As a presidential campaign colored by controversy inches ever closer, local races and campaigns struggle to be heard amid the cacophony. But Berkeley’s ballot is packed with measures that will determine the near-future of the city’s infrastructure, affordable housing stock, education budget, and campaign finance system.
We’ve rounded up the 12 measures that will be on your ballot Nov. 8, taking a look at what they would change and who is gunning for them to pass.
Click the links to jump to the section of interest.
- Measure T1: Infrastructure bond
- Measures U1 and DD: Business tax
- Measure V1: Gann Limit
- Measure W1: Citizens Redistricting Commission
- Measure X1: Public Campaign Financing
- Measure Y1: Youth Voting
- Measure Z1: Low Income Housing Authorization
- Measure AA: Rent Stabilization Ordinance amendment
- Measure BB and CC: The minimum wage ordinances
- Measure E1: School funding
- Upcoming events
Measure T1: Infrastructure bond
What it would do: Measure T1 would authorize the city to issue up to $100 million of general obligation bonds to fix and rebuild Berkeley infrastructure over a 40-year period. Initially, property owners would be taxed at a rate of $6.35 per $100,000 of assessed value. That amount would increase as new bonds were issued, up to a high of $31.26 per $100,000. The maximum interest rate that could be paid on the bonds would be 6 percent.
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The proceeds from Measure T1 would go toward the repair or renovation of sidewalks, streets, storm drains, parks, city senior and recreation centers, and other facilities. One percent of the proceeds will be used for public art incorporated in the infrastructure. The measure also requires a public input process.
Who supports it: Major donors to the group supporting T1, Citizens for Parks and Infrastructure, include the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council Issues PAC ($5,000), Realtex, Inc. ($3,000), and other engineering and construction companies and unions. Its treasurer is former City Councilman Gordon Wozniak. T1 is endorsed by the whole City Council, several city commissions, the local chapters of the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters, and others. No ballot argument against Measure T1 was filed.
Measures U1 and DD: Business tax
The competing Measures U1 and DD would each amend the city’s business license tax ordinance, increasing the tax on property owners. The tax proceeds would go into the General Fund. If both measures pass, whichever receives the most votes will go into effect.
Measure U1 would raise the tax on owners of five or more residential rental units from 1.081 percent to 2.88 percent, and would prohibit them from passing the tax on to their tenants. Some owners would be exempt, including those of rent-controlled units or affordable housing. All new rental units would also be exempt from the new tax rate for 12 years. According to the city attorney, U1 would raise close to $4 million annually at current rents, though some say the revenue would be lower. The City Council could change the tax rate. If U1 passes, the Housing Advisory Committee will be required to make annual recommendations on increasing affordable housing and preventing homelessness to the City Council.
Measure DD, a citizen initiative, raises the tax on owners of at least three residential rental units from 1.081 percent to 1.5 percent. The measure would raise about $1.4 million annually, based on current rents, according to the city. DD would allow the creation of a new citizen panel, which would make annual recommendations to the City Council on affordable housing and combatting homelessness.
Measure U1 is endorsed by the whole City Council, the Alameda County Democratic and Green Parties, local League of Women Voters chapters, several affordable housing developers, Rent Board members, UC Berkeley student groups, and others. The campaign has raised about $44,000. Supporters of DD have raised more than $786,000. The group sponsoring the campaign, the Berkeley Property Owners Association, represents some of the largest landlords in Berkeley, including Vero Properties, owned by Jay Lakireddy, which contributed $60,625 to defeat U1.
Measure V1: Gann Limit
What it would do: Measure V1 would allow the city to exceed the Gann Limit, or spending limit, in order to carry out expenditures previously approved by voters. Under the California constitution, a city can only spend the amount of taxes it spent in the 1986-1987 fiscal year, unless voters approve further spending. Taxes previously approved by voters exceed the spending limit, but each general election year voters must authorize the city to spend that tax money. Measure V1 would raise the limit by the amount of taxes approved previously and in this election, authorizing spending until 2020. If V1 fails, taxes collected would be returned to voters. Measure V1 requires a two-thirds vote to pass.
Who supports it: The whole City Council, the local League of Women Voters chapter, the Berkeley Library Board of Trustees, and others.
Measure W1: Citizens Redistricting Commission
What it would do: Measure W1 would create an independent citizen commission responsible for redistricting. Currently, the city council redraws the lines every 10 years following the Census. Measure W1 would keep similar redistricting standards but would create a 13-member Citizens Redistricting Commission after each Census to carry out the task that year. The new process would also get rid of the requirement that new district lines include sitting council members. If the CRC’s map displaces a council member, he or she is permitted to serve the rest of the term.
Any Berkeley resident could apply to serve on the CRC, with some exceptions including city employees and officeholders. The city clerk would select one member from each district at random out of the pool of eligible applicants. Those members would in turn select the remaining five members, aiming for demographic and geographic representation. Any resident could propose a redistricting plan, and if the CRC could not agree on a map by majority vote, the most popular proposal would be turned over to voters. The council would allocate funds to implement the commission.
Measure W1 comes on the heels of a years-long contentious redistricting battle in Berkeley. A referendum opposing a council-approved map in 2014 resulted in the issue going to the voters. In California, an independent commission has been responsible for state redistricting since 2010.
Who supports it: Mayor Tom Bates, the local chapters of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, and others.
Measure X1: Public Campaign Financing
What it would do: Measure X1 would amend the city charter to create a public campaign financing system. If a candidate for mayor or City Council opted to only accept donations that are $50 or under from Berkeley residents exclusively, the city would match the amount the candidate raised by 600 percent. The funds would be capped at $120,000 for mayoral candidates and $40,000 for council hopefuls. The program would draw the equivalent of $4 per Berkeley resident—around $500,000—from the General Fund each year, building a “Fair Election Fund” that would be capped at $2 million. Candidates who chose not to participate in the public financing program would be subject to the current contribution limit of $250 from individuals.
