On Tuesday evening, representatives from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront and the Department of Public Works presented an update to the Berkeley City Council at a special meeting on their recently planned projects and their ongoing need for additional funds.
According to the agenda memo submitted to City Council by the directors of both departments, the total amount of unfunded needs for all projects — streets, storm drains, watersheds, transportation, buildings and facilities — surpasses $393 million. The parks receive $1.7 million in funding annually, yet the parks department reports that it needs $7.4 million per year in order to address issues with city facilities and infrastructure.
“Berkeley residents can learn to rock climb at Indian Rock and enjoy a 180 degree view of the bay, walk through the rose garden in full bloom in the spring, watching an amazing sunset (and) get married on the edge of the marina,” said Scott Ferris, director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront, at the meeting. “These opportunities help define our city’s identity.”
In the past few years, the parks department has completed many renovation projects, such as those at Terrace View Park, Virginia-Mcgee TotLand and Ohlone Dog Park, which will open Friday. The department also has more projects in the works, according to Ferris.
“We leverage money, we have to bring in more outside funding,” said the manager of engineering at the Department of Public Works Paul Kaushal at the meeting in response to concerns raised by the council on the potential instability of outside funding that the department is depending on for some projects.
According to the agenda memo, the city’s infrastructure has many deficiencies due to years of deferred maintenance. Preventative maintenance would sustain the life of public assets, preventing a continued rise in operating and maintenance costs and a sharp, exponential rise in rehabilitation and replacement costs, the memo said.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” Ferris said at the meeting. “Our voters have been very gracious.”
Rowena Tomaneng, president of Berkeley City College, made a presentation at the meeting as well. Tomaneng talked about the Berkeley Promise, a program created by the 2020 Vision initiative. The Berkeley Promise will launch in spring 2017 and provide scholarships for 25 Berkeley Unified School District students to attend and matriculate into college.