City Council District 6
City Council District 6

 Councilmember Susan Wengraf

 Councilmember Susan Wengraf

District 6 horizontal line

Newsletter #4

5/26/09

 

Included in this newsletter is information about:

  1. Budget Workshop on June 1
  2. Easy Access to the Berkeley Municipal Code
  3. Good News about Berkeley Detective Work 
  4. Free Energy Consulting Offered by City of Berkeley 
  5. Refuse Rate Increase FAQs 
  6. S.F. Chronicle article (5/10/09) about council meetings 

 I always look forward to your feedback. Do you find these periodic communications helpful?
 If there is specific information that you would like to see included, please let me know.
 


    1. COMMUNITY WORKSHOP ON THE BUDGET 

MONDAY, JUNE 1, 2009 at 7:00 PM
Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda
City Manager Phil Kamlarz and City Budget Director Tracy Vesely

        As we grapple with the dramatic down-turn in the state and nation’s economy, the City of Berkeley is planning its next two years of program spending.  Join members of the community and District 6 Councilmember Susan Wengraf and District 5 Councilmember Laurie Capitelli in a discussion about the proposed City budget for 2010 - 2011.  City Manager Phil Kamlarz and Budget Director Tracy Vesley will present the draft budget and answer questions about it. 

 BACKGROUND

        The situation in Berkeley is serious, but not as dire as that faced by many other cities. The City Council has made sound fiscal policy decisions in the past that will help us now.  Those decisions include using one-time revenue for one-time projects, and establishing five-year plans for revenue and spending.  To help address budget reductions,  the City also instituted a hiring freeze.

        However, there are many factors we cannot control, including the overall economy and the State budget, and those factors are still volatile. For example:

  • Because of the amount of money that the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) lost in the stock market, the City’s contribution rates are projected to go up by 6 percent (or more) in two years.
  • The state’s budget has at least a $22 billion gap.
  • Federal stimulus funding is good news, but there is a lot we don’t know about the criteria for getting the money or the rules about spending it. 

        We know that in tough economic times, residents depend on City services. We are focusing on maintaining the fiscal health of the city, preserving services that provide for the health and safety of residents, and ensuring we deliver all of our services in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

      For more information about the City’s budget, please visit:

        We are all working to make this budget process as transparent and accessible as possible.  If you have questions about the budget or the budget process, please let us know.  Please contact Tracy Vesely, Budget Manager, at (510) 981-7000, or e-mail her at TVesely@CityofBerkeley.info

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2. EASY-TO-USE WEB TOOL MAKES BMC MORE ACCESSIBLE TO PUBLIC

        The Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC) is now easier to search, view and print.

        The new format allows for the easy viewing and printing of complete chapters, or just one section, depending on your needs.  The functionality also allows for the easy printing of non-sequential chapters and sections.  Additionally, the "Advanced Search" function provides for more complex search types and features.

        The new BMC search page can be accessed here.

        For questions or comments about the new BMC website, contact the City Clerk at 981-6900 or email clerk@cityofberkeley.info.

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3. GREAT DETECTIVE WORK!  A MESSAGE FROM OUR BEAT COORDINATOR 

        Fellow Community Members,

        With some of the troubling events that have affected other parts of our City recently, I’m happy to be able to share some good news that has an immediate impact on Northeast and North Central Berkeley’s property crime situation.

        As you may already know, some auto burglars who prowl Northeast Berkeley are prolific;  one auto burglar may burglarize several cars in one night.  Apprehending one of  these prolific individuals can obviously have an impact in reducing the number of auto burglaries in an area affected by property crime, like Northeast Berkeley.  With that in mind, I thought you might be interested in hearing about an arrest our Property Crimes Detective Division made recently.

        On May 5th, at about 6:00 p.m., one of our fellow community members parked his car near the corner of Hearst Avenue and Euclid Avenue.  Unknowingly, he left his laptop bag on the back seat of his car.  Sometime before 8:00 p.m., someone smashed the car window and stole the laptop from the rear seat.  The victim reported the auto burglary but there were no significant investigative leads in the case.  This is where the story gets really interesting.  The victim had a back-up program installed on his laptop.  The burglar proceeded to take photographs of himself with the computer’s built-in camera;  those photographs were eventually up-loaded to the internet based storage location.  The victim discovered the photographs of the suspect and passed them along to Detective Sergeant Ed Spiller and Detective Earl Emelson.  The Detectives recognized the suspect, named Vega, who had just been released from jail at the start of the year.

