Update: ‘Manhole’ will be ‘maintenance hole’ as city changes municipal code

Berkeley City Council, Dec. 11, 2018. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Update, July 17: The ordinance about gender-neutral language in Berkeley’s municipal code was approved at City Council on Tuesday as part of the consent calendar.

Original story, July 16: The Berkeley City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on an ordinance that would eliminate masculine and feminine pronouns from the city’s municipal code, changing gender-specific language to gender-neutral language.

The item proposes a revision to the grammatical interpretation of Berkeley’s municipal code, which now mostly uses masculine pronouns. It would switch “he” and “she” to “they” and “them” and assume they/them indicates a single individual, “unless the context indicates the contrary.” The rationale for this change states: “Amending the municipal code to include gender-neutral pronouns by eliminating any gender preference language within the municipal code will promote equality.”

The measure would also change other terminology. “Manhole” would be changed to “maintenance hole,” “manpower” would be changed to “human effort” and “sorority” or “fraternity” would be changed to “collegiate Greek system residence,” according to the ordinance. In addition, gendered terms in the existing code such as he, she, him, her, himself, herself would be switched to specific nouns such as the architect, the attorney, the council member, the clerk, the driver and more. (See the list.)


This item originally appeared on council’s March 12 agenda and was sponsored by City Council members Rigel Robinson, Cheryl Davila, Ben Bartlett and Lori Droste. Officials referred the item back to staff to be fleshed out more.

The financial implications of the change to the city code are relatively minimal, with a report by City Clerk Mark Numainville estimating it will cost $600 to get the city’s publisher, Code Publishing Company, to update the code.

Before the changes are made, Berkeley will post a list with the new pronouns in every branch of the Berkeley Public Library 15 days before the ordinance takes effect.