The lowdown: Berkeley council on building safety, community benefits, Dana Street conversion, more

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
After tonight, July 14, the Berkeley City Council will be in recess until Sept. 15. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The final Berkeley City Council meeting of the season begins tonight, July 14, at 5 p.m. First, there’s a closed session on the city’s labor negotiations with many of its employees, including firefighters and Local 1021 maintenance and clerical workers. That’s followed at 6 p.m. with a special session on an affordable housing nexus study that’s been in the works, which many housing advocates have been curious to see. Then, at 7 p.m., the regular meeting kicks off. On the action calendar: stiffer building safety standards following a fatal balcony collapse in June; the adoption of new standards for the developers of tall buildings downtown related to significant community benefits; the appointment of an interim city manager; and the possibility of converting Dana Street to a two-way street. Note: An item related to the possibility of burying the city’s utility lines underground is likely to be postponed until September.

Special session at 6 p.m.: Affordable housing nexus study

Many housing advocates in Berkeley have been curious to learn the results of a new study focused on affordable housing, and how much the city can ask developers to include or fund through a fee. That study will be presented to council at 6 p.m. Council may adjust its affordable housing mitigation fee as a result of the new study. Developers currently must pay $20,000 per unit — a discount from the actual $28,000 fee — if they do not want to include affordable housing within their project sites. That fee was based on 2010 Census data. The new study was completed in March and looked at more recent economic and demographic data. According to the staff report, “It was determined that the current fee could be increased from $28,000 to $34,000 and still allow a reasonable rate of return. A similar analysis was conducted for condominiums resulting in a maximum fee of $75,000 in order to allow for a reasonable rate of return.” From the report: “Possible future actions include increasing the fee and equivalent affordable units, reducing the fee and equivalent affordable units, or maintaining the current fee and percentage of affordable units deemed to be equivalent” to the fee. Council is also looking at changing its approach to the density bonus — a state law that grants developers extra height or bulk in exchange for including affordable housing on site — which will also relate to how it approaches affordable housing. Read the full report.

Action calendar

BUILDING SAFETY Council may vote to amend the municipal code in an effort to make local buildings safer following the fatal collapse in June of a wood-rotted fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens. The city pledged last month to consider the adoption of stricter rules related to building inspections following the accident at the downtown Berkeley apartment complex during a birthday celebration June 16. Six died and seven were injured as a result of the collapse. The Alameda County district attorney’s office has since launched an investigation and is considering the possibility of whether to file criminal charges. The items include amendments to the city’s municipal code suggested by the director of the planning department, along with two items from Councilman Jesse Arreguín. Arreguín is asking the city to consider requiring the steel reinforcement of balconies in all new construction, as well as a requirement to post signage on some balconies specifying their maximum weight capacity. Read the Berkeleyside story on the amendments.

COMMUNITY BENEFITS Council has been considering in recent months how to define and quantify the “significant community benefits” required of developers who build projects 75 feet or taller in downtown Berkeley. Council voted in late June on a conceptual approach to that issue. Tonight’s vote would ratify that approach. See the Berkeleyside story and the staff report.


DANA, ELLSWORTH STREETS COULD BECOME TWO-WAY Councilman Kriss Worthington is asking the city manager to consider moving ahead with proposals to convert Dana and Ellsworth streets, from Dwight Way to Bancroft Way, into two-way routes for cyclists and automobiles. According to the proposal, which is based on a consultant’s study, “The street conversion could either: a) Incorporate a northbound bike lane while southbound riders would travel in a shared lane; or b) Incorporate bike lanes in both directions with the removal of on-street parking.” Worthington estimates that the changes to one street would cost $300,000, and both would cost up to $1 million, adding, “We suggest requesting regional and University of California funds.” According to the Public Works Department, Measure BB money could fund that type of work in Berkeley, and the city is set to submit its list of Measure BB projects by the end of the month (scroll down for details). See the Worthington proposal, as well as the Public Works Department chief’s report on potential street improvements in Berkeley and the Southside street conversions.

MEASURE BB PROJECTS IN BERKELEY As part of the Measure BB sales tax increase, passed by Alameda County voters in November, Berkeley is set to receive a significant amount of money for roadway and bicycle/pedestrian-related improvements. Tonight, council is set to approve which projects the city will ask the county to help fund. The five highest-priority projects listed in the staff report include a set of projects in West Berkeley, including the Gilman Interchange, a railroad “quiet zone and the Ninth Street pathway; bike boulevard intersections around town; several projects in downtown Berkeley including a bike boulevard on Milvia Street; the Bancroft-Durant two-way conversion in Southside; and projects in the Telegraph Avenue “complete streets” corridor. There is no current estimate for how much Berkeley might receive from the tax, though ultimately it is expected that the tax revenue will be evenly split on a per capita basis throughout the county. Read more about the grant applications in the staff report.

INTERIM CITY MANAGER APPOINTMENT The Berkeley mayor’s office has asked city officials to appoint Deputy City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley as interim city manager following the expected departure later this month of Christine Daniel. Daniel announced in June she would be leaving Berkeley to work for the city of Oakland as assistant city administrator. Her final day in Berkeley is set for Friday, July 24. The mayor has recommended an annual salary of $225,000 for Williams-Ridley to match the current city manager salary, plus a $1,600 housing allowance. Read more on Berkeleyside, and see the mayor’s report on the recommendation.

Council does not meet again until Sept. 15. See the full 2015 meeting schedule.

Meeting details

Follow live tweets of the Berkeley Council meeting by clicking the image above. Join in by tagging your tweets #berkmtg.
Follow live tweets of the Berkeley Council meeting by clicking the image above. Join in by tagging your tweets #berkmtg.

The Berkeley City Council meets Tuesday nights at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The special session starts July 14 at 6 p.m. and the regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. Council agendas are available online here. Watch the meetings online here.

Berkeleyside often covers council meetings live on Twitter. Others sometimes do the same and the discussion can get spirited. See council coverage on Twitter marked with #berkmtg. Follow along in real-time here, and tag your tweets with #berkmtg to join in.

You do not need a Twitter account to follow along. Just click here.

Council-related Twitter handles:
@MayorTomBates
@LindaMaio (District 1)
Darryl Moore @BerkCouncil (District 2)
@JesseArreguin (District 4)
Laurie Capitelli @berkcap (District 5)
Kriss Worthington @k__worthington (District 7)
Lori Droste @loridroste (District 8)

Learn more about the Berkeley City Council and how to connect with local representatives via the city website.

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