Tag Archives: Berkeley City Council

Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on short-term rentals, the budget, money for art, library renaming, mental health

2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A large crowd is expected at this week’s Berkeley City Council meeting, which will take place in the Longfellow Middle School auditorium, 1500 Derby St. (near California Street). The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. with a worksession and update focused on Berkeley’s participation in the Resilient Cities program (see the staff report). At its regular 7 p.m. meeting, council plans to look at the potential regulation of short-term rentals, like Airbnb units; budget recommendations for social service programs devoted to youth and homelessness; the city’s proposed percent-for-art ordinance; and more. (As usual, despite the location change, the meeting will be broadcast live on television and online, according to the city.) … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Developers should permanently share with the Berkeley community the wealth created by tall buildings

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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With respect for this community as a whole, I believe Berkeley City Council’s most fundamental objectives regarding downtown development have little if anything to do with funding housing for families with low and moderate incomes. Yes, better designs and development of such housing with everything needed to support it are critical to future life in the East Bay and Bay Area. But no, pressing needs for such housing are not even close to the most important goals our city council … Continue reading »

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Wireless carriers sue Berkeley over phone radiation law

Please destroy cell phones before entering: A front gate in Berkeley, Calif. Photo: Fragmentary Evidence
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A wireless trade association filed suit against Berkeley on Monday, claiming that the city’s new law requiring notification of possible radiation from cellphones is a violation of the First Amendment.

CTIA The Wireless Association filed the federal suit in the Northern District of California court.

“Berkeley’s Ordinance violates the First Amendment because it will require CTIA’s members to convey a message to which they object, and which is factually inaccurate, misleading, and controversial,” the lawsuit contends, according to The Hill, a Washington D.C.-based website that covers Congress, politics, and political campaigns.

One of the attorneys representing the wireless trade group is Theodore B. Olsen, who successfully argued to overturn California’s Prop 8 that banned gay marriage. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Home sharing in Berkeley is a vital income source that serves entire community

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This coming Tuesday, June 9th, the Berkeley City Council plans to vote on a set of recommendations to regulate short term rentals, such as those facilitated through websites like Airbnb and VRBO. Following other municipalities, Berkeley’s current proposal seeks to limit short-term rentals in owner or renter occupied units as well as eliminate the ability to rent out accessory dwellings on owner occupied property, including backyard cottages and mother-in-law suites.

I urge the Berkeley City Council and Berkeley residents to consider the stories of short-term rental hosts as we begin the process of defining and regulating this new housing landscape. In my neighborhood, West Berkeley, many low to middle income residents, like my multigenerational family (public school educator, non-profit worker, and musician), are able to remain in their homes and help provide for their families by renting out unused spaces on their property. Home sharers come from all walks of life: professionals between jobs, homeowners struggling with chronic disease, retirees unable to live off of social security alone, and artists and musicians with unstable incomes. Berkeley is expensive for all of us- homeowners and renters alike. … Continue reading »

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Government

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

Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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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. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s new soda tax panel begins its work

sodataxpanel
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A new Berkeley “panel of experts” charged with allocating money collected from the city’s recently implemented soda tax convened for the first time Tuesday night, electing Jennifer Brown and Xavier Morales as chair and vice chair, respectively.

Brown, a parent and soda tax activist, and Morales, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, will lead the nine-person panel, officially titled the “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts,” in bi-monthly or monthly meetings that will establish the direction of funding from Berkeley’s new sugar-sweetened beverage tax, which was approved by voters in November.

“This moment right now is probably the biggest moment we’ve ever been in,” panel member and health activist Joy Moore said to her peers.

A small group of community members were present at the meeting, at the North Berkeley Senior Center, including Berkeley City Council members Laurie Capitelli and Linda Maio, and Berkeley School Board Member Josh Daniels.

“We’re all in a fishbowl built out of a magnifying glass,” Capitelli told the panel of activists, health professionals and parents, referring to the national attention the soda tax has garnered and the strong community interest in the work about to be done. … Continue reading »

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With Harold Way EIR approval on hold pending new design, Berkeley officials to consider community benefits

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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After two recent discussions regarding the environmental impact analysis for a tall building proposed at 2211 Harold Way, the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board agreed Thursday to delay action pending new plans expected from developers.

City staff told the zoning board at its May 14 meeting that the developer is modifying plans in response to Design Review Committee feedback in April. Staff said that, rather than move ahead to certify the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), it would be better to “take a step back” and wait to learn about the project’s most recent iteration. Staff will complete a report about the project revisions and environmental analysis, and the final EIR will not come back to the board until the staff report is complete.

City planner Shannon Allen said she hopes to bring back the EIR for consideration at the end of June, followed by the community benefits and project entitlements package for Harold Way at the end of July.

The Berkeley City Council, too, is in the process of considering new policies related to the community benefits required of large projects downtown — including 2211 Harold Way — under the city’s Downtown Area Plan. That topic is slated to be back before council next Tuesday, May 26.

Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli have suggested several new guidelines, 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.” … Continue reading »

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Soda tax raises $116,000 of revenue in first month

Councilman Laurie Capitelli speaking at a press conference held in Berkeley Monday to report on how the soda tax was working. Photo: Melati Indah Citrawireja
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Berkeley’s soda tax has generated $116,000 in revenue in the first month of its operation, according to Councilman Laurie Capitelli, who announced the figure at a press conference May 18 in front of Old City Hall.

