Tag Archives: Jesse Arreguin

Berkeley leaders approve community benefits package; ZAB votes to certify Harold Way EIR

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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Proponents of downtown development in Berkeley won two victories Thursday night after city leaders and commissioners approved a proposal for community benefits related to tall buildings and, in a separate meeting, certified the environmental impact analysis related to the first tall building in the pipeline, at 2211 Harold Way.

The Berkeley City Council held a special meeting at 5 p.m. at Longfellow Middle School to tackle the thorny subject of what significant community benefits should be required of developers who wish to construct tall buildings downtown. Seven tall buildings were approved when local residents voted in favor of the city’s Downtown Area Plan, but the type of significant community benefits required of those projects was left vague to allow flexibility during the entitlements process.

In recent years, city zoning board commissioners have expressed frustration about that ambiguity, and asked for more direction from council. Earlier this year, council launched a series of discussions aimed to clarify the requirements. Thursday night, city officials voted in favor of a compromise proposal from council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore that will help guide the process going forward.

That proposal will now go to the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board for additional discussion. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council approves short-term rental proposal

Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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The Berkeley City Council took a step forward Tuesday night in its effort to regulate short-term rentals in the city, voting almost unanimously on a compromise proposal that will seek to legalize, with restrictions, the contentious issue.

The proposal, which now will be vetted and shaped by the Planning and Housing Advisory commissions before it returns to council, would legalize short-term rentals in Berkeley for up to 14 days, impose a tax on them and include regulations to minimize their impact on neighbors.

The new measure, which was put together by Mayor Tom Bates, Councilwoman Lori Droste and Councilman Jesse Arreguín, includes new clarifying language and host accountability provisions. The word “property” would be changed to “unit,” for example, to describe a hosting space, and hosting platforms could be required to list the business license of the host in online listings.

The measure also includes a  provision for a one-time notification from the host to neighbors who live near the unit to be rented, which could include “primary-contact information, secondary-contact information, and links to the Berkeley Community Noise and Smoke-Free Multi-unit Housing ordinances.”

“This is not something that’s perfect, but it’s our first effort,” Bates told the small crowd that held out until after 10 p.m. at the June 23 council meeting to discuss the issue. “This is the beginning of the process — it’s not the end.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council open to proposals to end homelessness, but questions how to pay for them

Since Measure S failed in 2012, many say Berkeley's homeless population has only grown. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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At a special worksession Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council expressed interest in a raft of recommendations from an independent citizen panel related to how the city might change its approach to homelessness, but some officials said they remain unconvinced that the changes are something the city can afford.

The recommendations came from the Berkeley Homeless Task Force, which was initiated by Councilman Jesse Arreguín in 2013 after Measure S failed the prior November to win popular support, but sparked a broad community discussion about the city’s homeless. Since then, Arreguín said, the city’s homeless population appears to have grown, though official estimates won’t be available until fall.

“There is still clearly more we can do,” Arreguín said. “Berkeley can be a leader in ending homelessness.”

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

Tuesday night, Arreguín and Genevieve Wilson, one of the chairs of the panel, presented a series of recommendations for how the city might direct its funding in its efforts to end homelessness. They emphasized a “housing first” model, which they said has been endorsed by Alameda County and worked in other cities — ultimately leading to cost savings despite high initial start-up expenses. … Continue reading »

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City considers new recommendations on homelessness

Shattuck Avenue is one area of Berkeley where the homeless most commonly congregate (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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On Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is set to consider new recommendations that would focus the city’s approach to homelessness on supportive services and, in particular, housing.

Council will consider a report from the Berkeley Homeless Task Force — initiated by Councilman Jesse Arreguín in 2013 — that proposes a series of immediate and longer term recommendations for the city in its efforts to end homelessness. The task force has been meeting under the leadership of Genevieve Wilson and David Stegman since August 2013.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

One of the task force’s priorities is to find ways to move from what it describes as the “criminalization” of the homeless to a more supportive approach.

“It is clear that providing services, rather than … criminalization, is both cost effective and ethical,” states the report. “It is up to Berkeley to provide adequate services now. Failure to do so will only further drain resources and funding without dealing with the root causes of homelessness, causing an endless spiral of homelessness and wasteful spending.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley launches donation boxes for homeless people

(From left to right) Downtown Berkeley Associatoin CEO John Caner, Vice Mayor Linda Maio, Berkeley Food & Housing Project Executive Director Terrie Light, and City Councilman Jesse Arreguin pose before making the first donations to the Positive Change box. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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Members of the Berkeley City Council, the Downtown Berkeley Association, and the Berkeley Food and Housing Project gathered by the downtown BART station Thursday to launch a donation program for the city’s homeless population.

