The lowdown: Berkeley council on community benefits, sewer fee increase, vaccines, parking permit expansion

A small group of people opposing a state bill to end many California's vaccine exemptions turned out at a recent council meeting in March. Photo: Emilie Raguso
A group of people opposing a state bill to end many of California’s vaccine exemptions attended a council meeting in March. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting looks to be a doozy, with numerous significant items on the agenda. The April 7 council session begins at 5:30 p.m. with a worksession on priorities for the Planning Commission, and the city’s transportation division. At the regular meeting, at 7 p.m., council is set to support a state bill to “end all vaccination loopholes” in California, consider a steep increase in municipal sewer fees, discuss the city’s approach to community benefits in the context of development projects, and decide whether to establish a “solar taskforce” to help the city increase its solar energy capacity.

On the action calendar

SEWER FEE INCREASE Council is looking to double municipal sewer fees over the next five years, as reported briefly in Berkeleyside in March. Tuesday night, council is set to agree on the proposed rate increase timeline, and establish the schedule for the requisite public outreach. That would include a public hearing June 9. The city says it needs to increase fees because it does not have enough money under the current fee structure to run the system and make federally mandated improvements in the coming years. Stay tuned to Berkeleyside for more in-depth coverage of the issue. See the staff report.

“SIGNIFICANT COMMUNITY BENEFITS” Officials are set to look closely Tuesday night at what sort of public benefits the developers of tall buildings in downtown Berkeley are required to deliver. The city’s Downtown Area Plan left those benefits flexible, but that has posed a challenge for city commissions, community members and developers alike, because different interest groups often fail to see eye to eye. The item, from Mayor Tom Bates’ office, has the apparent support of co-authors Jesse Arreguín, Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore. Read the staff report to learn more. Berkeleyside will continue to follow the story.

VACCINE LOOPHOLE Councilwoman Susan Wengraf has asked her fellow Berkeley officials to sign on in support of a state bill to end California’s “vaccine exemption loophole.” The item was originally scheduled for March 17, when a group of opponents to the plan marched on Old City Hall and shared their stories. Council delayed action on that item, however, because the hour got too late. Read the staff report.


AFFORDABLE HOUSING MITIGATION FEE DISCOUNT Mayor Tom Bates is asking fellow council members to extend, for the second time, the discount to developers who prefer to pay into a city fund to build affordable housing, rather than include it within their projects. Council set the fee at $28,000 per unit in 2012, but then reduced it to $20,000 for a limited time to try to raise money for the fund. The discount was set to expire in October, but council already extended it to April. Now, council is considering a second extension. Bates has proposed that the extension last “until such time as the Council amends it.” The proper amount of the fee has been cause for disagreement, with some housing advocates saying it should be higher, and others saying: Make it too high and no one will pay it. Read more about the fee in past Berkeleyside coverage, and see the council item. Read more about affordable housing issues in Berkeley.

SOLAR TASKFORCE Councilman Kriss Worthington has a proposal on the action calendar suggesting that the city set a goal of getting 50% of its energy from solar power by 2030. The city would establish a “solar taskforce” to plan how to make that happen. See the item.

Consent calendar

There are currently 34 items on the consent calendar, which are approved in a single vote unless items are pulled for discussion or if more than three speakers want to address them.

PERMIT PARKING EXPANSION Item 22, from Councilwoman Linda Maio, is a referral to the city manager’s office to look into expanding permit parking in Berkeley with a pilot program of 100 blocks in impacted areas, with a particular focus on West Berkeley. The item is brief, but Maio explains the rationale for the recommendation as follows: “As commercial and business uses continue to thrive, particularly in West Berkeley, residents who don’t have off-street parking are finding themselves in an increasingly difficult situation. We have heard from those who are unable to park near their homes, and the hardship it causes in cases of disability or simply managing their children or grocery trips.” See the item and read more about permit parking in past Berkeleyside coverage.

