Name: Kate Harrison, 59, public sector consultant (District 4)
What is the main reason you are running? I am running to continue the work I began on City Council 18 months ago. I have kept my campaign promises by effectively advocating for affordable, green housing (through doubling the requirements for affordable housing, reducing barriers to ADUS and tiny homes, and tackling rental vacancies), civil rights and liberties (ensuring minimum use of force, protecting privacy rights), labor rights (enhancing parental leave benefits, fair scheduling practices), keeping Alta Bates open and equitably providing health and transportation resources. I also look forward to continuing to represent my constituents by helping them navigate the City bureaucracy.
Why are you qualified? Professionally, I have managed and analyzed public sector operations for over thirty years, beginning my career examining differences in treatment of minority communities by the criminal justice system in Alameda County. I served in government positions throughout California to improve public services and balance budgets while protecting the vulnerable.
As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley I was on the Student Senate and worked to pass Berkeley’s original rent control ordinance. As a member of many Berkeley commissions, I have provided leadership in improving parks, ensuring the Downtown area is a vibrant space, and making the advantages of living in Berkeley available to present and future residents of all income levels. I come from a community of Berkeley progressives. I co-founded the Berkeley Progressive Alliance, organized for Tony Thurmond’s Assembly campaign and Berkeley U-1, and currently work for progressive reforms through the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club.
What sets you apart from other candidates? I have extensive experience in local and state government and in working with people of a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. I build coalitions and lasting communities. I have a long and continuous involvement in the Berkeley community, starting when I was at UCB, through community groups, political democratic clubs and government commissions and the work I do on Council represents an extension of these experiences. I am committed to building affordable housing (for example, I doubled the required percentage of affordable units for all new market-rate housing) because I believe that, while we need to build housing at all levels, focusing on market-rate in the short term benefits only those who can afford the market rate. I am committed to equitable police reform because I want all marginalized people to feel safe reporting crimes committed against them. I am for finding both short and long-term solution to homelessness because while permanent housing is the ultimate answer, it can’t be done overnight and we need compassionate solutions for people now on our streets. I believe that on each of these issues I am on the side of the Berkeley community with which I have worked.
How and when did you end up in Berkeley? I came to Berkeley for college and it has been my home ever since. I received my both my bachelor’s degree and my Master’s in Public Policy from UC Berkeley and was active in city politics. My consulting work with local governments and international development organizations such as USAID and the World Bank have given me the opportunity to travel across California and the world, but I always returned to Berkeley.
What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years? Berkeley is facing an affordable housing crisis with unaffordable rents, homeownership unattainable, house-less people living on the streets or in their cars and the loss of racial, creative and intellectual diversity. Despite this, usable units remain vacant and practically no affordable housing is being built.
Berkeley’s only full-service hospital, Alta Bates, may close in the next few years due to corporate consolidation. Without Alta Bates, trauma victims will be forced to travel dangerously far for emergency services, we will lose allied health services now located near the hospital and costs for our first responders that transport people to hospitals will grow exponentially. We continue to face significant health disparities for African Americans, which will only be exacerbated by the loss of this health resource.
Climate change is dramatically impacting on our water and air, our infrastructure and our quality of life. We need to take immediate and dramatic action.
What are your ideas to begin to solve them? I have reduced barriers to and developed funding for affordable housing and measures to protect tenants. I doubled the affordable housing requirements for market-rate buildings, worked to increase the business license fee on larger landlords, and designed the property transfer tax on higher value properties, all of which have or will generate revenue for affordable housing. I have made it possible to expand affordable housing through in-law units and tiny homes and helped protect tenants from being displaced by short-term rentals. My office secured $600,000 for tenant protection legal fees to prevent unfair evictions and further displacement.
In addition to the public pressure campaign I organized with the California Nurses Association, we are considering zoning the area around Alta Bates such that it must be utilized as a hospital in order to discourage its sale. We are exploring Sutter’s non-profit status as it is not providing the charity and community care required under that status and are working with California Attorney General Beccera in pursuing anti-trust legislation.
I am addressing the three largest contributors to greenhouse gasses: buildings, transportation and food production. I am leading to fight climate change through zero net energy requirements, infrastructure bond funds to make our city sustainable and carbon-free, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, transportation impact fees for new development too far from major transportation corridors and promoting urban agriculture and a more plant-based diet. I cosponsored our climate emergency declaration and co-organized a 15-jurisdiction regional climate change town hall to boost regional collaboration. A focus on affordable housing near transit will ensure that working people do not have to drive further and further distances for work. While on the Parks Commission, I created the sustainability subcommittee to examine how the City could move its own parks and recreation facilities toward sustainability.
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? I introduced a vacancy fee to encourage landlords of long-term vacant, dilapidated buildings to rent their units or sell the building to someone who will. Berkeley has nearly 1,000 vacant units — more than the number of homeless people on our streets — because housing is kept out of the market or used for short-term rentals. These vacant units needlessly contribute to our housing scarcity. This legislation received the unanimous support of my colleagues.
How will you be accessible to constituents? My office has addressed over 400 constituent issues since taking office, ranging from an automatic gas shut-off valve under the high school; mitigating construction impacts; providing more trash cans on North Shattuck; and connecting tenants to legal services. I am readily available to meet with people and businesses as my job is based in Berkeley and my crackerjack staff are always available. We write a widely read monthly newsletter to ensure residents are kept informed.
Are you using public financing? Yes
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? Around $48,000
A final thought? From local government to the White House, we are all given sets of false choices. We are told to choose between public safety and civil liberties, between responsible budgets and fair government services, between building housing and ensuring developers pay their fair share. I reject this framework of trade-offs because I believe in Berkeley. I believe that in such a unique, forward-thinking, and wealthy City, we can provide solutions that work for everyone.