Vision 2050 Aims to Improve Berkeley Infrastructure for Future

Illustration by Elena Griedel

Advisory measure R, which revealed the public’s opinion on the city of Berkeley developing a 30-year plan to improve Berkeley’s infrastructure known as Vision 2050, was approved by voters with an 83 percent majority in the midterm elections.

Vision 2050 was launched by Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who announced his plans to create an initiative that would help develop sustainable and technologically advanced infrastructure for the city of Berkeley at his first State of the City Address in the summer of 2017.   

Vision 2050 will build off of existing plans and identify new strategies to improve the already aging infrastructure in Berkeley, redesigning the infrastructure of the city so as to better equip it for changes in the coming decades.

Though the Mayor’s office plays a huge role in the planning of Vision 2050, it’s largely a citizen-led initiative.  A task force which is made up of four working groups — quality of life, environment, technology, and finance — is responsible for working with the community in order to identify the best course of action for the next 30 years.

“A lot of the infrastructure in Berkeley was built under the Works Projects Administration in the 1940s, including the Berkeley Community Theater. So a lot of the infrastructure is at the end of its useful life,” stated Ray Yep, Vision 2050 task force co-chair, and 30 year Berkeley resident.

As of now, there isn’t a concrete plan on which pieces of infrastructure will be improved, however, some of the areas that have been identified in need of improvement are public roads, watersheds, storm drain systems, and the pier.

Another goal for Vision 2050 is to make the city more conducive to technological changes in upcoming decades, such as self-driving vehicles, rideshare services, microgrids, and other smart technologies. It also aims to predict how the infrastructure in Berkeley can be designed to better support these advances.

According to Victoria Legg, Vision 2050 task force co-chair, it is also focused on preparing Berkeley for anticipated extreme weather patterns and sea level rise that the Bay Area will begin to experience due to climate change. Arreguín hopes to use infrastructure in Berkeley to mitigate the effects of climate change as well as start a conversation on what Berkeley will look like in the future.

“We’re seeing very extreme conditions where we have dry conditions with high winds and it could cause urban fires. That could happen in Berkeley,” said Yep.

The Vision 2050 task force is currently in the process of an 18-month long three phase plan to work with the community. This includes community meetings in different parts of the city, sharing preliminary analysis and ideas regarding Vision 2050 with the community, as well as elicit feedback from the community on the plan and producing a draft report that will be brought to the community in the Fall of 2019.  From there, work will continue to be done in predicting trends in technology and weather patterns that Berkeley should be prepared for. Currently, youth aged 16 to 26 in Berkeley are involved with Vision 2050 as volunteers, presenting slideshows at Vision 2050 community engagement sessions around Berkeley. As many as 25 to 40 sessions could be held over the next year and a half.

“It’s important for youth to be involved because people from older generations may not relate or see why Vision 2050 is important.  Hearing from youth provides a voice from people who will experience Berkeley in the future when Vision 2050 is completed,” said Sadie Fleig, a Berkeley High School student working with Vision 2050.

Though Vision 2050 is a long-term plan, many involved see preparing for Berkeley’s future as something critical. “Our defining moment at this point in time is what we do about climate change or what we fail to do because if we don’t fix this, what do we have?” said Legg.

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