The Lowdown: Berkeley council on soda tax, medical cannabis, minimum wage task force, BART plaza

No city has yet been successful in passing a sugar-sweetened beverages tax. Will Berkeley be first? Photo: Mike Mozart

No city has yet been successful in passing a sugar-sweetened beverages tax. Will Berkeley be first? Photo: Mike Mozart

On July 1 — with one more meeting to go before its summer recess — the Berkeley City Council will hold a special session on park facility needs at 5:30 p.m., followed by a regular meeting at 7 p.m. to hammer out the details on a proposed task force to study the minimum wage, decide how to choose which lucky operator will get to run the city’s fourth medical cannabis dispensary, agree on how a proposed sugar-sweetened beverage tax will be presented to voters in November, and get an update about plans to update the BART plaza.

Read on for details in this week’s Lowdown. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see how to participate and weigh in about the meeting, even if you can’t attend in person.

Action items

As discussed previously, council is looking at creating a task force to study the minimum wage in Berkeley, which it established officially last week. See the staff report, along with past Berkeleyside coverage.

Council will do its first reading of an ordinance to establish criteria to select a fourth medical cannabis dispensary in Berkeley. The measure will also refine definitions for cannabis collectives and dispensaries, patients and caregivers. It will set new rules for hours and the scope of operations of collectives, for testing cannabis and edibles, and will require dispensaries to give away 2% of the amount of cannabis they sell each year free to low-income patients, and more. See Item 22 for related materials, and read related coverage on Berkeleyside.

Council plans to put a tax on distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages onto the ballot for voters. Tuesday night, the plan is firm up plans to place that measure on the ballot and determine who will write the ballot language. Prior to the meeting, at 5:30 p.m., supporters of Berkeley vs. Big Soda plan to rally on the steps of the building where council meets, at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, to express support for the tax. Read the background on Berkeleyside, and see Item 23 on the agenda for related materials for Tuesday night’s meeting.

For more than a year, we’ve been keeping readers in the loop about plans to overhaul the downtown Berkeley BART plaza. Tuesday night, council will get an update on that proposal. If you’ve missed Berkeleyside’s coverage, catch up here, and see Item 25 on the agenda for the latest.

Meeting details

Follow live tweets of the Berkeley Council meeting by clicking the image above. Join in by tagging your tweets #berkmtg.

Follow live tweets of the Berkeley Council meeting by clicking the image above. Join in by tagging your tweets #berkmtg.

The Berkeley City Council meets Tuesday nights at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Special sessions generally take place at 5:30 p.m. and regular meetings begin at 7 p.m. Council agendas are available online here. Watch the meetings online here.

Berkeleyside often covers council meetings live on Twitter. Others sometimes do the same and the discussion can get spirited. Follow council coverage on Twitter via hashtag #berkmtg. Follow along in real-time here, and tag your tweets with #berkmtg to join in. You do not need a Twitter account to follow along. Just click here.

Council-related Twitter handles:
@LindaMaio (District 1)
Darryl Moore @BerkCouncil (District 2)
@JesseArreguin (District 4)
Laurie Capitelli @berkcap (District 5)
Kriss Worthington @k__worthington (District 7)
Gordon Wozniak @Gordon_Wozniak (District 8)

Learn more about the Berkeley City Council and how to connect with local representatives via the city website.

Has something else on the agenda caught your interest? Let us know in the comments.

Berkeley council on ballot measures, downtown post office, FY2015 budget (06.24.14)
Berkeley council on medical marijuana, drugstores, policing, Telegraph Avenue (06.17.14)
Berkeley council on Telegraph Avenue, minimum wage, budget, elections (06.10.14)
Berkeley council on cannabis, drugstore limits, elections, climate hurdles, more (06.03.14)
Berkeley council on budget, elections, minimum wage, new emergency response boat (05.20.14)
Berkeley council on minimum wage, Tasers, ballot measures, budget, pedestrian safety (05.06.14)
Berkeley council on redistricting, drones, affordable housing, mini-dorms, more (04.29.14)
Berkeley council on minimum wage increase, mini-dorms, ballot measures, more (04.01.14)

Get the latest Berkeley news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing. And make sure to bookmark Berkeleyside’s pages on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t need an account on those sites to view important information.

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  • andrew johnson

    While it would no doubt be an improvement if some denizens of the Downtown BART plaza were to adorn themselves in overalls, I suspect that’s not quite what you meant.

  • Guest

    The documents to do with the BART plaza are at:


    They make for some pretty interesting reading.

    I’m very glad to see that they’re considering adjusting the flow of pedestrian traffic to allow seating in front of the existing store fronts (a la Center Street, as far as I can tell). That’ll be a huge improvement.

    I’m a bit disappointed to see that they appear to have eliminated the Cafe/food kiosk that was originally planned there. I still think that that cafe should go on the south side of the main BART entrance rotunda, though, not at the south end of the whole plaza.

  • Guest

    Why not make all meds free for very low income citizens of Berkeley? Why just cannabis? Cancer drugs, asthma drugs for children, whatever…

    As currently stated, I expect the poverty rate in Berkeley to suddenly increase.

    Free pot is getting to be too much for even this liberal. Just take a stand, fully legalize it, regulate it like any other pharm, and regulate its production to meet environmental laws for all agriculture. All this sort of kind of under the table BS is good for no one.

  • emraguso

    Definitely not! Thanks for the alert.

  • Chris J

    I like the notion of Center Street being more pedestrian friendly. Outdoor public seating as in a long parklets would be good.

  • allison1050

    I haven’t lived in Berkeley in 30 yrs. but could someone explain to me WHY a dispensary should GIVE AWAY 2% of the amt. of cannibus they sell each year??? Who is voting for these local politicians who come up with these strange “business” ideas? If I opened a clothing store would I have to “give away” 2% of the clothing? What about a coffee house?

  • guest2

    One wonders what, if anything, will finally push the average Berkeley voter over the edge. If I hadn’t read about free pot for the poor in Berkeleyside, I would have assumed it was in the Onion.

  • bgal4

    Med pot is supposed be for those with serious illness, plenty of folks with serious disability and illness live on SSI, essentially poverty levels of income. Providing free medicine to those in need is the morally and ethically correct action. Years ago I attended Med Marijuana Commission advocating for clarification of the provisions of programs like BPG Helping Hands based on knowledge of how the program did not serve the intended population properly. Codifying program income limits, residency requirements and providing patients with choice are important requirements to support Medical use of marijuana.

    Most counties in CA with med pot programs have been providing free medicine to those who qualify based on income and need since the law was passed.

  • bgal4

    Medi-Cal already provides for medication free of charge for those living in poverty and disabled by serious diseases.

    The free pot for low income folks in Berkeley ( and most counties) has been in effect since Prop 215 was passed, the codification into the new med pot dispensary rules was logical and welcome to ensure the truly needing are treated well.

    The criticism of this provision is unwarranted.

  • bgal4

    Ask yourself if Colorado or Washington state recreational pot shops pay the same sales tax rate as clothing stores or coffee shops. There’s your answer.

  • allison1050

    Love the fact you continue to ignore my very simple question so if you can’t or won’t I’ll just say have a good day.