Berkeley residents raise concerns about gentrification, geographic equity surrounding Measure T1 proposals

Stephanie Lopez /Staff

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At a public meeting in the Frances Albrier Community Center on Saturday morning, city officials fielded community input and concerns about proposed parks and city building projects to be funded through Measure T1.

In February, the city released a list of 34 proposals to be funded through Measure T1, a newly passed measure that allows Berkeley to sell $100 million worth of general obligation bonds to rebuild and restore the city’s infrastructure. At the meeting, Chief Resilience Officer Timothy Burroughs stressed that the city was trying to ensure that the projects served many different parts of the city and were environmentally friendly as well as fiscally responsible.

“These criteria are rooted in Berkeley’s approach to resilience,” Burroughs said to the crowd. “When we make an investment, we try to solve more than one challenge and create more than one benefit.”

Each of the plan’s three phases will include the renovation of one senior center and one community center, according to Burroughs. The city is also aiming to make sure it renovates parks across Berkeley, prioritizing those that have significant deferred need and are frequently used. The city would focus on improving safety, energy and water efficiency, as well as accessibility for residents with disabilities within the parks.

About halfway through the meeting, community members were directed to form small groups where they discussed whether the proposed projects appropriately addressed the city’s needs and other projects they would like to see considered. Attendees raised concerns about geographic distribution, gentrification, public safety and the cost of project planning.

South Berkeley resident Elisa Cooper said she wanted to see more resources directed toward the Adeline Corridor area, including more lighting, benches and shelters.

Additionally, Kinchasa Taylor, a Southwest Berkeley resident, said the projects outlined in the plan could lead to gentrification. She also raised concerns about the lack of representation of people of color within the meeting and whose input was being heard.

“I’m not seeing people who look like me … I’m very sad right now,” Taylor said at the meeting. “We were segregated to this community and now we’re being gentrified out of this community.”

Taylor said she does not believe that the projects set for Southwest Berkeley, such as the proposed renovation of the Frances Albrier Community Center in San Pablo Park, would address the needs of her neighborhood.

Burroughs said the city has been working to improve its outreach to members of marginalized groups for future meetings. Burroughs added that the city reaches out to neighborhood associations, business associations, newspapers and community groups to advertise community input meetings.

“Outreach is one of the most challenging things that we do,” Burroughs said. “We can always do better.”

The city will hold two more community input meetings March 25 and April 8 for discussion of proposed Measure T1 projects in the coming weeks.

Jessica Lynn is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.