Tag Archives: Berkeley elections

Berkeley parks advocates push back after council drops bond from November ballot

The Berkeley rose garden pergola needs major repairs and has been closed to park visitors since April. Photo: Daniel Parks
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The public dismay was palpable last month when the Berkeley City Council decided, in a surprise move, to put a parks tax before voters this fall without a related bond measure that would have infused parks and pools around the city with much-needed cash, reversing an earlier vote on the items.

The $1.7 million parks tax, if approved by voters, would essentially maintain the status quo for maintenance and staffing needs, and cost the owner of an average-size home an additional $43 a year. (That same homeowner already pays about $240 a year for the existing parks tax.)

Had it gone to voters, the proposed $20 million parks bond could have helped re-open Willard Pool, improve the King and West Campus pools, put millions toward Aquatic Park, James Kenney Park and the much-loved rose garden, and repair tennis courts and ballfields around the city, in addition to addressing other significant needs. (See a financial breakdown of several possible iterations of the bond and tax proposal.)

The city estimated that the joint bond and tax measure would have added just $15 more than the tax alone to the bill for owners of an average Berkeley home, defined by the city as 1,900 square feet. … Continue reading »

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Downtown initiative on ballot; Berkeley city, schools may lose millions in fees

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The majority of the Berkeley City Council exerted its political muscle Tuesday night by voting for a ballot description for the downtown initiative drawn up by Mayor Tom Bates that is less flattering than the ones offered by the city attorney and Councilman Jesse Arreguín, the main proponent of the initiative.

Bates’ description of the initiative, which would require all buildings in the downtown area over 60 feet to meet high environmental standards that are now voluntary, uses terms like “impose significant new requirements,” and “restrict” and “reduce.” It also mentions a provision that would “reduce hours of operation for businesses selling or serving alcohol.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley voters likely to see joint parks funding measure

More than 30 Berkeley residents came out Wednesday to express support to for the city to re-open Willard Pool. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Two Berkeley officials put forward a new proposal Tuesday night for a combined bond and tax measure that could go before voters in November.

The idea, presented by Berkeley City Council members Linda Maio and Laurie Capitelli, would cost property owners about $58 a year for an average Berkeley home, which is defined by the city as 1,900 square feet.

The combined bond and tax measure, which is called a Mello-Roos, could bring in $19 million to improve existing parks, re-open Willard Pool and create public gardens in a two-block section of the abandoned Santa Fe Right of Way in South Berkeley, among other projects. It would also include an annual $1.1 million operations tax to help pay for parks maintenance. (The bond would be paid off over 30 years.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley mayor to push for civic center overlay, also hopes it will reduce support for downtown ‘green’ initiative

Bates wants the city council to adopt a zoning overlay to protect historic buildings in the civic center area, like Veterans' Memorial Hall. He admits he hopes the push will undermine support for a Downtown Green Initiative scheduled for November ballot. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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Mayor Tom Bates has decided to push for a civic center overlay that will protect the Main Post Office, and admits that he hopes his support will undermine the downtown green initiative scheduled for the November ballot.

Bates wants Berkeley to adopt the exact language of the initiative, which was put forward by City Councilman Jesse Arreguín, in part because of his frustration that the council had not adopted the overlay.  Arreguín first introduced the overlay idea in July … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s influence on Assembly race takes a twist

California State Capital. Photo by Thomas W. Toolan, Wikimedia Commons
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By Kate Darby

Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s primary election for the District 15 Assembly seat, history is in the making in Berkeley. For the first time in several decades, this assembly race doesn’t include a candidate with direct ties to Berkeley City Hall, though one has garnered a slate of endorsements from familiar faces there.

Current District 15 Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley is termed out of office at the end of the year, opening the door to an energized contingent of candidates interested in her seat. The 64% majority Democrat district covers a swatch of the East Bay from north Oakland to Hercules, including the cities of Berkeley, Emeryville, and Richmond. … Continue reading »

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2 citizen initiatives on course to make ballot in Berkeley

City Councilman Jesse Arreguín and his aide Anthony Sanchez turned in 3,900 signatures for Green Downtown and Public Commons. Photo: Tom Hunt
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At least two measures backed by Berkeley residents appear to have collected enough support to make them likely to be on the November 2014 ballot.

On Tuesday, a group backed by City Councilman Jesse Arreguín turned in more than 3,900 signatures to put a measure before voters that forces higher environmental standards on tall buildings in the downtown on the ballot. It would also create an overlay in the civic center district preventing certain buildings from being converted to commercial use. … Continue reading »

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Plans firm up for Berkeley soda tax, city parks measures

Proponents of a soda tax were out in force in neon green at Berkeley City Council. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Berkeley officials voted Tuesday night on ballot language related to a November 2014 soda tax proposal, but exactly what sort of fundraising request might come before voters to help the city’s parks remains to be determined.

