Rent Board commissioner Alejandro Soto-Vigil challenges 22-year incumbent Linda Maio in Berkeley’s District 1

Alejandro Soto-Vigil hopes to beat incumbent Linda Maio for the Berkeley City Council's District 1 seat. Photo courtesy of Soto-Vigil

Alejandro Soto-Vigil hopes to beat incumbent Linda Maio for the Berkeley City Council’s District 1 seat. Photo courtesy of Soto-Vigil

Alejandro Soto-Vigil, city Rent Board commissioner and aide to Councilman Kriss Worthington, has filed to run for Berkeley City Council in District 1. He is the sole challenger to incumbent Linda Maio, who has occupied the seat since 1992.

Soto-Vigil said he is running to burst what he calls the “bubble” of the current council.

“I think I could take the bubble out, and bridge people who are on the ground to council,” said Soto-Vigil, who grew up in Richmond and graduated from UC Berkeley and the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law in Washington, D.C.  “I want to know what the pulse is of the people.”

If elected, Soto-Vigil said he would continue to advocate for the policies he has supported as a member of the Rent Board’s tenant slate for two years — a “Robin Hood” tax on landlords’ gross rent to boost the Housing Trust Fund, and an increase of the affordable housing mitigation fee — but would have a better chance of realizing them at the dais, he said.

“You have a limited scope of power to do things” on the Rent Board, he said.

Soto-Vigil’s platform also emphasizes environmental responsibility. In June he worked with a group of West Berkeley homeowners who claim the Berkeley Asphalt & Ready Mix plant has violated its use permit by emitting excess odors and noise.  If elected to council, he would advocate for the installation of air monitoring stations throughout the city.

“We talk about the Climate Action Plan. What are we really doing with that?” said Soto-Vigil, who co-founded the environmental advocacy organization Richmond Progressive Alliance. “Why don’t we have solar panels on our city buildings? Come on. Do we have charging stations for electric vehicles all over town? No. My kids are going to grow up in an environment where our resources are scarce.”

Alejandro Soto-Vigil with his family. Photo courtesy of Soto-Vigil.

Alejandro Soto-Vigil with his family. Photo courtesy of Soto-Vigil

Soto-Vigil lives with his wife and their two young children. His son is a student at Malcolm X Elementary School.

“One of the unique perspectives I’ll bring to the council is of the family,” he said. “I think they’re so disconnected from the daily grind of what parents go through.”

2020 Vision, the city’s plan to address racial inequity in the school system, is not sufficiently effective because the council is not “in the trenches, in the schools, talking to school teachers, talking to the classified staff and saying, ‘What is it that you really need from the city?’” Soto-Vigil said.

The candidate said he — like many parents of young kids — moved to Berkeley for the good schools and beautiful parks.

He condemned the council for failing to put a Mello-Roos combined bond and tax measure on the November ballot, which would have dedicated $19 million to park improvements. Maio initially supported the combined measure, which would have given $1.5 million to James Kenney Park in District 1, but voted later for a tax only.

 Soto-Vigil’s election would end his five-year stint working for Worthington.

“What I’ve learned from Kriss is how to fight for people who haven’t been allowed to walk through the door,” said Soto-Vigil, who would work full-time as a council member if elected. Council members earn about $30,000 a year. (If he loses, he has another two years on his term on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.) “And how to keep our door open and foster leadership. When I’m sitting there every day, [Maio’s] door is shut 80% of the time every day. That’s the kind of fiscal responsibility I think is lacking.”

Like Worthington, Soto-Vigil said he would run a robust internship program for local students, and would like to see something similar instated throughout city government.

“It doesn’t make sense that we have all these young folks that don’t have opportunities,” he said. “It really pisses me off. We have a city bureaucracy here that needs help.”

Soto-Vigil insists that he never aspired to run for office. He said the final push came from two 2012 ballot measures he adamantly opposed — Measure T, which would have changed zoning in West Berkeley to allow construction of large developments, and Measure S, which would have banned sitting on the sidewalk in Berkeley’s commercial districts.

“Both of those really affected me personally, in my heart,” Soto-Vigil said.

