Tag Archives: Berkeley City Council

Landlord group sues Berkeley over rental tax initiative

The owners of this rent-controlled apartment complex at 3100 College Ave. are renting out three of its apartments on Airbnb. Berkeley law does not allow rentals shorter than 14 days. Photo: Melati
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The Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition political action committee has filed a lawsuit and demanded that the city of Berkeley correct the official ballot language of a measure set to appear in the November election.

After officials canceled the special City Council meeting set for Aug. 11 due to lack of a quorum, the coalition filed suit Wednesday in Alameda County Superior Court. Correcting the language for Measure U1, the business license tax, was one of two agenda items scheduled for deliberation that evening.

Backed by the Berkeley Property Owners Association, the litigation comes as the property owners’ group is pushing for its own competing tax initiative, Measure DD. … Continue reading »

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Council cancels special meeting on minimum wage

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Update 6:15 p.m. Only three council members were present for the special meeting: Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguín and Darryl Moore. After brief thanks from the officials to city staff for preparing the meeting, it was canceled for lack of a quorum.

Original story: Two votes scheduled for Thursday night’s special Berkeley City Council meeting, which was just announced Wednesday, may not actually take place due to “insufficient quorum,” according to various reports being circulated online.

The focus of the meeting was supposed to be a compromise related to two competing minimum wage proposals that are slated to be on the November ballot.

A spokesman for the city, Timothy Burroughs, said as of 5:16 p.m. that “There is still a Council meeting scheduled for 6pm.”

City Clerk Mark Numainville confirmed at 5:24 p.m.: “We will not know if the meeting is cancelled for lack of quorum until after the noticed start time.” … Continue reading »

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Special Berkeley council meeting announced to vote on compromise minimum wage

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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A special meeting of the City Council has been announced for Thursday night to vote on a compromise minimum wage proposal for Berkeley.

Up to this point, voters were set to consider two competing minimum wage proposals this fall, one sponsored by labor advocates, and another supported by a Berkeley City Council majority. Both were set to appear on the November ballot.

According to a statement released shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday, “Working collaboratively, an agreement that avoids dueling ballot measures on the minimum wage in Berkeley has been reached.”

Workers’ rights attorney and EBMUD Director Andy Katz, who sent out the statement and helped facilitate the compromise, said the Service Employees International Union, Local 1021, and Berkeley Councilman Laurie Capitelli had reached that agreement together.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage of the minimum wage.

A vote on the new language is expected to come Thursday, Aug. 11, at a 6 p.m. meeting of the City Council. If all goes according to plan, that will mean Berkeley will have new minimum wage language on the books after the vote takes place. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley may soon have 6 cannabis dispensaries

Cannabis
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Two months later, the council is on the verge of approving another two new dispensaries, which means Berkeley may soon have six places to buy medical cannabis.

The rapid turnaround came in part because city council members were so impressed by the presentations made by the six finalists vying for the fourth spot, said City Councilman Kriss Worthington. He said the presentations were “compelling,” and the applications were very different from one another.

 “The council was reluctant until they saw the depth and breadth of the applications,” said Worthington.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of medical cannabis.

Adding another two dispensaries will also add to the city’s coffers. In 2014, the existing three dispensaries contributed $638,938 in taxes, according to a staff report. Another three dispensaries would almost certainly generate several hundred thousand dollars in taxes annually. … Continue reading »

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Nurses, officials voice concerns about Alta Bates changes

Nurses are leading the charge to "Save Alta Bates." They rallied at Old City Hall on Tuesday night. Photo: Andy Katz
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“We have a real problem and it’s a regional problem,” said Mayor Tom Bates on Tuesday night amid a brief discussion by the Berkeley City Council related to plans by Sutter Health to move inpatient services to Oakland, leaving Berkeley services focused on outpatient care.

Council voted unanimously in support of a resolution to oppose “plans to cease operations at Alta Bates.” Berkeleyside first reported on the potential closure of Alta Bates in April 2015.

Sutter Health said in a July 12 memo to the city that state seismic laws “require us to reevaluate the inpatient, acute care services at Berkeley’s Alta Bates campus before 2030.” According to the memo, “rebuilding on the current site is not feasible.”

Sutter Health says it remains “committed to a strong medical presence” in Berkeley as the “center for outpatient care in the East Bay.”  … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley fined nearly $100K after longtime worker ‘fatally crushed’ by garbage truck

Johnny Tolliver, who worked for Berkeley's Zero Waste division, died Monday after he was hit by a city garbage truck. Photo: Tolliver family
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A state agency has fined the city of Berkeley nearly $100,000 after a worker was crushed by his garbage truck in the Berkeley Hills in January, according to a recently concluded report obtained by Berkeleyside on Tuesday.

Johnny Tolliver Sr., 52, was working as part of a two-person team collecting trash when their truck lost its brakes and rolled, pinning Tolliver against a utility pole in January, according to preliminary reports. Although Tolliver was conscious and talking at the scene, at 90 Parnassus Road, he died later that day at Highland Hospital of his injuries. He had worked for the city for more than 25 years.

Scroll down to see the city response.

Tolliver was “fatally crushed” as he tried to stop his truck from rolling down the hill on Parnassus, according to the June report from the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA.

The agency, which is charged with investigating workplace safety issues and on-the-job fatalities, found the city responsible for three accident-related penalties categorized as “serious.” Each carries a fine of $22,500. Three other general penalties categorized as “serious” carry fines of more than $8,400 each, and a fourth serious violation has a listed fine of more than $5,000, according to the June 22 report. … Continue reading »

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Real estate

Berkeley council votes to crack down on short-term rentals of multiple units by same owner

There are hundreds of rooms and units available to rent on Airbnb even though short-term rentals are currently illegal in Berkeley. Image: Airbnb
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Prompted by concern that too many units are being taken off Berkeley’s long-term housing market for short-term uses such as Airbnb, the City Council voted Thursday to penalize landlords who rent out multiple properties for less than two weeks.

In a unanimous vote, following a motion by Councilman Kriss Worthington, officials asked staff to initiate an enforcement process after the city gets at least three verified complaints about property owners, individuals or companies that rent out multiple units on a short-term basis. It’s the first time council has given direction to staff to enforce the rules about short-term rentals that are already on the books, according to the city attorney.

Short-term rentals — those less than 14 consecutive days — have always been illegal in Berkeley. Council has been working since 2014 to come up with rules to regulate them as the practice has become increasingly popular through sites such as Airbnb, VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and HomeAway. … Continue reading »

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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

Housing
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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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