The “Positive Change” program will install up to 10 tamperproof donation boxes around downtown Berkeley in which donors can drop off money to pay for social services geared to help reduce homelessness. Collected by the Downtown Berkeley Association once a week, the donations will go into a bank account from which the Berkeley Food and Housing Project can allocate funds.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

The donations will go toward transportation assistance in the form of bus or BART fares; ID card and housing application fees; supplies, such as socks, underwear and toiletries; and the Homeward Bound Program, which pays for long-distance bus tickets to reunite with family members in another California city, according to a statement released by the Downtown Berkeley Association. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council says affordable housing, union labor should be priority community benefits

Speakers at the May 5, 2105 city council meeting on community benefits could pick up a number of signs that represented their point of view. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council took its first steps Tuesday to prioritize which community benefits it will require from developers, and affordable housing and local union jobs were the top priorities.

Council members said other priorities could include ensuring that businesses impacted by the 18-story apartment building proposed at 2211 Harold Way, particularly Habitot Children’s Museum — which says it will have to relocate — receive some sort of remuneration. They also want a better understanding of the profits developers stand to make so the city can recapture some of the increased value that comes from up-zoning land to allow for taller buildings downtown.

The council discussion came after close to 90 residents talked for three hours about their concerns and hopes for three tall buildings now proposed downtown. They include the Harold Way project, an 18-story hotel proposed at 2129 Shattuck Ave. at Center Street, and a 120-foot-high condo complex, L’Argent, proposed at Shattuck Avenue and Berkeley Way. UC Berkeley is also planning to build a 120-foot building on Berkeley Way but, as a government entity, local zoning laws do not apply. … Continue reading »

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Nonprofit accuses city of Berkeley of ‘unethical contracting practices’ for new homeless center

Berkeley's new approach to homeless services. Image: City of Berkeley
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The city of Berkeley says it will change its commission recommendation process after a community agency brought allegations of serious conflicts of interest during a recent bid for municipal funding.

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) raised these concerns in an April 16 letter to city officials after bidding to run a new one-stop homelessness services center for which the city plans to issue a contract next month.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

BOSS and one other agency, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project (BFHP), put in bids in December to run the new center. Both service organizations are based in Berkeley, and have worked in the city since the early 1970s. BOSS requested $450,145 to run the center, and the BFHP requested $996,899 for the job. The city’s Homelessness Commission and city manager have recommended that the contract go to the BFHP, and council is slated to make its decision next month.

The commission report said only that the BOSS application did “not contain all of the necessary functions” required by the city in its request for proposals.

BOSS challenged the commission recommendation in April, saying two Homeless Commission members affiliated with the BFHP and another group, YEAH, should not have taken part in the discussions. BOSS wrote that their “organizations will gain financial resources as a result of their participation in the funding discussions and eventual funding recommendations” made by the commission and the city. … Continue reading »

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Local man pushes for better restrooms at Berkeley park

Berkeley resident Martin Nicolaus has been petitioning for cleaner, more permanent restrooms in Cesar Chavez Park since this March. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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For years, Berkeley resident Martin Nicolaus has been coming out to César Chávez Park to admire its natural beauty and take photographs — a collection of which he published in a book last December.

But over the past four months, Nicolaus, who is arguably the park’s number one fan, has been engaged in a more earnest mission: to persuade the city to install cleaner, permanent restrooms in Berkeley’s largest park.

A Berkeley resident since 1992, Nicolaus sets up his base-camp by the two portable bathrooms by the park’s entrance on Spinnaker Way to collect signatures and video-interview park users on their experiences using the toilets. He said over the past decade he has often seen the portable toilets in near-unusable condition, and has been frustrated by the lack of action to improve them. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley officials seek feedback on ‘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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The Berkeley City Council has launched a public discussion on what sort of benefits are required by developers who hope to construct tall buildings downtown, with two meetings focused on the topic in the next few weeks.

The conversation about “significant community benefits” generally comes up before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board, but that panel has struggled to determine whether tall building proposals it has reviewed meet current city guidelines. That’s because those guidelines, set out within Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan, are more of a menu of suggestions, rather than concrete items that can be checked off a list.

Crafters of that plan have said the city wanted to offer flexibility to developers to work with the community to come up with the right mix of benefits. But, so far, the lack of specificity has made it difficult for various stakeholders to agree on what developers should bring to the table.