Regarding the soda tax, voters will be asked whether the city should “impose a general tax of 1 cent per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages,” payable by distributors with gross annual receipts over a certain amount.

Ballot language proposed Tuesday night would limit the tax to businesses with receipts over $100,000, but Councilman Laurie Capitelli said the number is still a bit in flux, and will be clarified in June when the Berkeley City Council makes its final decision on city-driven ballot measures. … Continue reading »

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Would new green initiative kill 2 downtown high rises?

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Update, June 14: The initiative has qualified for the November 2014 ballot.

Original story: As volunteers man the entrances to Berkeley Bowl, wander the farmers markets, and stop people on the street to collect signatures for what is called the “Green Downtown & Public Commons Initiative,” the various sides disagree on the impact the initiative may have on development in Berkeley.

City Councilman Jesse Arreguín, who is a main backer of the drive, says the initiative is merely aimed at making major developers contribute more community benefits.

“This measure is not intended to stop development at all,” said Arreguín. “Its purpose is to codify some of the community benefits that were not only made in the Downtown Plan, but in Measure R.”

But many in the development community disagree. They believe the initiative, with its higher green standards and less flexible design guidelines, could stop two current projects — the proposed 180-foot hotel at the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street, and the 17-story residential apartment tower behind the Shattuck Cinemas building. At the very least, if the initiative passes, it will make it harder to build taller structures downtown. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Beware deceptive ‘Save Post Office’ ballot petition

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Don’t be deceived. Backers of a proposed measure for the Berkeley ballot in November are circulating voter-signature petitions under the guise of “saving the Post Office.” But the main thrust of the measure is to impose prohibitively restrictive fees and requirements on new projects in Berkeley’s core downtown. It would not guarantee that the Post Office would continue operating.

The result would be a devastating blow to our acclaimed Downtown Area Plan. This successful plan was formulated through extensive public … Continue reading »

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Community survey shows difficulties for ballot measures

No city has yet been successful in passing a sugar-sweetened beverages tax. Will Berkeley be first? Photo: Vox Efx
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A second round survey of likely voters in Berkeley reveals the difficulty some likely ballot measures will face for passage in November.

The City Council commissioned the survey to test the waters for potential ballot measures. The first council-directed survey done in early March showed good support for a potential tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Other measures, including a parks parcel tax, commercial vacancy tax, and a pools bond, received tepid support. The latest survey, done in the second week of April, showed diminished support for the sugar tax, some hope for supporters of the commercial vacancy tax, and a continuing struggle for parks funds.  … Continue reading »

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Initiative aims to tighten ‘green’ parts of Downtown Plan

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Update: 6//14: The initiative has qualified for the November 2014 ballot.

Original story: City Councilman Jesse Arreguín, some members of the environmental community, the labor community, and preservationists are circulating a ballot initiative that would drastically overhaul elements of the Berkeley Downtown Area Plan endorsed by voters in 2010 and codified by the city council in 2012.

The initiative would restore the “green” in the “Green Vision” part of the plan, according to Arreguín.

It would essentially mandate that all buildings in the downtown core taller than 60 feet high follow the more stringent “Green Pathways” provision of the Downtown Area Plan, rather than making that an optional track for developers. … Continue reading »

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Judge rules for council-majority-approved map in bitter Berkeley redistricting battle

The BSDC map approved by Judge Grillo will be used in November, unless an appeal overturns the decision.
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Judge Evelio Grillo ruled today in favor of using the council-majority-approved district lines in the November 2014 election. Grillo heard closing arguments in City of Berkeley v. Tim Dupuis and Mark Numainville Tuesday.

In a 35-page opinion, Grillo determined that the council-approved map, also called the BSDC map, “is the one that best complies with meeting the mandates of equal protection and minimizing any disruption to the election process.”  … Continue reading »

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Judge plans to rule today on Berkeley redistricting lines

More than 20 people attended a hearing Tuesday about contested redistricting lines in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Update, 4:30 p.m. The judge has ruled in favor of using the council-majority-approved district lines. See his ruling here. (A more in-depth Berkeleyside story on the decision is online here.)

Original post: An Alameda County Superior Court judge is expected to rule Wednesday, April 30, about which district lines the city of Berkeley should use in the November 2014 general election.

Judge Evelio Grillo heard arguments Tuesday from advocates of some kind of compromise map that is different from the map approved by a Berkeley City Council majority in December. The city of Berkeley sued the county registrar of voters and city clerk earlier this year to find out which lines to use after the council-approved map was suspended by a referendum drive.

More than 20 people — most of them in support of a compromise map, of which there are several — attended Tuesday’s hearing. They were represented primarily by Councilman Jesse Arreguín and Alejandro Soto-Vigil, along with attorneys for Councilman Kriss Worthington, Stefan Elgstrand and Phoebe Sorgen, all of whom have been named as “real parties of interest” in the lawsuit.

Attorney Margaret Prinzing, of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, appeared for the city of Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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