Campus awards $250,000 to community development programs

Michael Hitchner/Courtesy

Eighteen organizations were awarded a total of $250,000 by the Berkeley campus last week to be spent on community improvement and service programs for this year.

Now in its 10th year, the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund — which was started after the city sued the campus for not having to pay property taxes — has worked to form a strong relationship between campus and the city of Berkeley by funding projects that aim to address community needs in the fields of arts and culture, community safety, economic development, education and environmental awareness.

“Students have a passion to make the city of Berkeley better,” said Ruben Lizardo, the campus director of local government and community relations. “Funds help match up people’s commitment to change with (support).”

Of the projects receiving funding, those in education were required to integrate into their designs the 2020 Vision — a proposal to eliminate the academic achievement gap between students of different races within the Berkeley Unified School District.

One of the selected education projects, “Equity for Black Children through Kindergarten Readiness,” led by Healthy Black Families Inc., is geared toward teaching black and minority families about the cost of getting children into and ready for kindergarten.

“We need to do away with racism, not individual or internalized racism,” said Vicki Alexander, board president of “Equity for Black Children.” “It’s about the institution that perpetuates racism.”

Alexander said that she intends to utilize the partnership with the campus School of Public Health to evaluate the project’s progress. She added that she hopes the partnership will continue to endure after the fund has ended.

Several groups receiving support expressed satisfaction with the aid and extent of the partnerships that the campus provided them but added that they hoped for greater funding. The funds for each organization this year ranged in amount from $6,500 to $24,250.

“As a nonprofit, we worry about reduced public funding for education,” said Kate Jessup, director of hospitality and international programming for the Bay Area Book Festival, an organization that received funding from the campus. “Partnership is important. In today’s economy, we need institutional partners.”

The campus fund first began in 2006 as part of a settlement between the campus and the city. The settlement was reached after the city sued the campus for not paying taxes despite the campus contribution to the city sewage and maintenance costs, among others.

As part of the settlement, UC Berkeley also pays the city $1 million annually for infrastructure. The campus is also voluntarily taxed through property-based assessment for its membership in the Telegraph Business Improvement District and the Downtown Berkeley Association.

“The relationship (between campus and the city) is much more constructive and positive than it was back then,” said John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association. “(We) would like more funding, but we recognize that the university is doing more belt-tightening and (we) appreciate the funding we do get.”


Contact Lillian Dong at [email protected].