City Council District 6
City Council District 6

Councilmember Susan Wengraf

Councilmember Susan Wengraf

District 6 horizontal line

Newsletter #6

August, 2009

 

 

Included in this newsletter is information about:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

    Berkeley City Council is currently in recess, but I wanted to keep you updated on several things that I hope you will find of interest.


THE DOWNTOWN PLAN - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

     In an effort to revitalize and improve the heart of our city, the Berkeley City Council approved a Plan for the Downtown in July.  In an effort to clarify the goals of the plan, I am providing you with some Frequently Asked Questions..

Q:  What is the Downtown Plan?

A:  The Downtown Plan is an effort to revitalize and improve the heart of our city.  It is based on 3 years of community meetings, discussions, workshops and study.  The goals of the plan will be evaluated again in five years by the City Council.

Q:  How will the Downtown Plan revitalize our city center?

A:  The plan lays out a maximum number of new housing and office buildings at various heights that would be allowed over the next twenty years.  The goal is to have people live and work very close to transit.  In addition, there are goals for creating green public spaces, preserving existing historic structures and protecting adjacent neighborhoods from negative impacts.  All construction must meet very high environmental standards.

Q:  Does the plan fill the Downtown with tall skyscrapers?

A.  The Plan sets forth a maximum amount of construction that might be approved over the next twenty years.  Two buildings that are either hotel or housing can be built up to 180 (220 if it is a hotel) feet in the downtown core.  Six other buildings would be allowed at 120 feet or less with only two being allowed with office uses.

Q:  How will the implementation of the Plan improve Downtown?

A:  The Plan calls for significant fees from developers to support public amenities, including public open spaces for the Downtown.  The Plan hopes to bring a critical mass of residents and workers to the Downtown to support local businesses and create a healthy and vibrant town center.

Q:  How did the City Council vote on the Downtown Plan?

A:  The Downtown Plan was approved by Mayor Bates, Councilmembers Anderson, Capitelli, Maio, Moore, Wengraf and Wozniak.  Councilmember Worthington and Arreguin voted against it.

Q:  How can I find out more about the Downtown Plan?

A:  The Plan is available online here.

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FREIGHT & SALVAGE IS OPENING IN DOWNTOWN!

    Welcome the new Freight and Salvage to Downtown on Addison Street!  Find out more about the opening festivities on Saturday, August 29 here.

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STREETS IN DISTRICT 6 TO BE PAVED!

    As a result of my efforts, this year the Public Works Department will pave Rose Street (between Spruce and Scenic), Bayview Place, Scenic Ave. (from Cedar to Rose), Hilgard (from Scenic to La Loma), and Middlefield Rd.  If your street is on the schedule, you will receive a notice from the City telling you exactly when the work will begin. The contractor Gallagher & Burk has an excellent track record working with our residents. If you have any questions, please email Romeo Muscardon.

    I am eager to celebrate with you when the work is completed!

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BERKELEY EMERGENCY NOTIFICATION SYSTEM

    Recently, many of you may have received a call with recorded information about a missing woman. Although this particular phone call created a lot of confusion, the system has enormous potential for notifying the community quickly, in the event of an emergency.

    Please read the following frequently asked questions about the Berkeley Emergency Notification System (BENS) and follow the self-registration link to register your cellular phone or internet phone service.  AT&T landline service subscribers within the City of Berkeley are automatically registered for BENS.

Register for BENS.

Q:  What is BENS?

A:  The Berkeley Emergency Notification System (BENS) allows the City to call residents at home to give them critical public safety information notifications.

Calls from BENS are pre-recorded and the speaker will be very clear that it is an emergency call from the City of Berkeley.  If the call is a test of the system, the message will be stated very clearly.

One of the essential features of this system is that it allows the City to choose a targeted geographical area to deliver the message.  For example, if a residential area were threatened by a wildfire, the residents that have AT&T landline phone service or have self-registered their cell phones or internet telephone numbers would receive an evacuation message.

Q:  Is this the same as the University of California Berkeley's WarnMe system?

A;  No.  While UC and the City of Berkeley often cooperate on public safety issues, BENS and the WarnMe  (UC) system are separate.  If you are already registered for WarnMe, you must still register separately for BENS.