Referring to Measure S, he said, “I don’t think we should create any policies that are targeted toward poor people, and cite them. That’s completely out of bounds from my values and, I think, the values of Berkeley, and I think the voters showed that. When I heard Linda Maio saying, ‘I support this’ — living in her district, I said, ‘That’s not who I want representing me.’ I said, ‘Maybe I should run for council.’”

Maio said she is not yet familiar with Soto-Vigil’s platform, but said her history on the council speaks for itself.

Councilwoman Linda Maio — pictured here at a community event last week — said her record representing District 1 speaks for itself. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Linda Maio — pictured here at a community event last week — said her record representing District 1 speaks for itself. Photo: Emilie Raguso

“What I have is a track record,” she said. “I have a track record on the environment, on neighborhoods, on safety, on parks, on gun dealers. I have a long track record of actually performing, so that’s what I run on.”

The incumbent’s immediate priorities this term would be implementing a sugar-sweetened beverage tax, which will be on the November ballot, and continuing to work with other cities to prevent the shipment of crude oil on Union Pacific on railway tracks through Berkeley. Maio said she would also focus on watershed improvements and preserving the habitat at Aquatic Park.

District 1 includes part of the West Berkeley “flatlands,” stretching from the Albany border to University Avenue, and encompasses the waterfront.

Among his other work, Soto-Vigil was also integral in the drive for a referendum to fight redistricting lines adopted by the Berkeley City Council in December. In April, a judge ruled against alternatives Soto-Vigil favored, and in favor of the council-majority-approved map, which had been suspended by the referendum. In November, the lines adopted by council will be used by voters, who will have a chance to decide whether that map will be used going forward, or whether the process will have to begin again.

Berkeley asphalt plant emissions dangerous say residents (06.12.14)
Sid Lakireddy sues rent board candidates for libel (05.30.13)
Rent Board candidate accuses Capitelli aide of trespassing (11.06.12)
Two slates fight for seats on the Rent Stabilization board (10.22.12)

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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  • Mistah Cassanova

    Yikes, what do you teach your kids at home? Do you not respect these words:

    “Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.” – Frederick Douglass

    Black History is a daily ritual to undo the genocide this country was founded upon. Get real or get out of Berkeley.

  • Mistah Cassanova

    Brandon, youth from low-income families cannot intern for free because they need food on their tables and lights on at night. Until there is pay for the intern gig, it will not be available to everyone.

    Go take some food to the local food pantry. Go employee some local youth. Bust out that check book.

  • Mistah Cassanova

    Full time wages = full time position.

    Where I come from people get paid when they put in the work.
    We cannot afford otherwise. The city does not have that big of a budget.

  • Mistah Cassanova

    High taxes? You must have bought your home recently, which is your loss.

  • Mistah Cassanova

    Lets see, if you get in someone’s face and accuse them of a crime,
    that person probably does not want to party with you. Sounds like
    you wanted to crash the party, that you came with a sore loser attitude.
    Tip: Beef up at the gym or roll with a bigger crew.

  • Mistah Cassanova

    Linda Maio would make for a great Mayor. Why isn’t she Mayor yet?

  • Crispin’s Crispian

    Right, because on the internet nobody knows if you are a dog.,_nobody_knows_you're_a_dog

  • EBGuy

    There is a small chunk of district one (about 2×4 blocks) that falls into the central school zone. The address on his campaign materials (appears to be residential) falls is this area (overlap of District 1 council map and BUSD Central School Zone). Because of growing enrollment, Malcolm X has been “shared” between the South School Zone and Central School Zone the past couple of years. In conclusion, I don’t believe there is anything to look at… I love as good conspiracy as much as the next person, but everything checks out in my book.

  • Completely_Serious

    “life-phase diversity” What does that mean?

  • Guest

    Sounds like you should direct your negative energy where it is deserved – the state. Of course they’re also the ones that handout all the goodies – welfare, rent subsidies, food stamps… What to do now?

  • Guest

    Who’s full of hate, Mistah? Are you concerned that Berkeley might be starting to slowly extract it’s collective head out of its collective rear end, and all that you have left is hostility and nonsensical remarks?