MORE OPEN GOVERNMENT An ad hoc committee — to include Jesse Arreguín, Lori Droste, Laurie Capitelli and Susan Wengraf — is setting out to consider how to make city government more transparent. In October, Arreguín submitted a “good government” package to council, and now the committee will be able to consider his suggestions. Arreguín’s list includes everything from making council members’ calendars publicly viewable to more transparency about conflicts of interests and contracts. Read more in the item.

Proposed buffer zones for tobacco and nicotine-product retailers. (Click the map to view it larger.)
Proposed buffer zones for tobacco and nicotine-product retailers. (Click the map to view it larger.)

NICOTINE SALES RESTRICTIONS Council is set to adopt a new law that will limit sales of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes near schools. The law, which would go into effect Jan. 1, 2016, would require any retailer who sells “Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems” to buy a tobacco license ($498). In addition, sale of any nicotine products would be prohibited under the new law within 1,000 feet of schools and public parks. Violating the ordinance would be classified as a public nuisance. Council will also consider building a 1- to 2-year grace period into the law “to minimize economic hardship.” Read more.

POLICE FOOT PATROL ON TELEGRAPH Mayor Tom Bates has suggested the possibility of a new police foot patrol on Telegraph Avenue, which would be considered as part of the budget process. According to the proposal, Berkeley Police would have to commit to staffing the patrol five days a week, with the University of California Police Department covering the shift the other two days. Bates says in the item that several merchants who held a meeting attended by Berkeley’s police chief in February have asked for a stepped-up police presence on the avenue. Read the item.

$1 MILLION FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING Three council members, Kriss Worthington, Max Anderson and Jesse Arreguín, have asked the city to consider putting $1 million as part of the budget process into the city’s Housing Trust Fund: “Today, we have an affordable housing crisis. Thus, the City must make significant and sustained efforts to develop and maintain affordable rental units.” The city uses that fund to help build affordable housing in Berkeley. Read the item.

AWARD STREET PAVING CONTRACTS FOR 2015 There are two items on the agenda to award contracts for street paving for the rest of the year. The plan is to pave approximately 17 miles, or approximately four times the average annual amount paved prior to the passage of Measure M. See which streets are set to get paved here and here. City staff has advised council to reject the bid for the third project — for 6.7 miles of paving — and re-advertise it. The rationale? “The only bid received is approximately 40% higher than the engineer’s estimate for the project, and after staff’s review of bids to other agencies for similarly scoped projects, staff recommends that this bid be rejected and the project be re-advertised.”

BEACON LIGHTS ON SACRAMENTO STREET There’s also an information report (no action planned) regarding the possibility of installing traffic calming measures to help pedestrians cross Sacramento Street between University Avenue and Dwight Way, as well as consideration of beacon lights at crosswalks Bancroft Way. See the report, and read past Berkeleyside coverage.

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:
@MayorTomBates
@LindaMaio (District 1)
Darryl Moore @BerkCouncil (District 2)
@JesseArreguin (District 4)
Laurie Capitelli @berkcap (District 5)
Kriss Worthington @k__worthington (District 7)
Lori Droste @loridroste (District 8)

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

Related:
Council on accessory units, parks budget, limits on frats and mini-dorms, more (03.23.15)
Council on homelessness, sewer fee hike, limiting vaccine exemptions, crude oil, more (03.17.15)
Council on crime report, liquor store surveillance cameras, donations for the homeless (03.09.15)
The lowdown: Berkeley council on protests, drones, more (02.24.15)
The lowdown: Council on protests, police body cameras, gender-neutral restrooms, more (02.10.15)
The lowdown: Council on energy ordinance, protests, police cameras, goBerkeley, more (01.27.15)
The lowdown: Council on Berkeley protests and police relations, zoning board appeals (01.13.15)
‘Double header’ Berkeley council meetings set for Tuesday, 2 protests also planned (12.15.14)

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