A few other cities, including New York City, and some states have adopted public financing systems.
Who supports it: Measure X1 is endorsed by the local branches of the ACLU, NAACP, and Sierra Club, the Berkeley Tenants Union, six City Council members, and others. Major contributors to the campaign include New York investors Sean Eldridge ($20,000) and Jonathan Soros ($10,000), and Los Gatos-based former technology CEO James Heerwagen ($10,000).
No ballot argument was filed in opposition to Measure X1. However, in January, the chair of Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission, wrote a letter to the City Council expressing concern that Measure X1 was a charter amendment and would require Berkeley to set aside $500,000 a year – money that then could not be used for other needs, such as homeless or mental health services, arts grants, etc.
Measure Y1: Youth Voting
What it would do: Measure Y1 would allow16- and 17-year-olds to vote in Berkeley School Board elections. The city is only required to allow the youth vote if no city funds are needed for implementation.
Berkeley is one of a number of cities considering a lower voting age. In San Francisco, youth voting in all municipal, county, and school district elections is on the ballot this November. Two cities in Maryland have previously lowered their voting ages.
Who supports it: The whole City Council, former state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, the Berkeley Democratic Club, others.
Measure Z1: Low Income Housing Authorization
What it would do: Measure Z1 would authorize 500 new public affordable housing units in Berkeley. The measure would not approve any specific projects or guarantee that the units were created, but would grant the prior approval required by the state Constitution before any public entity develops, builds, or acquires new housing for low-income residents. In past elections voters have approved various numbers of new units, including 500 with a 2000 ballot measure of the same name. Since then, over 400 affordable units have been created, according to the city.
Who supports it: The whole City Council, the Alameda County Democratic and Green Parties, others.
Measure AA: Rent Stabilization Ordinance amendment
What it would do: Measure AA would amend the Rent Stabilization Ordinance to strengthen the assistance provided to tenants evicted due to the property owner moving into the unit, and would ban owner move-in evictions in certain cases. The measure would increase the amount of relocation assistance landlords are required to provide in move-in evictions from the $4,500 currently only provided to low-income tenants to $15,000 provided to all tenants. Certain more vulnerable tenants would receive an additional $5,000. AA would also prohibit owner move-in evictions of families with kids during the academic year.
Who supports it: The whole City Council, the Berkeley School Board, the Berkeley Tenants Union, the Alameda County Democratic Party, and others. No ballot argument against this measure was filed.
Measure BB and CC: Minimum wage
Measures BB and CC are competing minimum wage measures. In August, after both measures had secured spots on the ballot, the City Council unanimously passed a compromise law, prompting former backers of each measure to urge a “no-no” vote on BB and CC. If either passes with a majority vote, it will override the new law, which has Berkeley reaching a $15 minimum wage in 2018 and phases out the current exemption for youth in job training programs.
Measure BB increases the minimum wage incrementally, arriving at $15 in 2019. It preserves the current exemption for youth in job training programs and mandates 48 hours of paid sick leave. It was formerly supported by the majority of city council members many small business owners. An amendment would require a two-thirds council vote.
Measure CC is a citizen’s initiative. It brings Berkeley to a $15 minimum wage in 2017, and increases it annually by inflation plus 3 percent until it reaches $16.37 in 2016 dollars, which is currently considered a living wage. The law would eliminate the exemption for youth in training programs and mandates between 48 and 72 hours of paid sick leave depending on the size of the business. It was formerly supported by labor unions, activists, and Berkeley council members Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguín, and Max Anderson.
Measure E1: School funding
What it does: Measure E1 allows the Berkeley Unified School District to levy a special parcel tax of 37 cents per square foot of residential and commercial buildings for eight years. It renews the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program, or BSEP, which was last approved through Measure A in 2006 and will expire at the end of the academic year. Very low-income seniors can apply for an exemption from the tax.
BSEP brings in about $25 million, or about 20 percent of the district’s budget, annually. Two-thirds of the funds go toward improvements in instruction, including professional development, class size (staffing), and program evaluation. BSEP also funds school libraries, arts instruction, and classroom technology. A portion of the revenue supports counseling and other behavioral health services. Measure E1 needs a two-thirds vote to pass.
Who supports it: The Berkeley City Council, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, the Alameda County Democratic and Green parties, the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, the Berkeley School Board, and others. No ballot argument opposing Measure E1was submitted.
Where to learn more
For deeper dives into some of these measures and the candidates running for office, there are a number of public forums coming up:
Saturday, Oct. 22, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
What: Pros and cons on the ballot measures
Organizers: LWVBAE and the Berkeley Public Library
Location: Berkeley Public Library Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch, 1901 Russell St.
Wednesday, Oct. 26, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
What: Pros and cons on the ballot measures
Organizers: LWVBAE and the Berkeley Public Library
Location: Berkeley Public Library Central Library, 2090 Kittredge St.
Thursday, Oct. 27, 7 p.m.
What: Ballot Measure Forum (T-1, $100M infrastructure and facilities bond; competing measures U-1 and DD, business license tax increase on rental units; X-1, public financing of campaigns)
Organizer: North East Berkeley Association (NEBA)
Location: Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda
Learn more: NEBA website
Corrections: This article previously stated that Measure AA would ban owner move-in evictions of elderly or disabled tenants who have lived in their units for at least five years. That is the existing law. It also stated that AA would ban owner move-in evictions in cases where the landlord owns at least three units in Berkeley. Under existing law, the protections for elderly and disabled tenants do not apply when the landlord owns three or fewer units. Measure AA does not change that.
See complete 2016 election coverage on Berkeleyside.
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