We, members of Citizens for Responsible Fire Protection, would like to respond to the article of Sept. 16, regarding the construction of a new fire station in the hills. It is unquestionable that a new fire station is needed. What we do question is whether or not the city’s plan actually meets the extraordinary demands of disasters such as wildfires and earthquakes. The voters approved the funding the city seeks to use for this project in 1992. After eight years we should all be certain that what we are accepting is the best possible solution. After all, it is our money, our homes, and our lives.
First we would like to address the misinformation put forth by those interviewed:
1. The City cannot hold discussions with the East Bay Municipal Utility District as to what features they want in the station because EBMUD has taken the position that the station will in no way serve the Water District. EBMUD is willing to sell the land to Berkeley provided that the city first meets certain conditions. The East Bay Regional Parks District is only being asked to house one engine and one crew there for a period of 10 to 30 days per year.
2. The size of the station will not depend on neighborhood input as Mr. Phil Kamlarz suggests. Rather, the city’s Request for Proposal for the preparation of the Environmental Impact Report, dated June 27, 2000, specifies a 7,500 square foot building with a 2,500 square foot apron, to be built on the western portion of the site
3. The statement as to the outcome of the validation suit (where the court rules on whether the city can use Measure G bond funds for the project) is also incorrect. The court will rule whether or not Berkeley’s plan meets the multi – jursidictional (and other) requirements of Measure G, which was passed by the voters in 1992. The court cannot change the language of Measure G to allow for a single jurisdictional facility. The city wants the court to agree that the minimal presence of the Parks District meets the Measure G requirements for a jointly funded multi – jurisdictional facility.
4. Several statements by Councilwoman Betty Olds also contain incorrect information:
• Station No. 7 was built in 1939, not 1920. Ms. Olds is correct when she states that this facility is in shocking condition. Why has its owner, the city of Berkeley, allowed this essential facility to deteriorate?
• The response time to Park Hills cannot possibly be reduced by three minutes because the current response time is barely two minutes! Further, any decrease in response time to one area means an increase in response time to another area.
• According to Mr. Steve Boeri, the head of EBMUD’s Real Estate Division, the land in question cannot be turned over to private developers. This contradicts the statement of Councilwoman Olds that developers were lining up to grab the land and build multiple homes on it if Berkeley did not use the property for the proposed fire station.
• The property in question is nowhere near an acre in size. According to the June 27 EIR proposal request the lot occupies 19,180 square feet. That is less than one–half an acre.
5. Hills resident Barbara Allen is incorrect when she says that this will be the only fire station east of the Hayward fault. Both the Park District and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory have facilities east of the Hayward fault. The current station No. 7 is east of the Hayward fault.
Measure G was drafted in the summer of 1992 in the wake of the Oakland hills firestorm. At that time the city manager prepared a report, dated July 21, 1992, for the mayor and City Council outlining what was needed:
…”a multi–jurisdictional facility” with “storage for 9–10 emergency firefighting vehicles.” The report called for the station to be sited on “property owned by the EBRPD located at Grizzly Peak, Centennial and Golf Course Road.” Such a location “would provide for quick emergency response into the wildland/urban intermix areas of Berkeley, Oakland, UC, and EBRPD.” Another city document “Report – New Hills Fire Station,” dated January 28, 1994, calls for a station “with an area of 13,000 square feet, housing a crew of 15 in any shift.” A helipad was considered “highly desirable.”
The land is still available, there is a new administration in Oakland that should be approached along with the California Division of Forestry , the university, and the parks district. The threat of wildfires and earthquakes has not diminished. What has diminished drastically is what the city proposes to offer us as protection. We urge the city to re – examine its plans and give us the protection we voted for in Measure G – an additional multi–jurisdictional station in the hills and the repair and seismic retrofitting of Station No. 7, a facility that has met our daily needs so well for over 60 years.
Finally, we urge our neighbors to give up somewhat selfish concerns of wanting something close to them rather than what is best for the entire hill area.