Tag Archives: Laurie Capitelli

Staff: Measure M has Berkeley streets in better shape

"Microsurfacing" on Durant Avenue in Berkeley has made for a smoother ride. Photo: City of Berkeley
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With the help of Measure M, the city of Berkeley is making strides to repair street conditions and add innovative “green infrastructure” projects around town that are helping improve stormwater quality, city staffers told the Berkeley City Council earlier this week.

Tuesday night, staff presented an update on Measure M to council. The measure was approved by voters in November 2012 to take a more aggressive approach to street paving, and also build capacity for watershed-related projects.

Officials said it was a report by City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan in 2011 that helped bring the sorry state of Berkeley’s streets to light. Hogan found that Berkeley’s streets had an average score of 58 on the Pavement Condition Index (PCI), in the “at risk” range but approaching “fair.”

By 2018, as a result of Measure M and other efforts by the city to address the problem, staff believes Berkeley will have boosted its score to 65, which is in the “fair” range of 60-69.

“It may not on its face seem like a significant increase, but it really is,” Sean Rose, manager of engineering, told council Tuesday night. Rose said the average score for the nine Bay Area counties is 66, and that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission would like cities to reach a score of 75, which is in the “good” range on the PCI. … Continue reading »

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Green housing package sails through Berkeley council

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An innovative pair of policies to encourage affordable housing and green policies passed the first hurdle by acclaim at the Berkeley City Council meeting on Tuesday night.

Councilwoman Lori Droste’s Green Affordable Housing Package designates units and funding for affordable housing by prioritizing housing over parking spaces in new, multi-unit developments, and proposes a streamlined development process to create more housing.

“I know flexibility around parking requirements makes some people nervous,” Droste said, explaining the first part of her proposal. “We’re just getting rid of outdated requirements. It’s just not asking for more parking than we need. Creating more parking leads to more congestion, less affordability, and dramatically worsens health outcomes.”   … Continue reading »

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Jesse Arreguín formally announces run for mayor

Jesse Arreguín has formally announced his mayoral bid. Photo: Arreguín for Mayor campaign
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City Councilman Jesse Arreguín formally announced Thursday that he is running for Berkeley mayor by sending out an email statement declaring his candidacy. He will follow that up with a kick-off rally Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. in a location that will be announced later.

Arreguín said Berkeley needs to be a city “that works for everyone” and pledged in the statement to unify the city and produce results. He said the No. 1 challenge facing Berkeley is affordability.

“We must ensure Berkeley remains a diverse and vibrant city,” said Arreguín. “That means protecting and expanding affordable housing and fighting displacement. It also means tackling health, economic and educational disparities, so everyone in Berkeley has the opportunity to succeed.” … Continue reading »

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Oops! Did Jesse Arreguín inadvertently declare he is running for mayor?

Jesse Arreguin changed the name of his Facebook page on Oct. 19 to declare his candidacy for mayor.
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Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguín may have inadvertently announced his candidacy for mayor Monday when he changed the name of his Facebook page from “Jesse Arreguín for City Council,” to “Jesse Arreguín for Mayor.”

The change triggered an automatic notice to all of his followers, including Berkeleyside, which then sent out the following tweet at 3:48 p.m.:

Continue reading »

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Berkeley police chief says Tasers would help his officers

Police Chief Michael Meehan
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Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan told the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night he believes his officers should be granted the option to carry Tasers, which are not currently allowed under city policy.

It was the first time Meehan has taken a stand on the issue in a high-profile public forum, though he said he had made similar comments in the past in smaller community meetings.

More than a dozen community members told council that Tasers should not be used in Berkeley, and shared stories from around the country about what they believed were inappropriate uses of the tool by law enforcement officers in other jurisdictions.

Tuesday evening, council received a report from researchers at the Stanford Criminal Justice Center who spent six months earlier this year looking into the issue on a pro bono basis. The researchers said, after reviewing more than 100 studies, that there are still too many unanswered questions about how Tasers are used, and that Berkeley should be cautious when considering whether to equip the local police force with them.

Berkeley is among about 2,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide, out of an estimated 18,000, that do not carry the tool.

Meehan told council that he knows the issue is a controversial one, but made his position on Tasers, also known as electronic control weapons or ECWs, clear.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage related to Tasers.