        The Detectives closely examined the photographs and noticed that Vega appeared to be sitting in a motel room when he snapped the pictures with the computer’s camera.  Sgt. Spiller, theorizing that the victim’s computer had accessed the internet thorough the motel’s wireless internet system, began work to identify the I.P. address utilized by the victim’s computer in hopes that it would lead them to the motel where Vega was staying.  Not content to wait for the I.P. address information to become available, Sgt. Spiller's Detectives decided to expand their search to Oakland motels.  While checking motels on MacArthur Blvd., Det. Emelson spotted Vega getting into a car in a motel parking lot.  The Detectives stopped Vega and arrested him for possession of the stolen laptop.  During the investigation, the Detectives located additional stolen property (from other auto burglaries) inside Vega’s car and in his motel room.  Vega’s girlfriend, Maria Reynoso of Berkeley, was also arrested during the investigation at the motel.

        The Detectives are certain that Vega was involved in numerous auto burglaries around Berkeley, including Northeast and North Central Berkeley.  They are confident that Vega’s arrest will have a noticeable impact on the number of auto burglaries we deal with in the near future.  This is not an isolated incident for our Property Crimes Detective Division.  Work like this is done daily by our Detectives, but it is not widely advertised by our Department.  Please let me know if you enjoyed this “Detective Story” and if you would like to hear similar stories in the future.  In the next update, I plan to discuss the problem of auto theft, and what we can do to prevent it.

        As always, feel free to contact me directly with any questions, comments, or suggestions.

        Respectfully,

        Officer Casimiro Pierantoni #96
        Area Coordinator-Area 1
        Community Services Bureau
        Berkeley Police Department
        Phone:  (510) 981-5773
        Fax:      (510) 981-5819
        cpierantoni@cityofberkeley.info

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4.  FREE ENERGY CONSULTING 

        Berkeley residents and businesses can now get free solar energy consulting services from the City of Berkeley and Community Energy Services Corporation.

        The new program, SmartSolar, will help consumers understand and adopt energy efficiency and solar technologies by providing information on available technology, project planning, cost, and financing;  an online solar mapping tool to estimate their building's solar potential;  and free, project-specific advice on how to best utilize that potential.

        In 2006 Berkeley voters overwhelmingly supported an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  To assist in meeting this goal, the City of Berkeley is assisting Berkeley property owners to implement energy efficiency measures for their homes and businesses, and install solar hot water and photovoltaic panels when possible.  The City's work to promote this solar deployment is a result of Berkeley's designation as a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar America City.  Through the Solar America Cities program, the DOE is partnering with 25 U.S. cities to accelerate adoption of solar technologies.

        As part of this effort, a recent survey of the potential Berkeley solar market revealed that consumers are often overwhelmed by the research necessary to make the best technology choice for their needs and are unsure of how to meet the costs of such a project.  To address this need, SmartSolar will provide solar-based consumer education through community events and workshops, in addition to its information resources and free project-specific advice.

        The online solar map, is an important educational outreach resource designed by CH2M HILL that will help residents and businesses reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  The solar map identifies all the existing solar PV installations in Berkeley, as well as allowing residents and business owners to instantly assess the solar PV potential of their homes and places of business.  Building owners in Berkeley can log on, view their rooftops, calculate the available square footage for panels, get an estimate of the potential electricity and natural gas savings, and get detailed information on tax rebates available for solar installations.  The solar map accurately reflects elements such as rooftop structures, the slant of the roof and shading from obstructions, and takes into account the angle of the sun for PV panel placement.

        City residents and businesses interested in learning more about SmartSolar resources and services should contact Community Energy Services Corporation (510-981-7750 or email smartsolar@ebenergy.org.

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5. COST OF GARBAGE AND RECYCLING COLLECTION FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What are Berkeley’s zero waste goals?

        Berkeley has a longstanding commitment to reducing and ultimately eliminating/diverting the waste that goes to landfills.  We have one of the first municipal recycling programs in the nation, and in 2007, the City Council adopted a Zero Waste Policy that strives to reach 75% diversion by 2010 and 100% diversion by 2020.  Our current diversion rate is 59%. The City’s services are designed to achieve this goal.