Last week, council took public comment on the topic at its regular Tuesday night meeting, but did not itself much discuss the issue. Mayor Tom Bates — whose office is spearheading the new talks in collaboration with council members Jesse Arreguín, Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore — announced a special council meeting May 5 at 7 p.m. for that discussion to take place.

Separately, Councilman Arreguín also has scheduled a workshop on the subject, from 7-9 p.m. this Wednesday, April 15, in Live Oak Park’s Fireside Room. The workshop will focus on the general framework of community benefits, not specific projects, and attendees will be asked to rank the categories of benefits that matter most to them.  … Continue reading »

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Prayers, songs and lie-in during faith group protest against proposed Berkeley homeless laws

Protesters from various faith groups join hands at the start of the protest against proposed new laws on street behavior. Photo: Ted Friedman
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An estimated 60 members of faith groups gathered at the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza Thursday night to protest proposed new laws that they claimed would “criminalize the homeless.” Prayers and speeches were followed by a small number of the protesters lying down to spend the night sleeping in the plaza.

“Jesus probably would be criminalized by these law if he lived in the City of Berkeley,” said Pastor Michael McBride, founder of The Way Christian Center, who gave the opening prayer at the protest. “The era of criminalizing people need to end. We’re still using old tactics to deal with modern problems.”  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council votes to curb impacts of homelessness

Shattuck Avenue is one area of Berkeley where the homeless most commonly congregate (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to direct staff to flesh out and clarify laws designed to clean up downtown by addressing problematic behavior linked to the city’s homeless population.

The 6-3 vote to approve a proposal by Councilwoman Linda Maio followed more than an hour of public testimony mostly dominated by detractors who said the new laws will only serve to criminalize the homeless, while failing to address the root causes of the issue.

A handful of local business representatives and members of the real estate community pleaded with council to approve Maio’s proposal, saying the situation downtown has become dire. Real estate reps said businesses do not want to locate downtown due to the sometimes violent and rowdy street scene. Members of the business community said customers and clients have experienced fear and intimidation as a result of homeless groups who congregate on Berkeley streets, particularly on Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley. Many said the situation has declined in recent years and that something needed to be done to make downtown safe and comfortable for everyone.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

Dozens of advocates, homeless individuals and academics who study laws affecting the poor told council that the proposal was misguided, would lead to selective enforcement, and would make it harder for people who are homeless to access needed services and programs that might help them get off the streets. Nearly 80 people addressed council Tuesday night, and most said they were against the recommendation. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to grapple again with homeless on sidewalks

On most days, homeless youths line up on Shattuck Avenue in front of the Shattuck Cinemas. The City Council will consider a new set of laws affecting the homeless on Tuesday night. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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A proposal coming before the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday to examine new laws for the homeless is being called Measure S 2.0, and it is shaping up politically to be a repeat of the bruising sit-lie ordinance that was on the 2012 ballot.

Council members Linda Maio and Jesse Arreguín want to ask the city manager to examine a raft of laws that might ameliorate the behavior of the growing groups of homeless youth that frequent Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley. Only Arreguín has now withdrawn his support for the measure.

Read Berkeleyside’s March 18 update about the outcome of the vote.

“I definitely recognize there are some challenges on our streets in downtown Berkeley and Telegraph Avenue,” said Arreguín. “I originally thought that adopting laws and increasing enforcement was going to be the best approach, but in thinking more about it I really think without talking about [adding] services and the outreach … we are not going to make a meaningful difference.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley City Council limits police tear gas use, for now

Moni Law (right) speaks with Cal student Thanh Bercher during Tuesday's council meeting. Both have said they were injured by police Dec. 6 during a protest in Berkeley. Behind them, the line of people waiting to speak to ask council to take action about police discrimination. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to temporarily suspend tear gas use by police as a way to control non-violent crowds.

The vote also suspended the use of other chemical agents, rubber bullets and other projectiles, and over-the-shoulder baton strikes as crowd control methods used by Berkeley officers during non-violent protests. The temporary policy will remain in place until an investigation by the city’s Police Review Commission into protests in Berkeley last December is complete.

Read more Berkeley protests coverage on Berkeleyside.

The item, put forward by Councilman Jesse Arreguín, was part of package of protest-related decisions council made Tuesday night. Council also voted to support the Police Review Commission’s investigation, as well as demands by the national group “Ferguson Action” regarding efforts to curtail unfair treatment by police of people of color.

Dozens of people, including many local students, marched through the city before the council meeting, and flooded into council chambers to testify about the need for police accountability, and about why they felt action is needed. … Continue reading »

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