April 2022 – City Contracts with Siegel & Strain

In our April CCCC meeting, Liam Garland announced that Siegel & Strain Architects will be leading the next phase of Civic Center planning. Eleanor Hollander of the City’s Office of Economic Development and Elmar Kapfer of Public Works will co-manage the project, and Gehl Studio will be brought in again for public input. On May 31 the City Council will decide whether to place an infrastructure bond measure on the November ballot, but Civic Center planning will continue even if they do not proceed with the bond measure.

April 2022 – Vision 2050 Public Meetings

Liam Garland, Director of Public Works, has been leading a series of online meetings in which he imparts a lot of information about the Vision 2050 process and asks for input. In addition to public comments during the meeting, he says his department welcomes emailed comments and questions. See the Vision 2050 website for the slides shown during these meetings.  Here is one regarding the process so far and what’s next:

March 2022 – Presentation to City Council

At the March 22 City Council meeting, Marc Steyer of Tipping Structural Engineers presented a concise report about the dramatic savings his firm has calculated for seismic work on the two buildings and the idea of adding usable space in the form of structural buttresses. Liam Garland, Director of Public Works, proposed a timeline for the remaining planning and execution of the needed repairs and renovations. He also mentioned various funding possibilities besides bond measures, such as applying for federal FEMA and Build Back Better funds. John Caner presented video comments from several CCCC members. The mayor and several council members responded very positively, and there were also public comments in support of moving ahead with restoring and making better use of the two buildings and the park.

The video of the meeting is here. Our portion, including comments, runs from about minute 12 to minute 48. The slides from Marc Steyer and Liam Garland are here.

March 2022 – Big State Grant for Park

The City of Berkeley has been awarded $591,666 for improvements to the fountain area of Civic Center Park through the Caltrans Clean California Local Grant Program. After many years of planning, this will finally provide for installation of the bronze turtles and medallions designed by Native artists for the Turtle Island Monument. It will also make it possible to create a native and drought-tolerant plant pollinator garden with irrigation; install seating on the fountain outer ring; renovate the uneven flagstone terrace; renovate the Peace Wall tiles; and install new benches, signage, and trash receptacles. The fountain is currently used as a super-sized public trash can for trash and human waste, and is a lethal trap for birds. The City annually removes 277 tons of trash and illegal dumping from the park. The fountain water system has not worked in over fifty years. The fountain and terrace area have significant deferred maintenance and non-ADA compliant surfacing. The neglected appearance of this one-time symbol of civic pride scares away thousands of students, workers, visitors, and residents who pass by the park on a regular basis.

February 2022 – City Reports on Measure T1

The City has sent out a 16-page illustrated brochure about how the 2016 Infrastructure Bond Measure T1 has been spent so far. Under “Planning Studies” is the following entry about the Civic Center Area:

It’s a little worrisome that the drawing includes the Council Chamber addition to the 2180 Milvia building that our group has strongly opposed.

January 2022 – City Gets Report on Building Leaks

A new report by engineering firm Allana Buick & Bers documents water leaks and related issues in the Maudelle Shirek and Veterans Buildings, with an estimated cost to properly repair them totaling $3.4 million. Fortunately, there don’t seem to be any current leaks, so Public Works would like to combine the repairs with seismic retrofitting and other work on the buildings that could be funded through the proposed bond measure.

January 2022 – City Council Discusses Proposed Bond Measure(s)

On January 20, 2022, 6 p.m., the Council held a work session to

Discuss Vision 2050, Infrastructure Priorities, Stakeholder and Community Engagement, and City’s Bonding Capacity; and Seek Direction on November 2022 Revenue Measure(s)

The Berkeleyside report on the meeting is here.

December 2021 – Results of City Survey

The results of “a community survey to inform a potential Vision 2050 revenue measure” (here) have both Civic Center items near the bottom in terms of importance compared to other needs. But “Improving seismic safety of historic buildings in Civic Center, including Old City Hall and the Veterans Building” was rated extremely, very or somewhat important by 85% and “Renovating Berkeley’s Civic Center Buildings and Park to include music and theatre performance spaces, a children’s play area, café kiosk and seating, and enhancing green space” was rated extremely, very or somewhat important by 70%.

December 2021 – City Conducting Online Survey

The City of Berkeley has launched a survey to get community input about a proposed bond measure in 2022. It lists many potential infrastructure projects, including “Old City Hall and Veterans Building” and one on seismic upgrades to city buildings and asks you to prioritize them. There are also questions regarding how much additional property tax you would support, what values are most important in setting priorities, and how to address ongoing maintenance needs versus those deemed most urgent. See this page of the City’s website for more information and a link to the survey. Answers are due by January 12.

November 2021

Public Works has had the two buildings inspected for water damage and estimates made for repairs and protection against future water damage. The estimates come to about $2 million for the Veterans Building and $1.5 million for the Maudelle Shirek building.