Affordable housing is one of the biggest concerns in Berkeley, according to recent survey results. Pictured above, Harper Crossing, which broke ground in February.

Affordable housing and homelessness topped the list on a survey of concerns voiced by Berkeley voters polled last week.

Most respondents, 64%, said the city is heading in the right direction, with 62% describing city services as good or excellent, and another 30% as “fair.”

The polling firm was hired by the city to survey 500 voters by phone to test the waters for possible November 2016 ballot measures. The city posted a quick summary of those results this week, and plans to look more closely at them during the April 5 Berkeley City Council meeting.

The Berkeley-based firm Lake Research Partners called registered voters from March 13-17 and questioned those who said they were likely to vote in November.

Top priorities of respondents included affordable housing (22%), homelessness (17%), improving education and schools (14%), and reducing crime (11%).

Drilling down, 79% characterized providing affordable housing as “important,” and 73% identified providing homeless services as such. Sixty-five percent described improving neighborhood and community safety as important.

There was less outright support for improvements to parks, playgrounds and open space; renovating recreation and senior centers; improving shelters for natural disasters; and improving street lighting.

Possible bond measures: Parks, infrastructure, affordable housing

Important issues for Berkeley voters
The most important issues. Source: Lake Research Partners
The most important issues. Source: Lake Research Partners

There was support (61%) for a $500 million bond measure “To finance the construction, development, acquisition, and preservation of housing affordable to low and middle-income individuals and families through programs that will prioritize vulnerable populations throughout Alameda County such as working families, veterans, seniors, homeless, and disabled persons; and to provide for homeownership down payment assistance opportunities for middle-income households.”

Another 18% said they would oppose it, while 21% said they were undecided. All the bond measures, however, need a two-thirds majority vote (67%) to pass. According to the survey, the tax for an average home would be $12 per year per $100,000 in assessed value over 30 years.

Two questions focused on a bond measure for parks and infrastructure. A $100 million bond “to significantly improve the condition of city parks, pools, playgrounds, the Berkeley Marina, and sports facilities across the city” garnered 57% support, with 23% against and 21% undecided. That would cost the average home $96 per year over 35 years. Again, it would need a two-thirds majority to pass.

A $50 million bond “to improve the condition of city parks, pools, playgrounds, and sports facilities across the city,” that would “increase the accessibility and safety of these facilities,” and  “upgrade and repair the city’s recreation and senior centers, so that they can be used as care and shelter facilities after a natural disaster” got 58% support. This less expensive option would also have “a lower level of new funding for deferred maintenance at existing parks and the Berkeley Marina.”

Several council members are working on a possible ballot measure to increase the city’s business license tax on landlords to raise money for new affordable housing units and services for the homeless. Voters were asked whether they would support a $30 per unit monthly tax increase on properties with five or more units, or those with 10 or more units.

There was slightly more support for the former, with 60% in favor compared to 55%. Half of those polled, however, got the first question, and half got the second, so the sample groups were smaller and the margin of error slightly larger (+/- 6.2%) than the questions asked of the full sample size.

Most (67%) said they would support that measure if they knew it would bring in $4 million a year, could add 300 affordable housing units over the next decade, and could also fund emergency rental assistance to Berkeley families to help keep them housed.

School tax, fair elections, AC Transit

The extension of the annual school district special tax, set to expire this year, got 66% in favor, 19% undecided and 15% against.

Most (67%) said they would vote to extend an existing $8 monthly parcel tax for AC Transit.

Voters were split about whether to support a Fair Election fund that would cost the city $500,000 per year from the general fund to “provide publicly financed matching funds for candidates for Mayor and City Council who only accept contributions of 50 dollars of less per donor.” Of those polled, 38% were in favor, 32% were opposed and 30% were undecided.


The vast majority of respondents (69%) said they were registered Democrat, with another 22% identifying no party preference. Just 3% were registered Republican, and another 6% listed “other.”

The same number of voters (34%) described themselves as “progressive” or “liberal” as far as local politics, with another 21% who chose “moderate.”

Where do you get your local news?
Where do you get local news? Source: Lake Research

Eighteen percent of those questioned said Berkeleyside is where they find most of their local news. It was the most frequently chosen from among the options given, which were read out in random order. Berkeleyside was followed by local television stations (13%), social media and “other online news sites” with 11% each, and The San Francisco Chronicle or its website (9%).

According to the brief memo from City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley that precedes the “top line” results, “A detailed analysis of the survey results will be included in a report and presentation” during a work session and regular council meeting April 5.

“This memorandum was prepared in the interest of providing information about the survey results as quickly as possible,” she wrote. “More detail will not be available until the analysis of the results is completed.”

See the full survey. Stay tuned to our 2016 election coverage, which will ramp up later this year.

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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...