Tag Archives: Berkeley City Council

Berkeley council denies landmark status for The Village

The Village. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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The Berkeley City Council on Tuesday, June 14, rejected an appeal to landmark The Village, the eccentric collection of restaurants and small businesses at 2556 Telegraph Ave. A seven-story mixed-use project is planned for the site. In January, the Landmarks Preservation Commission had denied landmark designation to the two-story The Village, which dated in its current form to 1972.

Public comment on the appeal at the council meeting elicited extreme reactions on both sides.

“It’s a bit of a dump,” said John Caner, CEO, Downtown Berkeley Association, speaking in a personal capacity.

“This is a site and a place of high significance,” said John Mink, one of the appellants on the appeal. “This is a very important cultural, architectural, historic and educational landmark in Berkeley.”  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Council approves alternative minimum wage measure for ballot

Many Berkeley business owners say they are still concerned about whether they would be able to survive a new minimum wage plan under consideration by the city. Photo: Postcard PR
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After a heated debate, the Berkeley City Council voted 6-3 Tuesday night to place a measure on the November ballot that would raise the minimum wage to $15 in 2019. A citizens’ ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage to $15 next year will also be on the ballot.

“What we’re proposing is a progressive and aggressive approach to getting to $15,” said Councilman Laurie Capitelli. “It gets us to $15 four years ahead of the SEIU state proposal.”

Councilman Jesse Arreguín scoffed at Capitelli’s description of the measure as “progressive,” saying that Berkeley had lagged behind neighboring cities on the minimum wage. That’s what had driven citizen groups to launch their initiative, he said.

“They didn’t have faith in this council majority to do the right thing,” Arreguín said. “The fact that we’ve got to the point of two competing measures on the ballot is a real failure of leadership by this council.”

The citizen initiative raises the minimum wage to $15 next year, and then increases it annually by CPI plus 3% until it reaches $16.37 in 2016 dollars (after that, increases are by CPI). It also mandates a minimum 72 hours of paid sick leave each year. It was organized by a coalition of unions, politicians and community activists, under the banner Berkeley for Working Families. The council measure is more gradual in its increases and mandates 48 hours of paid sick leave.  … Continue reading »

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The Lowdown: Berkeley council on minimum wage, housing, small business, more

Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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After three months at the Berkeley Unified school board chambers, Berkeley City Council is returning to the seismically unsafe, dilapidated (but externally photogenic) Old City Hall. Before the regular Berkeley City Council meeting at 7 p.m. tonight, there is a brief special meeting of the Joint Powers Financing Authority at 6:45 p.m. to approve the issuance of up to $40 million in parking revenue bonds to finance the new Center Street garage. Then, at the regular 7 p.m. meeting, items include two rival minimum wage/sick leave ballot measures, support for the Berkeley Housing Authority, a small business development package, and a ballot measure to allow 16-year-olds to vote in school board elections. Scroll down to see how to follow live meeting coverage and participate from afar.  … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Berkeley fumbles future: lacks long-term vision and financing strategy for our public commons

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Once again, as in an seemingly endless ‘ground-hog day’ loop, the Berkeley City Council is busy with its every-other-year ballot exercise, considering various bond financing measures for the 2016 November. Much is desperately needed in Berkeley, and many competing needs are being pressed by a large number of community groups.

The city’s neglect of adequate capital and capital repair financing of vital and central public spaces, facilities and services has left these essential elements in disrepair and in unsafe or … Continue reading »

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The lowdown: Help for small businesses, Telegraph; more

The Berkeley City Council now meets in West Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Two special sessions take place tonight, Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m., both of which are open to the public, before the regular Berkeley City Council meeting. The first session focuses on the City Council referral prioritization process. It will examine the system of “re-weighted range voting” to provide direction to city staff on which referrals are the highest priority. The session at 6:45 p.m. will consider a resolution to vote in support of district formation on the “Ballot to Reestablish the Downtown Berkeley Property-Based Business Improvement District.” Then, at the regular 7 p.m. meeting, items include a proposal to help small businesses and a request to increase development potential in the Telegraph commercial district. Scroll down to see how to follow live meeting coverage and participate from afar.  … Continue reading »

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Agreement on housing breaks out at Berkeley council

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There were unusual happenings at Tuesday night’s special City Council meeting on housing. Comity broke out in a series of unanimous votes, and public comment was civil and largely complimentary to the council’s actions.

