Berkeley City Council to hold special meeting to discuss Berkeley Strategic Transportation Plan

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Berkeley City Council will hold a regular and special meeting Tuesday to discuss initiatives designed to address homelessness and the Berkeley Strategic Transportation, or BeST, Plan, respectively.

The BeST Plan, which City Council will deliberate at the special meeting before finalizing it in June, establishes a framework for the next 30 years that will identify and prioritize transportation projects based on city residents’ needs, and better prepares the city to apply for Alameda County Transportation Commission grants.

According to Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, the BeST Plan is intended to help the city develop an investment strategy that guides the allocation of funding for a total of 25 transportation projects. Projects are consolidated into three categories: individual, corridor and area.

The projects aim to improve safety, efficiency and convenience for traveling and to foster transportation sustainability and resiliency. They specifically endeavor to encourage more people to walk, bike or use mass transit, such as BART, which would help decrease vehicular traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesperson John Goodwin noted that BART is carrying a record ridership with an average of about 400,000 rides per weekday. While there may periodically be intense demand at various Berkeley BART stations, “BART is able, in Berkeley, to accommodate increased ridership,” Goodwin said.

At the regular meeting, Arreguin will propose a comprehensive homelessness plan that advocates the establishment of a Multi-Departmental Homelessness Working Group, which would create a team that works to develop a comprehensive plan addressing the city’s homelessness crisis.

“What we need is to invest in long-term solutions to end the homelessness problem in our city,” Arreguin said, adding that creating housing for the homeless is the most effective way to reduce the number of people living on the streets.

Similarly, Councilmember Kriss Worthington will urge an increase in the availability of affordable housing by channeling funding to Project Move-Up — a program intended to move homeless individuals into permanent housing — and prioritizing predevelopment funds to jumpstart housing projects.

According to Worthington, the No. 1 funding request of nonprofit affordable housing providers was predevelopment funding. All housing projects must undergo predevelopment, which on average takes nine to 15 months, in order to qualify for city, state or federal funding, Worthington added.

“If we don’t jumpstart some of these projects, there may not be any project in 2017,” Worthington said.

The regular meeting agenda also includes a request for additional funding for the Civic Arts Grants Program and the authorization of the Berkeley Energy Commission to hold a workshop on community choice energy.

Contact Roann Pao at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @roann_pao.