Berkeley’s Mental Health Adult Services Clinic on Martin Luther King Jr. Way will begin renovations after the City Council allocated an additional $2 million in Measure T1 Phase 1 funding to the clinic during the council’s regular meeting on Tuesday.
The mental health clinic closed in 2016 because of the building’s “systemic” problems with air quality and infestations of fleas, rodents and raccoons, according to the funding resolution. Since then, the clinic has been working out of other locations, including city buildings located on Alcatraz Avenue and Adeline Street, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.
The clinic is one of 33 projects that will receive funding from Phase 1 of Measure T1’s infrastructure bond program. Measure T1, which was passed in November 2016, authorized the city to sell $100 million in bonds to repair city facilities and buildings, according to the city’s website.
During 2017, 10 city commissions working with the Public Works Commission and the Parks and Waterfront Commission gathered to propose the Phase 1 projects included under Measure T1.
The total project cost to renovate the clinic was initially estimated at $3.5 million and has since doubled to $7 million, according to the now-approved funding proposal. The Health, Housing and Community Services Department’s Mental Health Division, the Community Development Block Grant and the general fund are all contributing to the funding. The $2 million now allocated from Measure T1 will cover the final gap in the funding.
The renovation of the clinic, however, was not one of the projects that was voted on by the commissions — a discrepancy that led Councilmember Susan Wengraf to abstain from the vote to allocate these funds.
“It’s not that this one is not a worthy project. It just did not receive the same community input and discussion as all the other projects,” Wengraf said at the meeting. “The other thing is we don’t know what is going to be excluded from Phase 1 in order to do this one.”
Scott Ferris, director of the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department, said funding reallocations due to the new $2 million allocated to the clinic that could alter the funding given to the other projects of Phase 1 were likely to be decided in a year.
The money might be taken from the $5 million allocated in Measure T1 for repaving streets, Mayor Jesse Arreguín mentioned at the meeting, but the decision has not been brought back to the commissions yet.
“If we’re going to make any decisions about what gets funded and what doesn’t get funded, we want our commissions to be able to weigh in on those decisions and then bring those decisions to you,” Ferris said at the meeting.
Councilmember Cheryl Davila, who also serves on the Mental Health Commission, said that while she was concerned about the process, she does understand the “urgency” of the renovations.
“The old building was a former mortuary,” Chakko said. “That’s what our former mental health building was. We want to convert that into a professional, medical-grade clinic to serve clients.”
The city currently has about 40 people providing services to clients in the city, according to Chakko. About 350 clients are seen for ongoing services, both in clinics and in the field.
The new clinic will not offer any new services, Chakko said, but the renovations will provide a “clinical setting” where patients can be seen by professionals. The renovated building will include medical-grade surfaces to keep the clinic clean and will remodel features of the former mortuary that are unnecessary for a clinic, such as the wide hallways the old building used to wheel gurneys through, Chakko said.
“The goal is to move in by the end of 2019,” Chakko said. “Our goal is to provide services to people and to minimize any disruption.”