Q:   What does this cost?

A:  The City doesn't charge for the service, so it won't cost you any more than any other phone call or text message would.

Q:  How do you know my phone number?

A:  Every month, AT&T provides updated landline telephone and address information to the City.  This information is for emergency use only and will not be used or distributed for any other reason.  Again, only AT&T landline service telephone numbers are automatically registered.  For those with another type of telephone service, self-registration is required to participate in the BENS system.

Q:  I only have a cell phone: What should I do?

A:  You can register your cell phone or any other alternate number here.  You can register a cell or pager number to receive an SMS or text message.  These messages are limited to 160 characters, and you may be charged for receiving them.  If you provide your email address as well, you will receive the same message there.

    You may also register by telephone or through email by emailing unlisted@firstcall.net.  The Registration Line is a toll-free number for members of a community with unlisted or cell phone numbers to call and register to be part of the program.  The number to FirstCall Network’s Registration Line is (866) 484-3264.

    Once registration is complete, you will receive a phone call back from the system confirming your registration.

Q:  Can anyone else get my landline or cell phone number from you?

A:  The information you give us is kept confidential and would only be disclosed if required by a court of law.

Q:  How often will BENS be activated?

A:  BENS is an emergency system and is used infrequently.  The City has had this service since 2004.  The system is tested annually for emergency exercises.  The Berkeley Police Department most recently activated BENS for assistance in locating a lost child.

Q:  Will BENS work in an earthquake?

A:  Although the calls are recorded and activated by City of Berkeley staff, the company and the technology are located out-of-state to reduce the chance that the service will be disrupted in a natural disaster.  Although it is difficult to predict what infrastructure damage will result from an earthquake, BENS will work as long as the local telephone company exchanges are functional.  In an emergency, you should still tune your radio to a news station or 1610 AM for regional public safety information.

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NUMBER OF CHRONICALLY HOMELESS IN BERKELEY DECREASES BY HALF

    The number of chronically homeless residents in Berkeley has fallen 48% since 2003, according to a survey of homeless done by Alameda County’s 'EveryOne Home' program.  That survey also showed that the number of people living on Berkeley streets has fallen 17%.

    According to the survey, many other statistics indicate that the homeless situation in Berkeley is improving.  For more information about the EveryOne Home survey results, visit www.everyonehome.org.

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BAY BRIDGE CLOSURE LABOR DAY WEEKEND

    The Bay Bridge will be CLOSED to traffic in both directions beginning Thursday, September 3rd at 8:00 p.m. and will re-open on Tuesday, September 8th at 5:00 a.m.

    For the latest information on transportation alternatives, please visit 511.org.

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FIRE FUEL CHIPPER PROGRAM

    As fires are racing through California again, I urge you all to take advantage of the Fire Fuel Chipper Program and trim and prune your vegetation away from your home. City crews are currently making a second pass through neighborhoods to collect branches and vegetation placed on the side of the roadway. Check the chipper schedule to see if you can still take advantage of this service.

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PANDEMIC H1NI (SWINE) FLU

    The City of Berkeley Health Department is monitoring the Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 flu virus.  The virus has spread from person to person without regard for borders, race or ethnicity, and is present in California and the Bay Area.   

    The most important precautions are:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm when you cough or sneeze.           Armsneeze
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

    This virus so far is about as serious as seasonal flu.  Because the population has little or no immunity to it, more people are likely to become ill.  We anticipate that there will be more cases, more hospitalizations and even more deaths associated with this new virus in the coming months. 

    You have an important role in protecting yourself and your family by staying informed and by preparing for possible further outbreaks.  Now is a good time to be sure you have a plan in case you or a family member is home sick for an extended period of time.

    If you are sick and need care but have no health insurance, or you are a childcare provider or other institution, please call our Nurse of the Day line at (510) 981-5300 for low or no-cost medical referrals.

Other Helpful Information

Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 Update
H1N1 Flu ("Swine Flu") Brochure (PDF)

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    If you do not want to receive these newsletters, please email me with REMOVE in the subject line. If you have any questions, and would like to speak with me, please call my office at 981-7160.

 

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