Roberta “Bertie” Cooper, a three-term mayor of Hayward, who led the city through a period of increased development, died Monday. She was 82. The cause of death was cancer.
Cooper served 18 years as an elected official in Hayward, 12 of them as mayor from 1994-2006. Prior to that, Cooper served on the Hayward City Council.
Under Cooper’s leadership, she stewarded a number of city projects and large-scale housing developments to completion. Among them, Hayward’s new City Hall, a then-contentious subject because of the annual $30 property tax bill that was approved to pay for its construction.
Approvals for three significant developments also occurred during Cooper’s time in the mayor’s office, including The Cannery Area housing project between ‘A’ Street and Winton Avenue, Eden Shores near the shoreline, and Stonebrae in the Hayward Hills. The council under Cooper also narrowly approved the Hayward Loop, the downtown traffic corridor despised by many local resident.
Cooper also fiercely opposed the renaming by California State University trustees of Cal State Hayward to Cal State East Bay. The name-change remains a slight to the civic pride of long-time Hayward residents.
Former Hayward Councilmember Kevin Dowling, who served eight years on the council with Cooper said she was a tough political adversary, at the same, prone to flashing a wicked sense of humor.
Although, Cooper’s legacy may focus on the spate of development projects that occurred during her time in office, she was originally part of a slice of Hayward politics that advocated for slow-growth, Dowling said.
“Many people in town thought we needed responsible growth, and particularly a number of projects that had been on hold forever,” Dowling said. Cooper’s political acumen allowed her to steer opposite sides of the growth issue forward, he added.
One humorous, but infamous moment, during Cooper’s time as mayor included the ejection of her husband, and a group of vocal protesters, from a council meeting.
After her husband began arguing with the group inside the council chambers, Cooper demanded that police removed the protesters before adding direction that they also take her husband. While watching the incident from the council dais, Dowling recalls, “We all started cracking up.”