The council passed unanimously an ambitious list of items for a city housing action plan. The list consolidated proposals from Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Laurie Capitelli and Mayor Tom Bates. It also passed unanimously proposals on the “housing emergency” from Councilmember Jesse Arreguín. And Councilmember Lori Droste’s proposal on workforce housing also passed unanimously.

When the council tried to discuss housing on April 5, chaos ensued, with a raucous crowd, disputes among councilmembers and lengthy arguments over the order of the agenda. At that meeting, it took nearly three hours for the council to reach the action items on the agenda.

On Tuesday night, in contrast, even when some in the small crowd hissed Livable Berkeley’s Eric Panzer, they were quickly disarmed by his quip, “Hissing is just applause from snakes.” (Droste recognized it as a RuPaul allusion, something that flew over the head of Berkeleyside and many others during the meeting.)

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Bike lane opens in Berkeley by near-fatal crash site; charges filed against driver, who police say was high

The new bike lane on Fulton Street in Berkeley. Photo: Kent Chen
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Update, 11:50 a.m. The Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Berwick Haynes on May 2 with driving under the influence of drugs and causing great bodily injury. If convicted, he could be sent to prison. A warrant has been issued for Haynes’ arrest. Berkeleyside has asked BPD if there is any further information to release.

Update, 10:30 a.m. According to the spokeswoman from the Alameda County district attorney’s office, DUI charges have been filed against the driver. Berkeleyside has requested documentation of the charges and will update this post if that is provided. Currently, the case does not appear in county records online.

Original story: A new “protected” bike lane — set off from vehicular traffic — has been completed this week in Berkeley on Fulton Street with a ribbon cutting scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday just in time for Bike to Work Day.

Advocacy group Bike East Bay, which has been pushing hard for the lane since last year, renewed calls for its creation in February after Berkeley scientist and new mother Megan Schwarzman was nearly killed while cycling nearby.

Schwarzman’s husband, Mike Wilson, addressed the Berkeley City Council in March and asked for speedy action. (He and his wife are avid cyclists and were members of Bike East Bay at the time of the crash.)

“You can imagine the strain on our family as Meg struggled to live through the first 12 hours, with a bleeding liver, 20 fractured ribs, a smashed pelvis, two partially collapsed lungs, and complex facial fractures,” he told council. “Let’s learn from what happened here and implement the long-overdue improvements in bicycle and pedestrian safety that are already embodied in Berkeley’s bicycle plan and Downtown plan. Meg and I will thank you, as will the thousands of cyclists and pedestrians who rely on your decisions to keep them and their families safe.”

Scroll down for a video of what it’s like to ride in the new lane.

Wilson also noted that the driver who ran over his wife was impaired, which “contributed to the severity of the collision.” But he said that better traffic planning would be critical in making a difference in the long run as far as safety for cyclists and drivers.

On May 2, 47-year-old Berwick Haynes was charged with driving under the influence of drugs and causing great bodily injury, according to the Alameda County district attorney’s office. According to the police report, acquired by Berkeleyside through a Public Records Act request, Haynes had bought medical marijuana from the Berkeley Patients Group dispensary shortly before the crash, which took place Feb. 2 at about 5 p.m. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley names iCANN as next cannabis dispensary

There was a full house at the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night for the selection of the city's fourth medical cannabis dispensary. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council unanimously named the iCANN Health Center on Sacramento Street as the city’s fourth medical cannabis dispensary.

In what was to many a surprise move, council also voted to have city staff and the Berkeley Planning Commission look at changing the law to increase the number of dispensaries in Berkeley from four to six. Officials said there were so many qualified applicants, which evidenced such a strong need, that an increase would make sense.

iCANN, which is focused on providing medical cannabis to seniors, was among six dispensaries to present applications to the city Tuesday. Their supporters also had a chance to lobby council during public comment.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of medical cannabis.

Several council members expressed strong support — if the law is changed to allow for more dispensaries — for an application from Amoeba Music’s owners to open the Berkeley Compassionate Care Collective on Telegraph Avenue next to the iconic record store.

The voters of Berkeley approved the idea of a fourth dispensary with Measure T in 2010.

(In the video below, iCANN supporters, including proprietor Sue Taylor on the right, react to the unanimous vote. Taylor, a Berkeley resident, sits on the board of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging.)  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council votes to put minimum wage on ballot

The turnout was sparse for Tuesday night's council meeting, which included a vote on the minimum wage. Photo: Mark Coplan
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A Berkeley City Council majority voted Tuesday night to put an alternative minimum wage proposal on the November 2016 ballot they say will be more moderate than a community measure announced last week.

