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City fiscal woes cast shadow over Sunday Streets events

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JANUARY 24, 2013

In light of looming deficits, the city of Berkeley may face difficulty in funding future Sunday Streets, a new and well-received community event.

Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday to include $59,098 in the budgeting process for two Sunday Streets events annually after 2013. For 2013, the event will only be held in October and is projected to cost $29,600 for fiscal year 2014, according to a report from Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. Recent deficits, however, have brought concerns over the feasibility of such funding.

Sunday Streets Berkeley — community initiative modeled after the popular Sunday Streets San Francisco that began six years ago — first took place in Berkeley last October, attracting more than 40,000 people. The event, which stretched more than a mile on Shattuck Avenue, temporarily closed off the street for activities like face painting and live music.

During public comment, resident Dan McMullan voiced enthusiasm for Sunday Streets but raised concerns with the finances needed.

“It was fun — a nice event — but I think this is an awful lot of money to ask for this event from the city,” McMullan said. “Why do we have to pay for this event over and over again?”

Typically, vendor fees cover costs associated with city street fairs, but Sunday Streets Berkeley, which has no outside vendors, must raise money on its own.

An online petition, started by organizers, to continue the event has already gained 945 signatures.

“It’s clear that Berkeley residents and nonresidents enjoy spending time here,” said Erin Rhoades, chair of Livable Berkeley, which planned the event last year. “It was truly a fantastic day.”

Moreover, many councilmembers expressed support for the event, pushing for the city to engage in funding the program.

“If you want to see this happen in the future, we as a city need to commit financially, as well as you would need to commit personally,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin.

The city, however, also must address a projected deficit of $3 million in the general fund and $3.9 million in special funds for fiscal year 2014, leaving some councilmembers slightly hesitant to finance the event.

“I think, given the financial situation that we’re in, that we are going to have to take a look at all of our special events,” said Councilmember Susan Wengraf. “I want to see it happen again, but I’m nervous.”

The council will further discuss alternative means of financing the $29,600 needed to run the event this October through grants and other contributions at its meeting Feb. 19.

“There is a uniqueness to this event, and in some ways, we need to focus on that as we think about the budget,” Capitelli said.

Daphne Chen is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

JANUARY 25, 2013


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