        What refuse & recycling services does the City offer?

  • Residential and commercial garbage & recyclables collection/disposal/diversion
  • Residential and commercial food and green waste collection/diversion
  • Diversion of construction and demolition waste from the landfill
  • Bulky-item pick ups;  Roll-off containers
  • Clean Cities Program (neighborhood clean-ups, street sweeping, etc.)

        Why is a rate increase necessary?

        The cost of providing refuse & recycling services has increased.  To continue these services and add new services that will help us achieve our zero waste goals, the City Council is considering raising commercial and residential collection rates.

        Why have costs increased?

        Since the last fee increase was in July 2006, the City has added new services, including residential food-waste and weekly green waste collection.  We also plan to implement curbside, split-cart recycling that allows residents to put recyclables into a single container.  In addition, the cost of doing business has increased significantly, including Transfer Station deferred maintenance, fuel prices, landfill disposal costs, and equipment and labor costs.  The price for recyclables has also fallen dramatically.

        How much will my rates go up?

        The average increase for a Berkeley household with a 32-gallon container will be about $4.20 a month (the increase varies depending on can size and number of pick-ups).  The new rate structure establishes a citywide rate and eliminates the previous districts.  Residents in specific neighborhoods will continue to pay a fire surcharge for the additional services they receive (no increase is planned to this surcharge).

        How do Berkeley monthly rates compare to other cities?

        The proposed increase results in rates that still compare favorably with our neighboring cities.  The chart below displays residential rates for 32-gallon cans.

City Rate
Piedmont
$44.53
El Cerrito
$30.19
Berkeley
$27.10*
Richmond
$26.95
Oakland
$26.51
Albany
$24.22
Fremont
$24.10
San Leandro
$20.52
          * Proposed new rate

Can the rate increase be protested and who can protest?

       Under Proposition 218, the City is required to conduct a “majority protest” proceeding to allow property owners the opportunity to protest the proposed rate change.  Proposition 218 establishes that only property owners of record may protest the proposed rates.

       All Berkeley property owners will be notified of the rate increase by mail, and will have 45 days to submit a written protest via mail or in person at a public hearing.  If more than 50 percent of property owners protest, the Council may not adopt the rate increase.

How does a property owner submit a protest?

       Property owners may file written protests either by mail or in person.  All protests must be in writing and include an original signature. Protests may not be submitted by e-mail, facsimile, or verbally - these will not be counted.

1.  Written protest by Mail.  If you wish to submit your protest by mail, it must be received no later than 3:00 p.m. on July 7, 2009. You may mail your written protest in advance of the Public Hearing to: City Clerk; City of Berkeley; 2180 Milvia Street, First Floor; Berkeley, CA  94704.

2.  Written protest in person at the Public Hearing. Your written protest must be received prior to the close of the Public Hearing.  In order to be counted, all of the information listed in the form below must be included with your written protest.

Can non-property owners protest the rate change?

         No.  Only property owners can submit a protest form. However, all members of the public are entitled to make comments at the public hearing, regardless of whether they submit a written protest or own property that would be subject to the new fee.

       When does this happen? 

April 21, 2009:  Council considered the rate recommendation, approved the majority protest process, and set a public hearing on the proposed rates.

May 20, 2009:  Notices mailed to all property owners.

July 7, 2009:    Public Hearing will be held at the City Council meeting.

July 12, 2009:  Proposed rates would go into affect, assuming no majority protest.

Has Berkeley done a majority protest for garbage collection rates before?

        No.  While the City has always complied with State law when increasing refuse rates, a court case decided in the summer of 2006 (Bighorn-Desert View Water Agency v. Verjil) clarified the need to conduct a majority protest process in order to consider a refuse rate increase.  Past rate increases have been done through a City Council public hearing.

        If I am a senior citizen and/or disabled, are there any programs to help me? 

Yes!  The City currently provides backyard service for senior citizens and disabled residents, for no additional cost (normally a 100% surcharge).  Although Proposition 218 prohibits us from funding this service out of garbage collection revenue, the City is committed to maintaining this service and will provide it through other funding sources. In addition, the City will implement a program to assist low-income individuals that is similar to one provided for sewer-bill customers. 

For more information go to:

Refuse Rate Study- April 17, 2009 (PDF, 13 pages) 

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