Council considers affordable housing, plastic bag ban

Jesse Arreguín: “desperate need” for affordable housing

The Berkeley City Council last night passed Councilmember Jesse Arreguín’s proposal to move to an up or down vote on an affordable housing mitigation fee at an October meeting. The city has been debating a fee since the Palmer/Sixth Street Properties v. City of Los Angeles decision in 2009 invalidated inclusionary housing requirements like those in Berkeley.

“We have a desperate need for affordable housing in Berkeley,” Arreguín said. “We need to move forward with adopting a fee right now.”

The Housing Advisory Commission had recommended setting a fee of $28,000 per market rate unit, but councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Susan Wengraf last night said they were concerned about setting a fee before there was certainty on other potential fees under consideration (other potential fees include streets, parking and open space impact fees and a West Berkeley transport fee). Capitelli suggested a decision be held off until a December meeting of the City Council when the full range of fees could be assessed. 

“I’m still convinced there needs to be a package of fees,” Capitelli said. “It’s a little bit like my mother gives me $10 to go to the store to buy food for the family. And then I walk into the store and I see a beautiful chocolate fudge cake for $9.95 and then I have a nickel left to buy everything else for the family.”

Capitelli’s extended metaphor dumbfounded Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

“Affordable housing is bread and butter and water,” he said. “It’s not chocolate fudge cake.
There is no reason why we can’t have this fee in place.”

Capitelli later said he would withdraw the comparison.

Arreguín argued that there was no need to wait until December. The affordable housing mitigation fee was different from others under consideration, he said, since it would be the only one to apply citywide (others are aimed at the downtown or West Berkeley areas), and it had been extensively discussed by the council. At the start of the session, Housing Advisory Commission Chair Vincent Casalaina had provided a lengthy calendar of meetings, reports and discussions over the last 21 months on the issue.

Arreguín’s motion to bring a fee to a vote in October, at the council meeting following a work session on the fee, specified a range of $15,000 to $34,000. It passed with five votes in support (Arreguín, Linda Maio, Max Anderson, Darryl Moore and Worthington), one opposed (Capitelli) and two abstentions (Susan Wengraf and Gordon Wozniak).

Other council actions

Banning plastic bags  The City Council also considered the recommendation from the Zero Waste Commission for a two-phase single-use bag reduction ordinance. The ZWC proposed implementing a plastic bag ban for large stores in Berkeley — those with over $2 million in annual sales — from January 1, 2013, and extending the ban to all stores at some point in the next two years.

The council agreed the implementation of Phase 1, to roughly the 90 largest stores in the city. That ban was passed in January this year by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority. The Authority budgets $273 per store in the first year and $105 per store the second year for outreach, in-store notices, and Authority staff time.

City staff had estimated the cost of Phase 2, which would extend the ban to over 600 additional stores in Berkeley, at between $160,000 and $180,000. Because of concerns about the cost, Phase 2 was not approved by the council.

Sale of downtown Post Office  Debate on a resolution to urge the US Postal Service to stop the sale of the Berkeley Main Post Office was the lengthiest item at last night’s council meeting. The unanimous vote to adopt the resolution was already reported on Berkeleyside.

Sunshine Ordinance (not)  Revised wording for the so-called sunshine ordinance was agreed by the City Council last night. The new wording does not use the term “sunshine ordinance”. One of the originators of the ballot measure, Dean Metzger, argued that the title should include “sunshine ordinance”, since that was how most people recognized the issue. City Attorney Zach Cowan said his advice was the word “sunshine” would violate the state election code, since it is a suggestive term. He cited a court decision where the use of the word “reform” had been ruled out because of bias.

Foreclosures Finally, the council endorsed a request to the Alameda County Recorder of Deeds and the County Sheriff for a meeting to discuss ways to facilitate delaying or stopping foreclosures. The letter was cosponsored by Worthington, Capitelli, Anderson and Moore.

Berkeley City Council unites in opposing Safeway project, and other Council business [07.18.12]

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  • Anonymous

     Thank you.  I’m hoping that what looks like a meta analysis of studies in social democracies isn’t the best there is but I’ll read it tonight.

  • Anonymous

    It’s great that you managed that!
    Lucky for you you weren’t disabled, or orphaned!

  • Julie

    Oh dear, and I thought I wouldn’t be back again, but the MOLD thing sort of got to me. This thread starts with affordable housing, and I do agree with Jessie, but I do have to speak a little about mold. DEADLY MOLD THAT CAN KILL YOU, how silly, BUT, not so silly if you’re apt. walls are filled with black mold, and more. Sound like a sci-fie thriller, well, it happened years ago in an apt. in Oakland. My apartment. I became pretty damn sick, and had to be carried out of my apartment. (Yes, I reported it to the housing inspectors but they said I had nothing to worry about.) Lucky, I had renter’s insurance. The story gets worse, but mold is nothing to laugh at. Yes, the media went overboard, as it usually does. But my real point is harmful chemicals DO affect people. DO cause cancer. Don’t discount that, please. I don’t even believe there is a health standard for mold in this country and insurance companies will no longer cover mold. Oh, I’ve stayed too long at this forum….

  • Anonymous

    But the city contracts with them for recycling services and if much of the valuable and easily processed materials are stolen it costs them more to provide the service which we end up paying. If people were digging through trash and pulling out bottles and cans that would otherwise end up in the landfill they’d be doing a service. As it is they just steal what’s already been collected.

  • Anonymous

    Bankruptcy within 20 years is a near certainty with current commitments, revenue, and expenditures. Of course, this can be kicked down the road a while by living on credit, getting a sympathetic federal government to throw us some scraps, etc. but without some sort of miracle it’s just a matter of math. Your certainty in the contrary is the intellectual equivalent of rejecting climate change because it’s inconvenient. Don’t sell yourself short, you’d probably make a successful politician.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    true that

  • Guest

    If it is so well-understood why is a poorly-written Australian study the only evidence you have?

  • Anon

    You harm Jesse through association.

  • AnthonySanchez

    I don’t sell myself short in this regard. Politics is ugly and ruthless. I have serious character flaws that I know opponents would love to just blast out. I think I prefer the private life where I can still make a difference without the limelight.

  • Greg


    An article I read recently about the ban on multi-family housing in the city of Alameda alluded to a lawsuit against the city of Berkeley for a violation of the state “Housing Element Law” (presumably for failure to adequately address housing at all income levels).

    Can you speak to this?

    Additionally, there was mention of substantial transportation and park funds tied to a city’s efforts to secure “affordable” housing.  Is there really a major *external* financial incentive for the city to promote “affordable” housing?

  • Anonymous

     who cares if not every person in america is able to afford to live or work in berkeley? why is that bad or of any concern?

  • Anonymous

    Associating yourself with Jesse and commenting here doesn’t seem very private.