The money was sourced from 36 different sugar-sweetened beverage distributors, and is on target to raise $1.2 million in its first year, according to Capitelli.

Proceeds from the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which was passed overwhelmingly by Berkeley voters with 75% approval in November, go into Berkeley’s General Fund. They will be allocated by a newly appointed panel of experts, operating with input from the community. The panel will hold its first meeting tomorrow, Tuesday May 19, at 6 p.m.

Read more on Berkeley’s historic soda tax.

“We’re well on our way to a smooth implementation,” Capitelli said at the press conference. “We wanted to get it right.”  … Continue reading »

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Proposed 130% sewer fee rate increase now up to voters

The city of Berkeley has extensive sewer system maintenance planned in coming years. Photo: City of Berkeley
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Berkeley officials approved a five-year sewer fee rate hike Tuesday night, and now it’s up to property owners to determine whether it will stick.

One thousand gallons of water currently costs about $4 to use in Berkeley for the average single family home. Beginning July 1, that same amount of water would cost about $6, an increase of 46%. By 2020, 1,000 gallons of water would cost $9.55, a 130% increase over the current rate.

The city says it needs to increase fees for sewer service to close a projected gap in the cost to run its sanitary sewer system and comply with federal mandates to improve the system in coming years. The rates take into account decreased water consumption during the drought, which staff believe will help moderate the amount property owners ultimately pay. Staff plan to return to council annually to report on system costs and fees, which council could potentially reduce if the city finds it is bringing in more money than it needs.

The unanimous Berkeley City Council vote Tuesday triggers a Proposition 218 process, which requires voter approval by property owners before local governments can increase certain fees. The city plans to mail notices to property owners this week, set to include a “protest ballot.” Ballots must be cast by June 26 by a majority of property owners to stop the increase, which otherwise will go into effect July 1. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley looks to limit electronic and flavored cigarettes

Local merchants came out Tuesday night to ask council to reconsider proposed legislation to limit tobacco sales. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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After hearing emotional pleas from many local retailers, the Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to limit the scope of proposed legislation regarding nicotine product sales, at least for now.

Council voted 8-1 in favor of a new ordinance that would prohibit the sale of flavored cigarettes, cartridges for electronic cigarettes, and e-cigarettes pre-loaded with cartridges within 1,000 feet of Berkeley schools and parks. Mayor Tom Bates suggested the compromise, and Councilman Kriss Worthington was the lone vote in opposition to it.

Approximately 10 merchants told council that the staff recommendation — to ban tobacco sales within 1,000 feet of schools and parks — would have put them out of business, impacting not only them and their families, but also their employees. According to the city, there are 84 licensed tobacco retailers within Berkeley; all but 11 of them would have had to stop selling tobacco under the staff proposal.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley passes cellphone ‘right to know’ law

Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig and Devra Davis from the Environmental Health Trust at Berkeley City Council. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Berkeley City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed the first reading of a “Right to Know” ordinance to require cellphone retailers in Berkeley to provide consumers with information that warns them to keep a minimum safe distance between their bodies and their phones.

“The world is watching what you do tonight,” said Devra Davis, president of the Environmental Health Trust. “And you have the opportunity to do the right thing.”

The ordinance would require cellphone retailers to provide consumers with every sale or lease of a phone with a notice on radio frequency (RF) radiation exposure guidelines, warning that carrying the phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra could result in exceeding federal guidelines. City staff had assistance from Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Harvard, and Robert Post, dean of Yale Law School, in drafting the ordinance. Lessig has offered to defend the city pro bono if the law is challenged, as expected, by cellphone manufacturers.  … Continue reading »

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Council to consider broad limits on tobacco sales

A menthol-flavored electronic cigarette. Berkeley City Council is taking steps to prevent youth being exposed to menthol and flavored cigarettes. Photo: Lindsay Fox
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Update, May 13: Council approved a pared-down proposal Tuesday night focused on electronic and flavored cigarettes. See the Berkeleyside update.

Original story, May 12: The Berkeley City Council is set to adopt, on first reading, a severe nicotine sales restriction law during Tuesday night’s meeting that would limit sales of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes around local schools and parks.

Under the new law, most of the city would effectively become off-limits for tobacco and e-cigarette sales.

The new ordinance would go into effect Jan 1, 2016, and would prohibit the sale of tobacco products within 1,000 feet of schools and public parks. Businesses would be allowed a grace period of one to two years to “minimize economic hardship” and comply with the new regulations. Businesses that violate the new law could be categorized as a “public nuisance.”

The original proposed buffer zone of 500 feet, as well as the inclusion of churches, day care centers, and other public spaces, was previously considered and rejected by council. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on the city budget, nicotine sales restrictions, sewage fee increase, more

BUSD administrators will hold budget hearing on March 29 in city council chambers
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Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. with a worksession on the city budget for the next two fiscal years, as well as a proposed increase in sewage fees. At its regular 7 p.m. meeting, council has public hearings on the budget, the city work plan, and the extension of permit parking on Sacramento and Essex streets. Also on the action calendar: a vote on the sewage fee increase, proposed restrictions on nicotine sales, cellphone proximity warnings, the possibility of online public comments for council items and a plan to engage citizens with the city’s budget. … Continue reading »

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