City

The lowdown: Berkeley council on short-term rentals, ‘granny flats,’ homelessness, community benefits

Photo by Melati Citrawireja
Council meets tonight at 5:30 p.m. at Old City Hall. Photo: Melati Citrawireja

Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. with a worksession on new recommendations related to homelessness. At its regular 7 p.m. meeting, council will consider the potential regulation of short-term rentals, like Airbnb units, in Berkeley; new laws to make it easier for people to build “granny flats”; the council response to the city budget; and more.

Coming up Thursday, there’s a special meeting on the community benefits required of the developers of tall buildings. Stay tuned to Berkeleyside for continuing coverage.

The action calendar

SHORT-TERM RENTALS City officials are grappling with how to respond to the increase in short-term rentals, such as those facilitated by sites such as Airbnb. Council is scheduled to consider a proposal by Mayor Tom Bates and Councilwoman Lori Droste that would 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 before becoming law, 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, according to the mayor’s office.) Alternatively, if the hosts are not present, there would be an annual cumulative 90-day cap for property rental. Since the item came up before council in May, Bates and Droste have added a request for the city manager to draft a fine schedule for violations of the proposed law.

Councilman Jesse Arreguín has submitted an amendment that fleshes out the requirements for people offering short-term rentals, asks the city to determine how many short-term units are operating in Berkeley, and also asks for penalties against people offering rent-controlled units on a short-term basis, along with the possibility of more enforcement efforts to crack down on those who violate the new rules. Councilwoman Linda Maio also submitted what’s described as a clarification, noting that the new rules would apply to rooms, not entire homes, along with some other tweaks to the language (see page 5).


Berkeleyside’s Frances Dinkelspiel took an in-depth look at the Airbnb issue in a story published 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, acquire a business license, and be covered by $500,000 in liability insurance, among other conditions.
  • 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 (yet to be determined) on top of the transient occupancy tax to cover the cost of the program. (The mayor’s office and Airbnb are in discussions related to the collection of both the tax and the fee.)

ACCESSORY UNITS Council is set to adopt, on first reading, its new rules for accessory dwelling units in Berkeley. The idea, according to Tuesday night’s agenda, is to remove regulatory barriers. Read past Berkeleyside coverage of the “granny flat” proposal. The staff report and actual zoning amendments are here.

THE CITY BUDGET Council is scheduled to offer feedback on the proposed budget for the upcoming year. City staff describe it as a “stability budget” — meaning revenues and expenditures are in line with each other. 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.” See past Berkeleyside city budget coverage. See the mayor’s recommendations for tonight’s city budget discussion. (Update, 8:15 p.m. Council members Arreguín, Kriss Worthington and Max Anderson have put forward an alternative proposal for funding community agencies.)

LIBRARY BOARD TRUSTEES Council is also set to discuss whether to reappoint Julie Holcomb and Jim Novosel to the library board, and the board has previously, and unanimously, asked council to do just that. Read the agenda item. Speaking of the library, council plans as part of the consent calendar to vote in favor of renaming the South Branch library in honor of Tarea Hall Pittman. See past Berkeleyside coverage of the library renaming campaign.

DANA, ELLSWORTH STREETS COULD BECOME TWO-WAY Councilman Worthington is asking the city manager to consider moving ahead with proposals to convert Dana and Ellsworth streets, from Dwight Way to Bancroft Way, into two-way routes for cyclists and automobiles. According to the proposal, which is based on a consultant’s study, “The street conversion could either: a) Incorporate a northbound bike lane while southbound riders would travel in a shared lane; or b) Incorporate bike lanes in both directions with the removal of on-street parking.” Worthington estimates that the changes to one street would cost $300,000, and both would cost up to $1 million, adding, “We suggest requesting regional and University of California funds.” See the proposal.


The worksession

Council has scheduled a 5:30 p.m. worksession to consider recommendations from the Berkeley Homeless Task Force — initiated by Councilman Arreguín in 2013 — about how to address the needs of the homeless in Berkeley. According to the report, “Berkeley spends roughly $3 million dollars on homeless services, yet there are still large numbers of visible homeless on Telegraph Avenue, in the Downtown area and throughout our commercial districts.” The task force has suggested six “tier 1” recommendations — related to outreach, additional mental health training for police, warming centers, and public restrooms and storage space — and three “tier 2” proposals related to housing. But the city’s first priority, says the task force, should be “to adopt a Housing First goal, and work towards expanding the supply of housing and housing subsidies available to rapidly house homeless people, stabilize them, provide supportive services to help them escape the cycle of homelessness.” See the Berkeleyside story on the report.

Consent calendar, information reports

There are several items of interest on the consent calendar, which will be approved in a single vote if they are not pulled for discussion: the possibility of fiber internet service in Berkeley; money from the Housing Trust Fund for two affordable housing projects in Berkeley; the creation of two new trailheads at the Berkeley marina; the possibility of moving council meetings to the Berkeley Unified School District board room, where the school board meets, on a trial basis; and a proposal from Councilman Kriss Worthington to direct the city to respond to Public Records Request electronically rather than in hard copy.

Thursday’s special meeting

Thursday at 5 p.m., at Longfellow Middle School, 1500 Derby St., council is set to look at the thorny issue of the community benefits required of developers who wish to build tall buildings in Berkeley. 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.” Councilman Jesse Arreguín has put forward an alternate proposal (page 3) that defines community benefits and would create a public process for their assessment. See past Berkeleyside coverage of the community benefits issue.

The next council meeting is scheduled for June 30.

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 short-term rentals, the budget, money for art, library renaming, mental health (06.09.15)
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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