Berkeley Makes a Major Investment in Resilient Infrastructure

Berkeley is a small city in California with many strengths, including its academic institutions and ties with the wider economy and culture of the San Francisco Bay Area. It also faces significant challenges, from earthquakes to a high degree of racial inequity. Many of Berkeley’s challenges, such as wildfires, droughts, and flooding will be exacerbated by climate change. Berkeley’s exposure to these risks is worsened by its aging infrastructure, with estimated needs of nearly $500 million.

The high risk posed by Berkeley’s infrastructure needs was front-and-center to the city’s thinking when it developed its Resilience Strategy. Following its release, 86.5% of Berkeley voters approved a $100M general obligation infrastructure bond, known as Measure T1, that will repair, renovate or replace the City’s aging streets and sidewalks, storm drains and parks, and community facilities. This measure enjoyed unanimous support from Berkeley’s City Council, and was a direct outcome of the goals identified in the strategy.

The bond measure is a crucial step in addressing those needs. The city’s resilience office, led by Chief Resilience Officer Timothy Burroughs, developed criteria for assessing potential resilience projects – criteria that reflected the goals of the resilience strategy, including: project readiness, equity, emergency preparedness, safety, financial and environmental sustainability, alignment with existing city plans, and clear evidence the project would provide multiple benefits to the city.

In early March of 2017, Berkeley published a list of the first round of proposed infrastructure projects that could benefit from this bond money. These projects included bioswales and other water management efforts, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure upgrades to more than a dozen streets, seismic retrofits to several city-designated care and shelter centers, and repairs to the city’s Municipal Pier. Senior and community centers were designated to receive the largest tranche of funding. The city plans to distribute $32 million of the bond funding to this first phase of projects, which will be carried out between 2018 and 2021. The CRO’s office is running a series of public input meetings on the proposed list of projects, ensuring diverse stakeholder engagement and community participation—a core facet of resilience building.