Councilman Laurie Capitelli — mayoral hopeful — put forward the alternative proposal and asked city staff to come back with a resolution city officials could put on the ballot. Council had been slated to vote to revise the city’s minimum wage ordinance Tuesday night, but instead voted in favor of the substitute motion from Capitelli.

Read more on the minimum wage from Berkeleyside.

The Capitelli proposal would take the minimum wage for all businesses in Berkeley to $15 an hour by October 2019. It is already slated to increase to $12.53 in October of this year. Under the proposed resolution put forward Tuesday night, this would be followed by annual increases each October to $13.25 in 2017 and $14.05 in 2018.

The initiative put forward last week would raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $15 by October 2017.

Unlike many prior Berkeley council meetings focused on the minimum wage, the turnout Tuesday night was sparse. A handful of speakers asked council to move faster to help workers, while others asked for more time for small businesses to weigh in and adjust. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: The ‘Right to the City’: Who should control the process of urbanization in Berkeley?

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The “Right to the City” is an idea proposed by Lefebvre that those who live in a city have a democratic right, a human right, to shape the process of urbanization.

Unfortunately we seem to live in a world where private property rights, where profit rates, trump all other human rights. We seem to live in a time where the majority of our City Council believes the neoliberal notion that markets should determine all change -— that profit-driven decision making … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council votes to increase inclusionary housing

Many community members attended Tuesday night's council meeting, which was slated to focus on housing. Photo: Ben Gould
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Despite an ambitious agenda, the Berkeley City Council managed Tuesday night to vote on just one policy shift related to affordable housing after attendees became outraged at proposed agenda changes put forward early in the evening by Mayor Tom Bates.

Council voted 8-1 on the Bates proposal to increase the percentage of affordable units required in new projects from 10% to 20%, and to increase the mitigation fee developers can pay if they don’t want to build those units on site. Councilman Max Anderson was the lone “no” vote.

The fee per unit — for all units in a project — is set to increase from $28,000 to $34,000, payable when the certificate of occupancy is issued. There’s a temporary discount, to $30,000, for those who pay early, when the building permit is issued. The discount is slated to sunset after 18 months. Those who choose to build below-market-rate units on site can get out of the fee or pay less, depending how many units they build.

Council asked the city manager to come back with revisions to the existing affordable housing mitigation fee ordinance, which would also “expand the level of affordability” for the below-market-rate units. Currently, units must be affordable for households earning up to 50% of the area median income; the new proposal would add a second tier of units affordable to households earning up to 80%.

The idea behind the mitigation fee is to bolster the city’s Housing Trust Fund to help Berkeley build greater numbers of affordable units around town. To some degree, there is an ideological divide between those who believe developers should include affordable units on site, and those who want to boost the city’s own fund. Proponents of the fund say it can be used to go after grants and leverage the money to get more units in town than building on site — mixed in with private developments — would allow. … Continue reading »

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Chaos ensues after changes at Berkeley City Council

Many supporters of Youth Spirit Artworks came out to Tuesday night's Berkeley City Council meeting. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council had more than a dozen items regarding housing on Tuesday’s agenda. In what he described as an attempt to streamline discussion, Mayor Tom Bates suggested reorganizing the order of the items. The process quickly descended into chaos. See how the night panned out with our Storify overview, and also how the community responded to Berkeleyside senior reporter Emilie Raguso’s live updates of the meeting on Twitter. … Continue reading »

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City Council to focus on creation of more housing

For Rent signs on Spruce Street. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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In the past five years, the population of Berkeley has grown 5.5%, but its housing supply has only increased 1.2%.

That discrepancy, coupled with an economic boom that has pushed highly paid tech workers out of San Francisco and into the East Bay, has sent housing prices higher than ever before. Berkeley’s median rent grew $400, or 12%, to $3,584 in 2015, according to a February 2016 Berkeley city staff report. That means a person must earn $143,360 to afford a median rent apartment, according to Mayor Tom Bates. The median price of a house to buy grew even more – up 15% – to $974,000, according to staff reports.

This housing crisis is prompting the Berkeley City Council to consider about a dozen separate housing-related items on Tuesday’s agenda, including one far-reaching item put forward by Bates that includes 13 separate sections.

“Our ethnic and cultural diversity is being eroded as low- to moderate-income households are displaced or priced out,” Bates wrote in his proposal. … Continue reading »

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