Noisy parties around UC Berkeley, an analysis of the police response to the December 2014 Black Lives Matter protests, and a proposal to raise the smoking age to 21: It’s all up for discussion at Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting.
Scroll down to see what else is on the agenda, how to follow the action, and how to chime in on Twitter.
The action calendar
GROUP HOUSING RULES Council has been working in recent years to tighten up rules governing group housing, such as mini-dorms, fraternities and co-ops, to curtail excessive alcohol use and noisy parties, sexual assaults and the use of police and paramedic services, particularly in the Southside neighborhood near the UC Berkeley campus. Tuesday night, officials are set to vote on those rules. The city estimates there have been about 30 meetings with various stakeholders who are concerned about the issue.
In September, many UC Berkeley students testified, during a council workshop, to protest aspects of those rules. During that workshop, staff reported that, from January 2013 through August 2015, there were nearly 270 calls for service to residence halls, fraternities, co-ops and other locations around campus, 175 of which required transport to the hospital. Between Sept. 9, 2015, and Oct. 19, there were another 89 calls for service, 62 of which resulted in transport to the hospital. One of those cases involved a reported sexual assault. (Update, 10:15 p.m. The city said these numbers were actually through Dec. 19, not October.)
Read past Berkeleyside coverage about drinking at Cal.
There was also the death at a fraternity in December, of 22-year-old Jeffrey Engler. According to the city, “it is strongly suspected that alcohol played a significant role in this death.” That followed two alcohol-related deaths near campus in 2014: Apoorve Agarwal and Vaibhev Loomba. They were 20.
The city also noted challenges this past Halloween when “a significant civil disturbance took place with hundreds of young adults rioting, throwing bottles, jumping on and damaging vehicles and other property. This disturbance required police to respond with riot gear and tactics in order to restore order, and resulted in other parts of the city not having adequate police services.”
The new rules would require a “responsible resident” to keep the property tidy, respond to concerns raised by neighbors, and keep a complaint log, among other duties. Annual notices to neighbors within 300 feet would be required to make sure the identity and contact info for the responsible resident is known. Adjacent neighbors would receive 48 hours notice of any parties. The city says parties should “generally be limited” to fewer than 200 people.
Regarding drinking: No alcohol would be allowed in bedrooms of those under 21, in common areas where it would be “accessible to persons under the age of 21,” and — in case there was any confusion — “Alcoholic beverages may not be served to any person under the age of 21 years.”
Various exemptions have been created but, generally speaking, group housing with more than 15 residents, and property owners with more than one mini-dorm, would need to comply. Rules about “entertainment events,” e.g. parties, only pertain to events with more than 50 people other than the property’s residents. The city notes that proposed “closing” times for events (with “10 or more non-residents with alcohol present”) are “no longer binding,” but that music must cease at 10 p.m. weeknights and 1 a.m. weekends.
The city has also said group housing and mini-dorm residents are allowed to create their own equivalent protocols that could be approved by the city in lieu of the new ordinance. Noncompliance with the new rules, or their equivalents, could result in a property being deemed a nuisance, which could trigger an abatement process with the city and also allow for private lawsuits to be filed. Read more in the staff report.
BERKELEY PROTEST REPORT The Police Review Commission has completed its assessment of the Berkeley Police Department’s analysis of its response to Black Lives Matter protests in December 2014 where officers used tear gas and other types of force to break up crowds on Telegraph Avenue after hours of demonstrations that included some unruly individuals who threw bottles, rocks and other items at police. The PRC report “presents the PRC’s findings of what occurred on the streets of Berkeley that night, analyzes those events and makes recommendations for improving BPD’s readiness and appropriateness of its response to future such protests.”
In a response to the PRC report from Police Chief Michael Meehan, he asks the city manager to direct his department to work with the commission “to further develop mutually agreed upon revisions to the Berkeley Police Department’s policies and procedures regarding response to protest activity and to report back to the Council within 180 days for an update.” He notes as well that six of the PRC recommendations concur with those outlined by BPD, and says there is “substantial agreement” with many others. BPD put forward 32 recommendations related to everything from communications, tactical command, situational awareness and dispersal orders to the use of force and accountability. Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of the protests.
Berkeley Copwatch has completed its own investigation into the police response to the Berkeley protests that took place Dec. 6, 2014. In a prepared statement released in December, Copwatch said it “has gathered primary documents, videos, pictures and accounts of what happened on that night. We have made these available as part of the investigative timeline and we encourage people to examine them and to draw their own conclusions.” See that report.
Other items of note
- The 5:30 p.m. worksession will focus on how the city prioritizes referrals from council members.
- Council is set to consider a recommendation from the city’s Community Health Commission to raise the smoking age to 21, but has been advised by city staff to postpone a decision until the state weighs in on proposed legislation that would cover all of California.
- Councilman Jesse Arreguín is asking the city to consider requiring supermarkets to donate unsold food to charity.
- Council members Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore are asking the city to require developers to share information about construction pay as part of the city approval process for projects greater than 30,000 square feet.
- There’s an information report that takes a look at the size and demographics of a sample of Berkeley’s homeless population on one night in January 2015: “The homeless count revealed that Berkeley’s unsheltered homeless population grew by 53% from the 2009 count to the 2015 count.” The overall number (including sheltered homeless) increased 29%. The report continues: “Berkeley’s homeless population continues to be primarily singles (82%), primarily male (75%), with almost equal numbers of African-American and white clients.” The report notes a steep decline in the number of homeless veterans, but found a 35% spike in the number of unsheltered people reporting a history of domestic violence.
Berkeleyside often covers council meetings live on Twitter. Others sometimes do the same and the discussion can get spirited. Follow along in real-time, and tag tweets with #berkmtg to join in. The Berkeley City Council will meet Jan. 26 in the Longfellow Middle School auditorium at 1500 Derby St. The special session starts at 5:30 p.m. and the regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. You do not need a Twitter account to follow along. Just click here.
Council-related Twitter handles:
@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)
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