    The best lesson you can teach your children is that no one owes them anything, not one thing. Go through life like that and all the anger and jealousy that soto-vigil and those like him foster, can’t get to them and they will succeed. When you look for handouts and obsess over what others have and try to get it through the criminal gang known as the state, you can’t help but be angry all the time. Case in point “mistah.” The pie can expand infinitely. Go grow it and reap the benefits!

  • southberkeleyres

    I was at the party at the Campaign Center because I volunteered on Jacquelyn McCormick’s campaign and wanted to show my support for her at the party. I was also at the center repeatedly picking up and dropping off literature for McCormick and Dmitri Belser when I taped Dmitri’s signs to the windows with blue painters tape. That is hardly “crashing a party”. I didn’t get in someone’s face, but stated my displeasure about the signs calmly. Alejandro’s 200 pound plus friends put their chest in my face since I’m a 5’2″ 125 pound middle aged woman. Thanks for the opportunity to add, that I didn’t flinch or cringe at the thuggish and crude attempts to intimidate me. I had the last laugh when Alejandro returned and told me, “Jacquelyn says you can stay”.

  • Taxpayer

    He’s running his campaign from his home. Other candidates often get free rent from commercial property owners–does that compromise them? You be the judge.

  • Young once

    He’s a young guy with kids. Almost unknown on the Berkeley City Council.

  • Joan Marshall

    Why, indeed? Could be the writers are on to something…

  • Berkeley Hunt Eater

    Sadly my Time Machine was not working when I bought my house so I could not go back twenty years and get myself a bargain. My loss is that I am straddled with massive property taxes that only go up due to the fact that added taxes are not directly paid for by a minority of people and not the majority of voters. The larger communities loss is that a lot of money that would be spent within the community and local business’s is sucked up and put into the pockets of the city and county workers pensions funds. As is evident by the state of our city infrastructure little of the high amount of taxes property owners actually pay makes it to where it is needed.

  • Guest

    So, you specifically chose to purchase a home in a municipality that you describe as having “some of the highest taxes taxes in the nation,” and now you’re complaining about high taxes? Sounds like you should have done a little more due diligence before you made the made the most significant financial investment of your lifetime. There’s certainly no requirement that you purchase a home in Berkeley. Fremont has no transfer taxes and a comparatively low property tax rate.

  • Dr. Ty Sanchez

    Or maybe there will be a revolt in terms of people that are happy to pay high taxes as long as they get something other than bloated city worker pensions to show for it. I am seeing recently purchased houses in the 1500 square foot range paying taxes of 12k-15k a year. How long with the status quo last with high taxation and poor services and maintenance of infrastructure. Time for a tax payer revolution.

  • guest

    Did it occur to you that, just perhaps, they thought the already very high taxes were reasonable at their current levels and simply don’t want to see them be increased time and time again by politicians like Soto-Vigil who see homeowners as piggy banks?

  • Guest

    I would say again that somebody who thought that they could buy a house in Berkeley, California, and be confident that they would never see another bond, special assessment, or tax increase really didn’t do their homework very well.

  • Guest

    Right, I’ll be waiting with bated breath for that taxpayer revolution led by Dirty Sanchez. Super serious business, these taxpayer revolutions.

  • think I’m staying

    Thanks Mistah! Excellent example of “overwhelming sense that the world owes you something”

  • guest

    “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana

    But I suppose we could just keep on unthinkingly doing the same things that aren’t working, if you prefer.

  • Woolsey

    The Cubs, the Cubs! They’re due (please)

  • Guest

    So as we delve further, we find that you chose to buy an incredibly expensive house in a city that imposes “massive property taxes,” is horribly mismanaged, and has an enormous looming pension crisis that no non-anonymous person in Berkeley has the courage to confront.

    If you’re now coming to regret that poorly thought-out decision, good news! Tons of other people really really want to live in Berkeley, so you can almost certainly sell your house now for a nice profit and buy something much cheaper in Fremont.

  • guest

    I am not the same guest you were originally talking to, genius. I’m happy with my home in Berkeley, just explaining why some don’t want to see taxes continue to climb and get nothing to show for it.

  • Berkeley Mod

    Right on, Berkeley is not only home to far, far, left leaning liberals. Some of us moderates live here and pay taxes too.

  • lovefelines

    Seems obvious to me that it refers to people at all ages/stages of life being able to live in Berkeley. What else could it mean?