The hotel only went forward after the Council twice agreed to defer fees owed by the developer. That lowered the developers' upfront costs and increased profit margins.
William Faulkner famously wrote “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past.” That’s especially true in Berkeley, where civic issues can persist for years after they have apparently been resolved.
This is a tale of why and how the citizens of Berkeley got scammed by voting for the 2010 Measure R, and then scammed again when they voted against the 2014 Measure R. Let’s start with “why”. Why is the 2010 Measure R really a high-rise, luxury condo development plan that won’t help Berkeley’s housing problems or the environment? The answer is found in the global condo market driven by speculators parking some of their $30 trillion in liquidity (see Jack Rasmus’ “Epic Recession”) in luxury housing. These mostly foreign speculators are inflating a bubble identical to the mortgage backed securities bubble that popped in 2008. Developers are not building housing that will relieve the housing crisis for moderate and low income workers in the bay area. Instead they are catering to high-end demand from both speculators and techies.
The tally is in: the campaign surrounding Measure D, the one cent per ounce tax on sugary beverages, cost $3,374,155, according to recently filed campaign statements.
I am thrilled that we voted 3 to 1 to defeat Measure R, and that the building of new housing in downtown Berkeley will continue. Let’s build on this momentum, and get serious about addressing the massive housing shortage in our community that is hitting working families hard. Downtown is great, but we have to do an order of magnitude more to bring supply and demand into balance.
2014 will go down in history as the most expensive election ever held in Berkeley, with around $3.6 million spent on two ballot items alone.
Last March after Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan received a prestigious national American Planning Association award, I wrote the following for the “Cal Planner” newsletter:
The Green Downtown Initiative is the latest chapter in the land use battle between big developers and the rest of us.
The Berkeley city attorney has informed the City Council he believes someone has purchased the downtown U.S. post office at 2000 Allston Way, and that it is time for Berkeley to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service to stop the sale.
Berkeley has an international reputation as a free-thinking, expressive, welcoming and experimental city. The current battle over the city’s downtown and November’s Measure R contradicts this image of ourselves, and in the worst possible way.
The Alameda County Registrar of Voters has sent out 27,000 postcards to Berkeley voters informing them that the date of the election printed on their mail-in ballots is wrong. The date reads Nov. 5, when of course the actual date is Nov. 4.
Most of us want a new downtown; why are we asked over and over to keep the old one? Why do we have to fight another misleading initiative — Measure R?