"Let’s put forward our best proposal," said Mayor Jesse Arreguín. "If they accept it, great. If not, we’ll build this facility."
Despite the claims that funds raised from Measure U1 would be used for housing, the money goes into Berkeley's General Fund where the Council can use it however it likes.
Berkeley is poised to buy the old Premier Cru complex on University and may use it for new City Council chambers and, eventually, affordable housing.
The political action committee for the Berkeley Property Owners Association has steered more than $892,540 in donations to defeat Measure U1 and promote Measure DD, two competing measures that would raise the business tax on rental units.
The Fair Political Practices Commission has launched an investigation into whether the supporters of Yes on Measure DD may have violated the financial disclosure requirements of the Political Reform Act.
There is a lot wrong with Measure U1. The tax rate imposed is many times higher than that imposed on virtually all other businesses and that charged in other cities. A 3% tax on gross receipts is the equivalent of a 5% to 17% on income, depending on the degree to which the property is mortgaged. Even a die-hard believer in progressive taxes should likely find a combined federal, state and local tax rate over 70% to be a bit excessive.
Berkeley’s biggest landlords have already spent $800,000 and are on track to spend $1,000,000 by Election Day. If they are successful they will save millions of dollars every year and prevent the development of hundreds of units of affordable housing. Of course, they can’t just say “vote to save big landlords money”, so they hide behind a smoke screen. They created Measure DD, which raises only a token amount for affordable housing and they mail out phony accusations against Measure U1, generated in focus groups by their high-priced consultants.
In his op-ed article urging a Yes vote on Measure U1 and a No vote on Measure DD—the two rental housing tax hikes appearing on the Berkeley ballot—Stephen Barton, the former Berkeley housing director, embarrasses himself by shilling for big real estate developers and their regressive approach to housing tax policy.
An independent expenditure group backed by one of Berkeley’s largest unions has poured $8,112 into Jesse Arreguín’s mayoral campaign, spending the funds on a website and literature that promote his views.
Six candidates are vying for four open seats on Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board, in a race that has seen one slate of decidedly pro-tenant candidates boast numerous endorsements and a large war chest, while their landlord-leaning opponents lag — both in terms of endorsements and cash.
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.
Real-estate groups have spent more than $786,000 in the last few months to defeat a measure that would almost double the business tax landlords pay in Berkeley (Measure U1) and to support an alternative measure with a lower tax (Measure DD). The funds were spent on campaign literature, signature collection, campaign consultants and for professional services from lawyers and others.