Photo by Melati Citrawireja
The Berkeley City Council meets tonight, Oct. 27, at Old City Hall. Photo: Melati Citrawireja

It’s no secret that the city has been struggling to come up with solutions to Berkeley’s housing crunch, and that issue will be front and center at the Oct. 27 council meeting tonight. There are a total of 11 housing-related items on the consent and action calendars. Our guide to the items is below. There’s also a special session before the regular meeting that is focused on street repaving and watershed improvements funded by Measure M.

The special session

STREET PAVING, GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE Beginning at 5:30 p.m., council will get an update on Measure M, the streets and watershed funding approved by voters in November 2012. According to the staff report, by the end of the year, 17 miles of Berkeley streets will have been paved since fall 2013, when council approved its 5-year Measure M plan. That paving is estimated to cost $14 million by the end of the year, $7 million of which is from Measure M. By the end of fiscal year 2018, according to the report, 51 miles — or nearly a quarter of the city’s street network — will have been repaved. (The city has 216 total lane miles, according to staff.) The paving is estimated to cost $43 million, including $22 million from Measure M and several other sources, including Measure BB money. The staff report also includes a description of 16 “green infrastructure” projects that are part of Measure M and aimed “to reduce localized flooding and improve water quality.” Read the staff report.

STREAMLINED PERMIT PROCESS Councilman Kriss Worthington has asked the city manager to create an ordinance that would “streamline the permit process for housing projects with a majority or more affordable units if it includes at least 20 percent of units at 50% AMI.” See the item.

REPEAL COSTA-HAWKINS Councilman Jesse Arreguín has asked council to adopt a resolution that would ask the state legislature and governor to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. That 1995 legislation, according to Arreguín, allows “a property owner to establish a new rental rate for each new tenancy, allowing unlimited increases upon vacancy.” According to Arreguín, “Costa-Hawkins has resulted in ‘unwarranted’ rent increases, creating significant windfall profits for owners, while exacerbating the regional housing crisis.” Arreguín cites figures from the Rent Board, noting that “prior to the full implementation of Costa-Hawkins in 1999, the average rent was $814. This increased to an average rent of $1,602 in 2013.” See the item.

ORDINANCE PREVENTING EVICTIONS Council members Worthington, Arreguín and Max Anderson say Berkeley needs stronger protections in place to prevent evictions “for minor offenses.” According to their item, San Francisco has recently put more protections in place for tenants, and Berkeley should consider taking a similar approach. See the item.

SUPPORT FOR INCLUSIONARY HOUSING LAWS Councilman Worthington has asked council to request that legislators bring back, at the state level, the issue of inclusionary housing laws. According to his item, “In 2009, the Palmer decision limited 170 cities across California, including Berkeley, from utilizing this feature of inclusionary zoning laws. In 2013, the Assembly and Senate passed AB 1229 which would have legislatively reversed this negative impact of the Palmer decision.” That bill, however, was vetoed. Worthington is hoping council will ask Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond to bring back similar legislation. This would, wrote Worthington, “benefit many low income families by giving them a chance to find affordable housing.” See the item.

Housing items on the action calendar

$1M LOAN TO HOUSING TRUST FUND Council members Worthington and Anderson have asked the city to loan $1 million to its Housing Trust Fund to build more affordable housing in Berkeley. They write: “Today, we continue to have an affordable housing crisis. Therefore, the City must make significant and sustained efforts to develop and maintain affordable rental units.” They made a similar request in April, but it did not pan out.

MATCH FEDERAL HOUSING TRUST FUND DOLLARS Councilman Worthington has asked the city to commit to match grant funding that could come to Berkeley from a national Housing Trust Fund. That fund will begin making money available to local jurisdictions in 2016, according to the item. The financial implications to the city are listed as “unknown.” See the action calendar item.

GREEN AFFORDABLE HOUSING PACKAGE This proposal from Councilwoman Lori Droste asks the city manager and the Planning Commission to consider two new policies “as ways to reduce barriers for the creation of affordable housing.” The first would “prioritize housing over parking” and is aimed at reducing parking requirements in new developments that are near transit, include car-share spots or meet other criteria. The second piece of the package would streamline the city’s review process for new developments, “particularly for permanently affordable housing and smaller residential housing proposals.” Read the proposal, and past Berkeleyside coverage related to affordable housing and development.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING ACTION PLAN Councilman Worthington has suggested the creation of an “Affordable Housing Action Plan” that would have the city’s Housing Advisory Commission and Rent Stabilization Board consider 27 housing proposals, including some of the items listed above, such as the $1 million loan to the city’s Housing Trust Fund and a commitment to match national Housing Trust Fund dollars. See the item.

NEW APPROACH TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING MONEY? Councilman Worthington has asked the city to change its approach to “predevelopment funds” related to affordable housing projects, which he says would send “a clear message to our local affordable housing producers that we will actively assist in facilitating their efforts.” According to Worthington, the city is not being proactive enough in its efforts to get grant dollars: “If Berkeley does not take action, we run the risk of missing out on multiple regional, state and federal funding cycles which Berkeley could apply if we had affordable housing funding applications eligible within the limited time deadlines.” See the item.

BUILDING SAFETY In July, council voted unanimously to require periodic inspections of all existing weather-exposed exterior building elements, including balconies, stairs and decks. Those elements now need to be inspected every three years. The new policies followed the deadly balcony collapse in June that killed six and injured seven in downtown Berkeley. Tonight council is slated to take the second vote, which ratifies the new ordinance, though it went into effect immediately because it was an “urgency ordinance.” See the ordinance.

RENTAL HOUSING SAFETY PROGRAM REVISIONS Councilman Arreguín has put forward a proposal to revise the city’s existing Rental Housing Safety Program, which he says would improve housing safety in Berkeley. The 8-point package includes a range of ideas: increasing the fines for non-compliance; identifying mold and mildew as a public nuisance; allowing for confidential housing code complaints; stepping up proactive inspections on problem properties with a history of complaints; and more. According to the item, on Oct. 8, the city’s Rent Board Habitability Committee voted unanimously in favor of the proposal. See it here.

Other items on of interest the agenda

The next council meeting is Nov. 3.

Meeting details

Follow live tweets of the Berkeley Council meeting by clicking the image above. Join in by tagging your tweets #berkmtg.
Follow live tweets of the Berkeley Council meeting by clicking the image above. Join in by tagging your tweets #berkmtg.

Berkeleyside often covers council meetings live on Twitter. Others sometimes do the same and the discussion can get spirited. See council coverage on Twitter marked with #berkmtg. Follow along in real-time, and tag your tweets with #berkmtg to join in.The Berkeley City Council meets Tuesday nights at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The special session starts at 5:30 p.m. and the regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. Council agendas are available online here. Watch the meetings online here.

You do not need a Twitter account to follow along. Just click here.

Council-related Twitter handles:
@MayorTomBates (Mayor)
@LindaMaio (District 1)
Darryl Moore @BerkCouncil (District 2)
@JesseArreguin (District 4)
Laurie Capitelli @berkcap (District 5)
Kriss Worthington @k__worthington (District 7)
Lori Droste @loridroste (District 8)

Learn more about the Berkeley City Council and how to connect with local representatives via the city website.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...