Berkeley's Street Sweeping OPT-OUT


Berkeley's Opt-Out for Street Sweeping
L A Wood, Berkeley Voice, July 28, 1994

Berkeley's Opt-Out for Street Sweeping
L A Wood, Berkeley Voice, July 28, 1994

The challenge to Berkeley's Street sweeping exemption program simply states opt-out is not a clean water activity. The opt-out process grew out of a council request to re-evaluate its residential street cleaning policies. City administration developed the exemption and the Public Works Department has shared responsibility for its implementation. The expense of this 1991 city resolution was never calculated and the costs remain unknown.

The exemption program and its numerous public hearings have added unnecessary costs to the budget of the storm water fund. It has also extended the workload to the Public Works Commission and city staff. Moreover, the opt-out exemption has failed to qualify as a runoff control. These budgetary allocations have only served to promote the degradation of Berkeley's storm water quality.

The initial costs for opt-out were for staff time developing the petition process which included at least one citywide mailing. Once in place, it generated an expense in the removal of about 10 percent of the residential enforced parking signs. The process for opt-out of Street sweeping has preoccupied the Public Works staff for more than 32 months. The administrative outreach required to service this program has involved at least one person and oftentimes more.

However, the most wasteful drain of assessment monies and runoff efforts has been over the endless debate regarding opt-out. The issue was heard by both the Community Environmental Advisory Commission and the Public Works Commission over a seven-month period. CEAC sent City Council its unanimous recommendation to rescind opt-out.

Almost two years ago, the Alameda County Urban Runoff Clean Water Program joined the debate and began their own discussion of the issue. The county resources included subcommittees, support from numerous private engineering firms, and all the local administering agencies of the storm water program. After half a year of deliberations, they resolved in their Best Management Practices Manual of 1993 to: "Discourage streets from opting-out of residential street sweeping."

Berkeley's contribution to this debate began almost a year ago when Public Works hired a Clean Water Program consultant/coordinator. This Berkeley engineering staffer participated and was central to the work undertaken by Alameda County. From this study came a Berkeley staff report to the Public Works Commission on copper loads entering the bay. These studies all show that opt-out increases the volume of copper and other pollutants in urban runoff.

Berkeleyans have paid for both the expenses generated within the city as well as for a share of the county's opt-out investigation. Opt-out has become a very costly idea.

At the June meeting of the Public Works Commission, city staff proposed yet another work group to discuss the opt-out feature of residential sweeping. Ignoring the work of the county, its own city report, and a commission recommendation, city council will add another six months or more of budgetary waste to preserving opt-out.

The current work group has been convened to insure the Berkeley City Council can avoid making a final decision on this clean water scam before the November election. Any perpetuation of the opt-out boondoggle is financially irresponsible. Why has the City of Berkeley already spent half a million dollars not to sweep its streets? This exemption program continues to distort our clean water efforts and to misdirect our storm water revenues. Rescind opt-out now!

Fairness of Opt-out Street Sweeping Program.
L A Wood, February 11, 1993

Since December, Council has received several agenda communications regarding Berkeley's street sweeping program and its opt-out component. This information and analysis have focused on the environmental content of street sweeping, public education, monitoring, and their overall effect on our citywide Clean Water Program (CWP). It is equally important that the fairness of the opt-out component to our community also be addressed.

The idea of opt-out was created in response to the final phase-in (IV) of our street sweeping program in 1991. This petition process of withdrawal from mechanical sweeping and its controlled parking was developed as a reaction to this street sweeping phase in. It needs to be noted that the opt-out feature started at the same time that Berkeley was beginning the implementation of our CITYWIDE CWP.

The criteria to opt-out were developed to accommodate those in the phase IV area (North Berkeley and Thousand Oaks). In fact, blocks in this area had lined up to petition for opt-out even before the petition process was established by Council through resolution (NO.55,860). As a consequence, the criteria for opt-out were structured around these pre-petitioners and not the Clean Water Program.

Low density, residential, and low litter criteria have been the standard for qualifying to opt-out. The vagueness of these criteria have allowed the standard to be employed disproportionately (see attachment). Administrative discretion has defined the criteria for opt-out. A review of successful petitioners and those blocks denied show very little difference. We must be reminded that Berkeley is the second most densely populated city in the state and tenth in the nation. If automobiles were also a measure of urban density, our city would most likely rank much higher.

Opt-out avoids addressing the issues of automobiles and their contribution to urban runoff pollution. This can be seen in the consideration and approval of certain blocks participating in our selective opt-out program. Thousand Oaks Blvd. is a major arterial for those who live in that area. Berkeley Way is in the heart of a heavily trafficked commercial area. Parts of both streets have been allowed to petition out. How could these blocks possibly qualify to opt-out?

West Berkeley has been afforded only one opt-out block, North Valley Street. It has become West Berkeley's "token" participant in the opt-out program. This block is located directly across from the City's corporation yard with its vehicle fleet of over 100 and a staff of nearly 200. The corporation yard functions as an industrial facility. Dust from debris laden city trucks has been a constant complaint of the neighborhood. What criteria were applied here? Opt-out criteria are suppose to exclude industrial areas.

An examination of the petition process shows many examples like North Valley Street. The opt-out component is riddled with inconsistencies. The issue of fairness emerges as a picture of selective program development and use. Opt-out is not an environmental program. Opt-out could more accurately be described as an exclusive district program (see map).

The measurement of the fairness of the opt-out program goes far beyond our neighborhoods and districts. Berkeley's choices do affect our bays eco-system. It is an acknowledged fact that we live in an increasingly more polluted environment. As a community we are being challenged by this polluted environment that we helped to create. Our citywide Clean Water Program is simply a starting point to an environmental change. Opt-out indicates an unwillingness to participate. We should not allow this to be our response. It is time for Council to educate our community to this reality.

Community Environmental Advisory Commission, June 22, 1993

To: the Berkeley City Council


On December 15, 1992, Mayor Hancock referred a communication from Mr. L A Wood regarding the City's street sweeping program and the opt-out component to the Public Works Commission and the Community Environmental Advisory Commission (CEAC). As a result of discussions at several regular CEAC meetings and a meeting held June 2, 1993 with two members of the Public Works Commission and the CEAC, the CEAC made the recommendation at their regular meeting on June 3, 1993.


The CEAC made the following recommendation to the Council:

It is recommended that the City Council more clearly state its goals for the Clean Water/Urban Runoff Program as it relates to the City's street sweeping program and its opt-out component. These goals should be re-evaluated based on the newly enacted federal standards for urban runoff/ pollution prevention in the Clean Water Act and that there should be a uniform application of these standards City-wide.

It is further recommended that the opt-out component of the street sweeping program authorized by Resolutions No. 55865-N.S. and 56874-N.S. be rescinded and that an educational program be initiated, utilizing funding from the Alameda County Urban Runoff Clean Water Program.

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