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 Stories for April 1, 1998:

Community Relations Projects Benefit Both City and Campus

by Michelle Barer Moskowitz, Public Affairs
posted Apr. 1, 1998

The City of Berkeley and the university both sit squarely on the Hayward Fault. Since the College of California purchased land in 1866 at a site they named Berkeley, the fate of the city and that of the university have been intimately intertwined by more than geography and a mutual concern for when the next “big one” hits.

An example in point is the Berkeley Alliance, a partnership with the city, the school district and community groups launched in October 1997 as a result of efforts by the Office of Community Relations.

As one of the first Berkeley Alliance projects, the city and university plan to join the Disaster-Resistant Community program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency through an initiative that assists cities in disaster-prone areas. FEMA is offering assistance to these cities to prepare for and reduce the effects of natural disasters on families and businesses.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the university, the city and the school district to work together to make a difference in our community,” said Irene Hegarty, director of campus’s Office of Community Relations. FEMA recognizes the leadership of the campus and the city and is highlighting both in promotional information about the program.

Other potential projects Community Relations is promoting through the Berkeley Alliance are an adolescent health initiative expanding medical and mental health services to youth; school-to-career programs connecting academic, community and business resources to develop new programs and evaluate existing programs; a youth services data integration project improving services to youth and families through interagency data sharing; and a prenatal to kindergarten service preparing children and their families for school success.

Serving as a link between town and gown since 1990, the Office of Community Relations works through the Berkeley Alliance, as well as other means, to create positive and lasting relationships with the City of Berkeley, the East Bay and the Bay Area..

Hegarty and her staff of three collaborate with campus departments on issues that affect the quality of life on campus and in the local community, including construction projects, transportation and parking, youth employment, homeless services, urban and regional planning, and community service projects.

“It is important for our neighbors to understand the many ways in which the university contributes to the local community. We also want to diffuse conflicts before they happen. That all necessitates careful planning,” says Hegarty.

Community Relations also operates closely with public agencies and private citizens to address controversial and complex issues such as Southside planning, increasing transit use and supporting a fire management program in the Oakland/Berkeley hills.

In the years ahead, the city and university will need to work even more closely toward becoming national models in cooperative alliances between governments, communities and universities on disaster preparedness and other issues.

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