“The combined body of evidence and decades-­long experience leads me to believe that the availability of ECWs is in the best interests of our employees, and our community,” he said. “I would not say this if I did not think it was in the best interests of both.” … Continue reading »

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Capitelli says he didn’t get commission from house sale for Meehan, but will donate fee he was paid

Councilman Laurie Capitelli. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley City Councilman Laurie Capitelli said Monday that he never served as the real estate agent for Police Chief Michael Meehan’s home purchase and never split a nearly $30,000 commission for the deal, contrary to what was reported Friday by the Bay Area News Group.

When Meehan went looking to buy a home in Berkeley in 2010 — aided by a $500,000, 3% loan provided him by the city of Berkeley — he hired an agent from Red Oak Realty, a company in which Capitelli was once a partner with a 15% stake, but from which he had largely divested by 2009. That agent asked Capitelli some questions about whether Berkeley or a homeowner was liable for the upkeep of sewer lines and creek beds. After Meehan purchased a home in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood, she paid Capitelli $5,925 for his advice, he said in a statement.

“I reiterate that I received no compensation whatsoever from Red Oak from the sale itself,” Capitelli said in the statement. “I have had no financial interest in the company for several years. I did not, as reported, split any commission on the sale. I did receive a $5,925 unsolicited payment for dealing with a variety of questions and issues forwarded to me by the agent, which arose during their search for a new home. To avoid any suggestion of impropriety I will nonetheless donate that fee to a local charity.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley councilman Laurie Capitelli profited from $500,000 housing loan given to police chief, paper says

Laurie Capitelli, Espresso Roma, Berkeley, CA, Oct. 10, 2012.
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Update, Oct. 5: Councilman Laurie Capitelli issued a statement Monday to clarify his role in the purchase of a home by Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan in 2010 following a City Council vote the prior year to loan the chief money toward the purchase. Capitelli told Berkeleyside he never served as the real estate agent for the home purchase and did not split a $30,000 commission for the deal, contrary to what was reported Friday by the Bay Area News Group. Capitelli told Berkeleyside he received an unsolicited payment after providing another agent advice about sewer lines and creeks, which he says he now plans to donate to charity. He initially kept the money because he said he was advised by Berkeley’s city attorney that there was no ethical conflict related to the vote and his role in the later transaction.

Original story, Oct. 3: Seven months after City Councilman Laurie Capitelli voted in November 2009 to loan incoming Police Chief Michael Meehan $500,000 in public funds to buy a house, he helped sell Meehan a home and garnered a $15,000 commission, according to a report by Thomas Peele for the Bay Area News Group.

Capitelli had not been hired as Meehan’s real estate agent when he voted with the rest of the City Council to provide the housing loan. Consequently, he does not feel he broke any ethical boundaries, he told the newspaper. … Continue reading »

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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’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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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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Library to reconsider proposal to rename South Branch

The South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library opened in May 2013. Photo: Richard Friedman
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The Board of Library Trustees (BOLT) will hold a special session Thursday May 7 at 6:30 p.m. to make a final decision on a community proposal to rename the South Branch library after a local activist.

At its April 22 meeting, BOLT considered the petition to rename the branch at 1901 Russell Street after the late Tarea Hall Pittman, a black civil-rights leader and radio host who lived nearby. The five members heard impassioned speeches from community members and ultimately voted 3-2 against a motion to suspend the library naming policy, which would have allowed them to vote on the proposal.

Two of the trustees who voted against the motion, Julie Holcomb and Jim Novosel, were up for reappointment at the April 28 council meeting.

At that meeting, Councilman Laurie Capitelli pushed the item to the June meeting to allow for further discussions about the name change.

“I realize that there are a lot of people here tonight to support Ms. Pittman and I think probably a lot of frustration in the audience coming from last Wednesday’s meeting,” he said. “I think people of goodwill are reaching out to one another. I think we’re going to find a path forward.” … Continue reading »

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City may boost affordable housing with density bonus

This proposed four-story, 23-unit project on San Pablo Avenue is partially funded by Berkeley’s Housing Trust Fund. Image: HKIT Architects
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The city of Berkeley is looking at how to build up its affordable housing stock by giving developers an alternative to a state law that grants them extra density in exchange for including affordable units on site.

Under the proposal, from Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli, developers of rental housing seeking a density bonus would not have to include below-market-rate units in their projects. They would instead pay new fees that could potentially bring millions into the city’s Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing, Bates said.

The state density bonus allows developers who include 11% below-market-rate units meeting very-low-income standards to add 35% more units to the project. Council previously created a $20,000-per-unit fee for developers who prefer not to include affordable units on site and do not seek the density bonus. But most projects that have come before the city have elected to take the bonus — to get the extra units — which has meant that little money has come into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. … Continue reading »

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