The Berkeley City Council meets Tuesday, with a special session on race-related workforce issues at 5:30 p.m., followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m.
The special session
Council will hear from a consultant hired last year to look at complaints regarding city practices related to race. A consultant who interviewed city employees about 20 complaints made recommendations for improvement earlier this year. Tuesday evening will be the first chance for council to have an in-depth public discussion about those findings. Council also will hear what the police department is doing to limit the possibility of racial profiling, and about additional resources the city has put into mental health outreach services. Read the report.
The action calendar
PARKER PLACE PLANS STALLED BY APPEAL The mixed-use housing and commercial complex planned for Shattuck Avenue and Parker Street — called Parker Place — is on council’s agenda Tuesday due to an appeal of a recent, unanimous zoning board decision to adjust the project’s permits. Staff says council should uphold the zoning board’s decision. Parker Place was first approved by council in January 2012, and sought to make some adjustments in August of this year after being acquired by Lennar Multifamily Communities and Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management. Berkeleyside will have the full story later this week.
TACKLING BUSINESS AND RETAIL FEES AND INCENTIVES Also on the action calendar, several items related to local commercial real estate from council members Jesse Arreguín and Kriss Worthington. They are suggesting that the city consider a fee for vacant ground floor retail storefronts. On the flip side, they would like the city to consider reducing or eliminating permit and license-related fees, with the goal of drawing in more businesses to the city. Stores on their wish list for the city to pursue include ESPN Zone, a bowling alley, Cost Plus World Market, Pier One, Old Navy, H&M, Forever 21, Skechers and Best Buy. Both of those items would need more study before any action could be taken by council. Arreguín also has an item on the agenda related to a proposed “speculation fee” to be levied on commercial property owners who don’t want to offer renewals to existing tenants, or who raise their rent significantly.
On the consent calendar
REVISITING THE HOUSING TRUST FUND There’s a proposal to extend the discount available to developers who prefer to pay a fee to the city rather than build affordable housing on site. The discount was supposed to expire later this month after being in effect since February 2013. It’s been controversial from the start: a sign of the battle between those who think developers should include affordable units on site and those who want the city to bolster its Housing Trust Fund. Supporters of the former say it’s better to have new housing spread around town in different projects with a mix of tenants. Supporters of the latter approach argue that the money will go further if the city consolidates it into a single pot, which can then be levied against other money available for affordable housing projects. No surprise, there’s also been disagreement about how high to set the fee. Council set it at $28,000 in later 2012, but then discounted it to $20,000 until Oct. 16, 2014. Even during early discussions, several council members said the fee — the amount of which was proposed by the Housing Advisory Commission — was too high, and would not bring money into the city fund. Other council members said setting the fee too low would be giving too much away to developers. Councilman Laurie Capitelli has asked for the discount to be extended, but also noted that “very few housing providers” have gone that route. At a recent council meeting, Mayor Tom Bates said the fee is too high to be attractive, meaning that the city has had limited success raising money for its own affordable housing projects. Read more about the Housing Trust Fund in past Berkeleyside coverage.
CURBSIDE EV CHARGING GETS BIG BOOST Council is set to approve a grant of nearly $100,000 from the 11th Hour Project, a program of the Schmidt Family Foundation in Palo Alto, to help up to 25 people in Berkeley set up residential electric vehicle charging stations, and assist in the installation of up to three ADA accessible stations available to the public. The idea is to help “garage-less” EV drivers charge their vehicles at home. The city of Berkeley is among just eight grant winners, who will share about $1 million, out of a pool of more than 100 applicants. It was the only city to receive the award. Read more about the grant.
CHAVEZ SOLAR CALENDAR VANDALISM The city is slated to consider the possibility of setting up a $1,000 reward to find out who has been vandalizing the solar calendar at César Chávez Memorial Park. Read the background on Berkeleyside, then see the suggestion from three council members — Worthington, Arreguín and Linda Maio — to move ahead with a reward.
The Berkeley City Council meets Tuesday nights at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Special sessions generally take place at 5:30 p.m. and regular meetings begin at 7 p.m. Council agendas are available online here. Watch the meetings online here.
Berkeleyside often covers council meetings live on Twitter. Others sometimes do the same and the discussion can get spirited. Follow council coverage on Twitter via hashtag #berkmtg. Follow along in real-time here, and tag your tweets with #berkmtg to join in. You do not need a Twitter account to follow along. Just click here.
Council-related Twitter handles:
@LindaMaio (District 1)
Darryl Moore @BerkCouncil (District 2)
@JesseArreguin (District 4)
Laurie Capitelli @berkcap (District 5)
Kriss Worthington @k__worthington (District 7)
Gordon Wozniak @Gordon_Wozniak (District 8)
Learn more about the Berkeley City Council and how to connect with local representatives via the city website.
Has something else on the agenda caught your interest? Let us know in the comments.
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