Feb. News: Focus on Infrastructure – Streets, Marina, Hopkins Corridor & More

Dear Neighbor,

I write to you as horrifying images of Putin’s war on Ukraine flood our social media feeds, filling us with sorrow for the innocent lives lost, but also a deep admiration for the Ukrainian people—from President Zelensky to the brave men and women defending their homeland; their fight to defend their freedom is a powerful reminder of what is at stake in the world today, amidst a global shift toward authoritarianism and backsliding democracy. I take heart in the resolve of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada and the United States in standing with Ukraine and punishing Russia for its unprovoked and unjustified attack on a sovereign nation, and I pray that a lasting peace can be reached soon.
Here at home, the Omicron surge continues to decline, leading the City of Berkeley Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez to ease mask guidance earlier this month.

Please SAVE THE DATE for my March Office Hours in West Berkeley:
Sun., March 13, 4-5:30 p.m.
James Kenney Park picnic table area

And a reminder that tonight is the Final Public Hearing of the Independent Redistricting Commission beginning at 6 p.m.

In this newsletter:

My Commitment to Paving Our Streets

The City Council recently approved its street paving plan. I heard from some of you who were understandably disappointed to see that your street—in dire need of paving—is not scheduled to be paved at any point in the proposed five-year plan.
Currently, the City has a serious problem in that few streets are repaved each year because the amount of funding that is allocated for street paving is insufficient. Predictably, pavement condition deteriorates year after year.

Poor street conditions adversely impact all users, including drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Over time, this means that the condition of our streets will continue to degrade, as measured by the Pavement Condition Index (PCI)—a numerical rating from 100 (excellent) to 0 (failed). Our current average street pavement condition is 56, meaning our streets are “at risk,” defined as deteriorated pavement that requires immediate attention, including rehabilitative work. At our current funding level, the average pavement condition will drop further into the “poor” rating in five years by 2027, meaning pavement will have extensive amounts of distress (affecting the speed and flow of traffic significantly) and require major rehabilitation or reconstruction.

When we neglect to provide sufficient resources to maintain our streets, it leads to higher car repair costs and safety concerns for bicyclists and pedestrians who suffer injuries due to potholes and uneven pavement. We also accrue a fiscal liability known as deferred maintenance. Right now, our deferred maintenance on streets is estimated at about $268 million. This number rises every year, and will reach $1.1 billion by 2050 if we take no action.

This is all very sobering, but there are two ways to address our deferred maintenance on streets:

  1.  Increase the amount that the City spends on street maintenance every year. A recent analysis found that the City needs to increase the amount it spends on maintenance from the current $7.3 million annually to at least a total of $15.1 million to avoid further deterioration to the street condition.
  2. Explore a large revenue measure to tackle the backlog of $268 million and growing for street maintenance, something the City is currently exploring for the November 2022 election.

Regardless of what voters may decide about a large revenue measure, the City still needs to right-size its street maintenance budget. A 30-year projection shows that the scenario of a $325 million general obligation bond with no increase to the City’s annual street maintenance budget would only temporarily enhance our PCI, leading to a pavement condition of 58 by the year 2050; this would essentially return the City to its current street pavement condition, despite taxpayers’ support of a large bond measure. 
Taking care of our streets is also smart budgeting: A dollar spent on street repair now saves $8 in the future because maintenance now avoids costly rehabilitation and reconstruction costs later.

I have authored a major Council item—co-sponsored by Councilmembers Lori Droste, Terry Taplin, and Susan Wengraf—that requests that the City add a total of $9 million General Fund to the street maintenance budget over a three-year period, so that we stop the deterioration of our streets. A three-year plan is suggested to give the City time to gradually enhance ongoing street paving resources.

The item will be heard by the Council’s Budget & Finance Policy Committee in the March to April timeframe before it returns to the full City Council in May, and I will keep you informed of the item’s progress. You can read the full item HERE, beginning on p. 25. 

Please share your thoughts with me or the full Council: rkesarwani@cityofberkeley.info and council@cityofberkeley.info.

Hopkins Corridor: Final Set of Community Meetings

The Hopkins Corridor Traffic and Placemaking Study is coming to a close, and our City staff have scheduled three meetings to share their recommended design proposals for the corridor with community stakeholders.

The City Council will consider these recommended designs in April for adoption and inclusion in the 2023 Street Rehabilitation program.

Segment 1: Meeting for Sutter St. to The Alameda on Tues., March 1

Segment 2: Meeting for The Alameda to McGee Ave. on Mon., March 7

Segment 3: Meeting for McGee Ave. to Gilman St. on Mon., March 14

All meetings are scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m.

Improvements at the Berkeley Marina & Community Workshop on March 16

Since 2008, the City of Berkeley has invested more than $40 million in capital improvement projects at the Berkeley marina, including $8.2 million from Measure T1, our City Streets Fund, and DoubleTree Hotel to pay for the repaving of University Avenue, Marina Boulevard, and Spinnaker Way. The repaving of these streets is expected to be completed in April.

University Avenue to the marina is in the process of being repaved. Photo: Councilmember Rigel Robinson

In addition, the City is a recipient of $3 million in funding from the Clean California Initiative, which is funding fencing, irrigation, drainage, and three years of maintenance at the freeway parcels at I-80 and University Avenue. California Department of Transportation staff have been working with our City staff to select native plants for the area. Gateway signage for the Berkeley waterfront will also be added.
Despite all of these efforts, there is currently more than $100 million in deferred infrastructure liabilities at the marina.

To begin to address this, my Council colleagues and I have requested state funding for revenue-generating enhancements to the Berkeley marina, such as dock piling and finger-dock replacement, to attract and retain boat owners. In addition, the City is exploring revenue-generating measures for the marina through a Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan process, with Community Workshop #2 scheduled for Wed., March 16 from 6-7:30 p.m. Click HERE for the Zoom link.

Ashby & N. Berkeley BART Station Access Meeting

BART will be holding a Community Meeting on Wed., March 9,6-8 p.m. on its Berkeley-El Cerrito Corridor Access Plan.

In anticipation of housing construction in 2025 at the Ashby & N. Berkeley BART stations, the meeting will discuss potential options for riders to get to and from the stations.

ZOOM Meeting Registration

To keep current with the transit-oriented development and station access planning processes, please visit: CityofBerkeley.info/BARTplanning or bart.gov/beccap