on the proposed boundaries for the current District 7 which has been represented by Kriss Worthington for the past several years.  Berkeleyside reported that 7 speakers from the public favored the BSDC map and 17 supported the USDA map.  BNC's count was a little different:  we counted 8 for the BSDC map, 19 for the USDA map, 1 hoping that students in the new District 7 would be as supportive of homeless people as has been the case for the current District 7.  One additional comment, not supporting either map, reminded the Council of the legal meaning of communities of interest (COIs).  However, the actual count doesn't really matter, there is agreement that USDA supporters outnumbered BSDC supporters by around 2 to 1.

The last speaker, not supporting either map, was Jacquelyn McCormick on behalf of BNC.  She distributed material entitled California Redistricting Criterion: Communities of Interest (COI), published by Berkeley Law, stating that California law requires that when possible, district lines should maintain communities of interest (“COI”) intact and that this is the fourth most important criterion to follow, behind population equality, compliance with the Voting Rights Act, and contiguity.  She pointed out that BNC had advocated for neighborhoods to be kept intact from the very beginning and that neighborhoods had been ignored throughout the whole process.

Speakers in favor of BSDC said:

  1. They have fought hard for 3 years, over 17 meetings, got Measure R placed on the ballot and persuaded voters to approve it.
  2. The BSDC map would create the first student district in the country
  3. The BSDC map has been vetted by neighborhoods and treats every neighborhood with respect.
  4. The USDA map flaunted the rules, and was undemocratic because it hadn't been filed at the beginning of the process.
  5. No map could contain all 36,000 UC students, but the BSDC map has 44% of the co-ops and 55% of the dorms.
  6. Student government supports the BSDC map.

USDA supporters said:

  1. Of the 17 meetings, only 7 were before the City Council, and BSDC supporters never presented their map to the co-ops or to the residence halls.
  2. The proposed BSDC District 7 is not the first student district created, as a majority of student-aged population was included from the start of district elections when District 7 was formed in 1986. After the redistricting based on the 2000 census, the student-aged population in that District went to a “super-majority” (around 2/3s). (This point was also made by Council Member Worthington several times during the meeting.)
  3. The BSDC map splits the Halcyon and LeConte Neighborhood Associations.  BNC adds that there are other neighborhoods that have been split and we know of no neighborhood group that was consulted by BSDC supporters.
  4. The USDA map is an “amendment” to the BSDC map, and amendments are a democratic and normal occurrence as proposals change as a result of public input.
  5. In comparison, the USDA map is more inclusive of students as follows:
  6. Co-op Housing Facilities: USDA 16 BSDC 5
    Residence Halls (Dorms): USDA 9 BSDC 6
    I-House: USDA 1 BSDC 0
    Greeks: Same, both maps
  7. Student government support was obtained by only 1 vote in a meeting that was confusing.  Some students were told their only choice to have a student district was to vote for the BSDC map.
  8. The Daily Cal supports the USDA map.

The Council discussion that followed public comment was at times barbed with words like gerrymandering, political hack job, and divisive being used.  The discussion included statements that there were far too many students to be able to put them all into one district, that the key difference between the maps are the division of the LeConte Neighborhood Association and exclusion from the new student district of students now in District 7, that there is a “high possibility” of a referendum against the ordinance if the Council adopts the BSDC map, and that there is a real difference on issues such as crime and development between the north and south sides of campus.

Mayor Bates made the motion, seconded by Council Member Wengraf, to approve the BSDC map.

Voting Yes:  Bates, Capitelli, Maio, Moore, Wengraf and Wozniak

Voting No:  Arreguin and Worthington

Abstain:  Anderson

The BSDC map is scheduled to come before the Council again at their December 17th meeting.  IF the Council approves the second reading of the Ordinance on that date, and a referendum is undertaken, citizens must collect around 5,300 valid signatures of registered voters within 30 days of the December 17th date.  IF sufficient signatures are collected, the Council must then either withdraw their approval of the BSDC map, or place it on the ballot for voter approval.