CityCity

The lowdown: Berkeley council on community benefits, short-term rentals, fee schedule, the budget

Photo by Melati Citrawireja
Council meets at Old City Hall, at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Photo: Melati Citrawireja

Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. with a worksession on the economics of the city’s food and beverage sector. At its regular 7 p.m. meeting, council plans to look at the community benefits required of the developers of tall buildings downtown; the potential regulation of short-term rentals, like Airbnb units, in Berkeley; the annual fee increase for city services, and proposed creation of new fees; and more.

The action calendar

COMMUNITY BENEFITS Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli have suggested several new guidelines related to the community benefits required of developers of tall buildings downtown, including a $100 fee per square foot for residential portions of buildings 76-120 feet tall; a $150-per-square-foot fee for that portion above 120 feet; the requirement of a project labor agreement; and voluntary on-site benefits related to arts and culture that must be approved by council. Under the proposal, the developer could get fee discounts related to the labor agreement and voluntary benefits, and “The remainder would be paid into a City fund to be used for affordable housing and arts and culture benefits.”

CITY FEES A public hearing is set to create and increase some fees collected by the city — for everything from fire inspection and TB testing to vaccinations, building and marina berth rentals, and recreational activities. See the proposals under Item 31 of the agenda. Some highlights: Vaccinations at the Public Health Clinic would go from $17 to $26. Live-aboard fees at the marina are set to go up by $55 a month, and berth rentals by 6%. The rec department’s after-school program fees are slated to be increased by 20% and the Community Center Commercial Kitchen rental rate by 40%.

BUDGET PUBLIC HEARING #2 The city is working toward approving its new two-year budget, and has a public hearing on the budget set for tonight. City staff describe it as a “stability budget” — meaning revenues and expenditures are in line with each other. The city should prepare for “a contraction” next year (fiscal year 2016-17,) which is expected to impact future budgets. In recent years, to keep the budget balanced during difficult times, the city has deferred maintenance on much of its capital infrastructure, from its parks to its facilities. The city also cut back staffing, eliminating 184 full-time positions in the past five years. No planned permanent staff reductions are expected in the next two years, according to the report, “However, we need to continue to be mindful of the need to address deferred maintenance, as well as remain prepared to address the impacts of future cost increases in areas such as health and pension benefits.” Read the budget report and see past Berkeleyside city budget coverage.


COMMERCIAL WASTE COLLECTION Council is set to consider potential changes in how it handles commercial waste by taking on more of those operations than it currently handles. Council has two options on the table. Both would increase revenue but also result in a loss of franchise fees that currently help pay for residential waste collection services. The options would require the hiring of new employees (6-7, depending on the option) and the purchase of new equipment ($1.3 million to $1.6 million). According to the staff report, Berkeley is one of the few cities in the state to have its own Transfer Station for waste. It currently has franchise agreements with five companies that help with commercial waste hauling, but the city says a change is needed: “The current commercial collection system does not support the City’s goal of zero waste going to landfill. Franchise agreement terms are complicated, and difficult to manage and enforce.” Read the staff report.

Consent calendar, information items

SHORT-TERM RENTALS City officials are grappling with how to respond to the increase in short-term rentals, such as those facilitated by sites like Airbnb. Council is scheduled to consider a proposal by Mayor Tom Bates and Councilwoman Lori Droste that will essentially legalize and tax some short-term rentals. The proposal, which is slated to go to the Planning and Housing Advisory commissions for review and discussion, would allow people living in a home at least nine months of the year to rent out space as often as they like when they are home. (The law specifically relates to stays of 14 days or fewer; stays of 15 days or more would continue to be unregulated.) Alternatively, if the hosts are not present, there would be an annual 90-day cap on the rental period.

Berkeleyside’s Frances Dinkelspiel took an in-depth look at the Airbnb issue in a story published Tuesday, May 26. Some of the highlights:

  • The proposed law would require the property owner or tenant to inform immediate neighbors of the plan, provide a local contact in case there are complaints, require a business license, and be covered by $500,000 in liability insurance, among other requirements.
  • The new law would impose a transient occupancy tax on all rentals, to be collected by the host or the rental-platform company.
  • The proposal would also add a fee (to be determined) on top of the transient occupancy tax to cover the cost of the program.

Separately, council is also set to consider whether to sign on in support of state legislation, SB 593, that would help regulate short-term rentals. See that proposal.

GRANT APPLICATIONS, AND A GRANT AWARD The city is set to submit several grant applications that could lead to significant improvements around town if Berkeley is successful. There’s a nearly $3 million application going to Caltrans for pedestrian traffic safety improvements listed in the Berkeley Pedestrian Master Plan. Another Caltrans ask could bring up to $850,250 to the city to complete the Ninth Street bike boulevard extension. The city is also seeking nearly $720,000 in Active Transportation Program grants from Caltrans related to school traffic safety improvements at John Muir, Oxford and Jefferson elementary schools. Tuesday night, council is set to accept a $500,000 grant from the State Coastal Conservancy to renovate the South Sailing Cove parking lot, set to include upgrades in the existing eastern parking lot at the South Sailing Basin, a renovated windsurf staging area, and a new public restroom.


INFORMATION REPORTS There are also three information reports on the agenda: an audit update related to credit card payments made to the city, and whether cardholders are safe; improvements to the city’s emergency notification program; and an update related to air quality in West Berkeley. Council cannot take action on any of those items, but could ask that they be considered or discussed during future meetings.

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. See council coverage on Twitter marked with #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 the city budget, nicotine sales restrictions, sewage fee increase, more (05.12.15)
Council on density bonus, housing plans, public budgeting, solar taskforce, water cutbacks (04.28.15)
Council on community benefits, sewer fee increase, vaccines, parking permit expansion (04.07.15)
Council on accessory units, parks budget, limits on frats and mini-dorms, more (03.23.15)

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