Oakland is taking a new tack to beef up police staffing. Faced with rising departures and academies that so far haven't yielded enough recruits, the city will pay the Alameda County Sheriff's Office to train 25 recruits at a county academy scheduled to begin in March.
As of last week, Oakland was down to 624 sworn officers -- far fewer than the 665 authorized in the city's budget.
Reaching that number has so far proved unattainable. The department has been losing five officers a month to retirements and resignations. And recent academies have not produced the anticipated 40-officer graduating classes.
The upshot has been mandatory overtime for officers to fill beats. The department is on track to exceed its annual overtime budget by $14 million this fiscal year, according to a city report.
The higher-than-expected attrition rate for city police academies appears to be improving. There are still 55 recruits in an academy that began with 57 members in September. On Monday, the department will begin another six-month academy with 57 recruits.
Oakland's Police Department turned to the county because it doesn't have the staffing to operate three academies simultaneously. Assuming the City Council gives its approval next month, Oakland will pay the county $177,000 for the academy.
Total cost for the academy will be somewhat higher than doing it in-house because the recruits must participate in an additional 12-week course specific to Oakland that is required for those attending external academies.
Hayward to gauge support for sales tax
Hayward will soon start asking residents how they feel about voting on a sales tax, possibly as early as the June ballot, to renovate or replace some of the city's aging buildings.
The city's main library is old and overcrowded, and some fire stations need replacing, according to a staff assessment. In addition, Hayward's animal shelter, police station and fire training also need upgrading or replacing. To make all the improvements would cost about $60 million.
In a poll taken in September, 56 percent of likely June voters surveyed supported a 20-year half-cent sales tax to replace the main library, update fire stations, improve police patrols and fix potholes and sidewalks, assistant city manager Kelly McAdoo told the council at a Dec. 17 work session. A simple majority would be needed for the measure to pass if it is a general tax and does not specify projects, the council was told.
The poll found there was not enough support for a bond measure, which requires a two-thirds approval to pass, McAdoo said.
City staff members plan to hold community meetings and use social media beginning in January to gauge support for the measure. Mayor Michael Sweeney emphasized that any outreach should be to listen and learn how residents feel about a possible sales tax and whether it's feasible, not to sell the idea.
"We need to treat our citizens with great respect," he said.
The deadline for the council to put the measure on the June ballot is March 7.
Plans in the works for a new Berkeley hotel
A development group has submitted plans to the city of Berkeley for a 16-floor hotel with 293 rooms downtown at Center Street and Shattuck Avenue, a space currently occupied by Bank of America and its parking lot.
Center Street Partners spokesman Matt Taecker said the group hopes to complete the city application process by spring of 2015. He said the project will be reviewed by the city planning commission, the zoning adjustment board, the design review commission and the landmarks preservation commission. Developers also will write an environmental impact report.
Taecker said the developers have an agreement to buy the land from Bank of America, and the bank will stay on the site through construction and occupy a ground floor space in the new building.
If the project wins approval and is completed, it will be next to a new UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive currently under construction at Center and Oxford streets. That project is expected to open in early 2016.