Letter to council regarding 06-13-23 meeting

Esteemed Mayor and Council Members:

As a representative of Friends of Hopkins Street, I want to respond to an egregious comment made at the 6/13/23 City Council meeting by Council Member Kesarwani during a discussion of the allocation of T1 money. 

CM Kesarwani, who represents many members of Friends of Hopkins Street, complained about the volume of letters she had received requesting that Hopkins continue to be scheduled for repaving, despite the fact that the Class IV cycle track has been put on hold. She listed a number of things in the city for which there are insufficient funds, and then, with force, said to the writers of those letters – and this is a direct quote – “It isn’t about you all the time.”

I want to convey to Council, in the strongest words possible and before you formulate your opinion about when Hopkins should be repaved (if you haven’t already done so) that Friends of Hopkins Street has never, ever, made this issue about us, and that CM Kesarwani was as wrong as she was out of line.

This is an issue of safety. Period. Hopkins, particularly upper Hopkins, in its current deteriorated condition, is unsafe for everyone. And yes, there are lots of severely deteriorated streets in Berkeley, and they all deserve attention as soon as funds are available. But Hopkins had been allocated funds for the 2023 fiscal year, and for several fiscal years before that, and nothing about the street has improved by waiting.

The fight over a cycle track is a separate issue, and it is also one of safety. The proponents are certain the cycle track is the only way to make Hopkins safe for cyclists; the opponents are just as certain that the cycle track will make the street unsafe for cyclists, while impeding use of the area by all who use its many amenities.

But I repeat: the cycle track is a separate issue, and it likely will not be resolved in the near future. And even when it is resolved, there will be a years-long wait for funding the improvements, whatever they may be. In the meantime, the street itself will become less and less safe and, at some point, someone will get seriously hurt.

The risk is not worth it. It isn’t even reasonable to consider it. Hopkins was supposed to be paved in 2023. Paving it in the 2024 fiscal year will make it safer for everyone, especially cyclists.  

We support efforts to emphasize equity zones, but users of Hopkins come from all over the city and beyond, including residents of equity zones who choose to use the North Berkeley branch of the library or the M.L. King Park and pool, or shop in the commercial area, or visit Cedar-Rose Park. To dismiss them as people who think it is all about them all the time is unjust, unwarranted and divisive.

Given that part of Hopkins has a failing PCI, when the new 5-year paving plan is presented to the Council this fall, make certain that the funding for Hopkins is scheduled for FY2024. Repaving the street does not preclude the possibility of adding a cycle track later; it just changes the potential form it will take.

And it is the safest thing to do.