January 29, 2015 | Meeting on Measure WW Funds: A Good Start

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Friends and neighbors: Last night (Weds., Jan. 28), the City of Berkeley’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Dept. held a community meeting at Live Oak Park to gather ideas for possible improvements to the historic Fountain and Walk area. These improvements would be paid for with $130,000 in funds from Measure WW, a regionwide local grant program for acquisition and improvement of parkland and related areas passed by Alameda and Contra Costa county voters in 2008.

About a dozen members of the community, along with a few city staffers and Amelia Lopez and Stephen Murphy, representatives of Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, attended the meeting, which was led by PRW chief Scott Ferris. He explained that the funds available for work on The Circle and Fountain Walk must follow specific guidelines for eligible projects. (You can link to details on how Measure WW funds are spent here.)

Mr. Ferris opened the floor for ideas for improvement projects. The FOFW board had met to discuss ideas, and presented a list of possibilities. They are, in order of priority:

1) Change drainage of fountain water from running into storm drain to go into sanitary sewer
2) Redo stairs at bottom of Fountain Walk – they have sunk on the tunnel side
3) Extend irrigation down Fountain Walk from the system on The Circle
4) Redesign handrail (with ADA compliance) down Fountain Walk
5) Add lighting (solar powered) along Fountain Walk – possibly under the handrail
6) Install wheelchair access to the grassy median between Los Angeles and Mendocino streets
to access benches
7) Reset column at corner of Marin and The Arlington – has become tilted over the years
8) Explore a way to use solar power for fountain lights and pumps
9) Install directional/interpretive sign to fountain at base of Fountain Walk steps

Virtually all others in attendance endorsed these ideas. John Hutchen, a resident of Oxford Street and an East Bay Regional Parks employee, suggested one more idea: he would like to explore replacing the grass around the fountain with a type of grass or ground cover that does not require frequent mowing. The discussion included the fact that the City lawn mowers pick up “seeds” from various parks, and transfer them, thus bringing in unwanted plant specimens over time. This idea appears to be eligible for Measure WW funds.

After ideas were presented, Mr. Ferris explained that the first item on the FOFW list (rerouting the fountain drainage) will instead be paid for with funds from Measure F, a tax increase to improve city parks that was approved in November.

Of the other items on the list, Mr. Ferris and Roger Miller Sr., the PRW’s Measure WW expert, said only two may be questionable as far as WW funding eligibility: Those are Item 6, installing wheelchair access to the grassy median, and Item 8, about possible solar power for the fountain lights and pumps.

The next step in the process for deciding on which improvements may be made is for city staff to ensure that all the proposals are indeed eligible, then research and estimate costs for each of the eligible items. It is unlikely that the funds available would cover the costs of all the proposed improvements, so city staff may suggest priorities or offer different scenarios in which some combinations of the projects could be done.

There will be at least one more community meeting to discuss the various options, and the staff will also communicate with interested residents via email. Contact PRW by email if you want to be included in those updates at parks@cityofberkeley.info.

FOFW will also communicate any news about this via our website and Facebook page, and you are welcome to contact us with any questions or concerns about the WW improvements. Email us at: fountainandwalk@gmail.com

Anyone with thoughts on these ideas or others can contact city staff. The email address, again, is: parks@cityofberkeley.info. The PRW office is located in City Hall at 2180 Milvia Street, Third Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704.

Here is more contact information for the key PRW staffers:

Scott Ferris, Director
Office: (510) 981-6700 Fax: (510) 981-6710
Deborah Chernin, Manager, Planning and Design/Capital Projects
Office: (510) 981-6715 Fax: (510) 981-6710
Roger Miller, Sr. Management Analyst
Office: (510) 981-6704 Fax: (510) 981-6710

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