Berkeley Street Sweeping


Clean Storm Water and OPT OUT Component of Berkeley STREET SWEEPING Program Reportstreet sweeping BerkeleyPublic Works Department and Public Works Commission January 9, 1995










Sweeping Through History in Berkeley
L A Wood American Sweeper Magazine, Number 1, 1995

From hand brooms and horses to high tech, from mud to macadam to asphalt,
the one constant is change.

The invention of gutters and curbs was hailed as a fundamental improvement. The following is a historical overview of the rise of street sweeping in Berkeley, CA. Probably this story is much like that of 'Everytown, USA. As the population of an area increased, the need was seen for more and better roads. At first streets were surfaced with "dust in the summer and mud in the winter," old-timers attest. Cleaning was downright hopeless. With the change to a hard, permanent-type surface, though, cleaning became both desirable and feasible.

Here's how things progressed... <READ MORE>

Berkeley's Storm Drain: Portal to the Bay. VIDEO (1992) 8:30 TRT Produced by Erbele/Wood
..on the impact of the City of Berkeley Public Works street sweeper operations on storm drains, urban runoff pollution and the San Francisco Bay. This nine-minute video includes a community tour of the city's Corporation yard, Public Works operations, and related surface water - urban runoff concerns <READ MORE>

Berkeley's Stormwater Property Tax: Where's the Money?
L A Wood, Berkeley Daily Planet, October 29-November 1, 2004

For nearly a hundred years, Berkeley has struggled to maintain its storm system of inlets, culverts and pipes that carry rain and other surface waters to our creeks and into the San Francisco Bay. Historically, our city has always placed a very low priority on the general maintenance and the annual repairs of the storm system. However, in 1992, there was a serious legislative move to fix Berkeley’s beleaguered storm system when voters authorized a new stormwater property assessment.

Now, more than a dozen years later, Berkeley’s half-inflated stormwater program has finally hit bottom. This crisis has raised questions of fund misrepresentation and program mismanagement. Voters deserve to be told the truth about Berkeley’s Clean Water tax dollars and why this mandated program has been allowed to go down the drain.

Some voters may remember the stormwater initiative back in the early 1990s. The idea of a storm tax was sold to residents with the rhetoric of environmental protection, and moreover, with the provision that this tax would be a placed into a designated fund. In the beginning, the stormwater fund was never intended to fully support all our municipal stormwater activities or to completely pay for the system’s under-funded capital improvements. This fund was adopted to help support the city’s stormwater permit process with its newly mandated state and federal requirements.

The stormwater property tax also funded Berkeley’s participation in the Alameda County stormwater support group, a consortium of East Bay cities that share consultants and work together to meet the legislative requirements of the Clean Water Act. They identified several existing municipal activities that are required by our federal stormwater permit, including street sweeping and storm drain cleaning.

Although these costs had traditionally been paid out of the general fund, the City of Berkeley began to transfer ALL the costs for these pre-existing maintenance tasks to the stormwater fund. The storm property tax initiative was not meant to simply be financial relief for general fund activities. The long-term impact of this funding shift has struck a fatal blow to the development of the city’s stormwater program. Predictably, this fund is broke, which in turn is being used to justify no improvement in performance. <READ MORE>

Storm Drain Utility Users' Tax
L A Wood, CNA Newsletter February 1993

Over a year ago, the Berkeley City Council enacted an ordinance authorizing the creation of a storm drain utility users' tax. Until this time, Berkeley's storm drainage system costs were primarily drawn from the General Fund. After June 1991, the proceeds collected from this new user fee were placed in the City Treasury for a newly established Clean Storm Water Fund.

Historically, the City's storm drain system has received low priority in budgetary allocations and is in need of much repair. Our own storm water system capital improvement program has scheduled the repair, rehabilitation and replacement of its drainage components over a 25 year period. The adopted July 1991 ordinance adds funds for four years into this capital improvements program. The implementation of capital improvements is slated to begin in the second year.

The utility tax assessment was directed at the 27,000 real properties. Each property's user tax assessment was based on the amount of its impervious area. Impervious surfaces are simply those that repel water rather than allowing runoff to be absorbed by the soil. Owners of parcels with single family homes pay a fixed rate of fifty dollars annually. For most Berkeleyans, this was the beginning of our awareness to the issues of nonpoint source pollution and their real costs. < READ MORE>

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