Kate Harrison: running for City Council. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Kate Harrison: running for City Council. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The race to replace City Councilman Jesse Arreguín formally began Wednesday when Kate Harrison held a press conference in front of old City Hall to announce her candidacy for the District 4 seat. She was surrounded by a group of officials and activists who had helped elect Arreguín to the mayor’s office, a move that ushered in a more liberal City Council.

Arreguín, on his last day as the District 4 City Councilman, introduced Harrison, who has served on the Housing Advisory Commission, the Parks Commission, the Waterfront Commission and is a co-founder of the Berkeley Progressive Alliance.

“Kate is an experienced public policy professional,” said Arreguín. “She is overqualified to be on the Berkeley City Council having worked for (San Francisco) Mayor Art Agnos, having served as a consultant for not just cities but counties and nations. She has a wealth of public administration experience and will hit the ground running as an effective representative for District 4 and for Berkeley.”

Ben Gould, a UC Berkeley graduate student who ran for mayor in the November election, has also said he will run for the District 4 seat and plans to make a formal announcement soon. City Councilwomen Susan Wengraf and Lori Droste have endorsed Gould, who also chairs the Community Environmental Advisory Commission.

Brianna Rogers, a UC Berkeley student who also sits on the Children, Youth and Recreation Commission, had also been thinking about running, but she said Wednesday that she thinks she should focus on finishing college instead of launching a campaign.

The special election to replace Arreguín happens on March 7.

“Why am I running?” said Harrison, 58. “To continue the progressive movement started in Berkeley. Berkeley embraced a progressive agenda, not just a set of policy ideas, not just a bunch of policy prescriptions, but an idea of who is in charge of the city. Is it private developers? Is it private interests? Or is it us? And who is us? Us is not just the wealthy, the well-housed, people who were born here, people who have the resources to make their way in society. Us is it all of us? And I’m really interested in making sure we expand that idea of us as an inclusive us.”

Harrison has repeatedly pointed out that, while she respects Arreguín, she is not his clone. For example, she opposed his efforts in 2014 to push Measure R, which would have added new requirements to the Downtown Area Plan. Measure R lost by a resounding percentage.

Harrison said she is not anti-development, nor does she advocate no development. She is in favor of “city, not developer-driven development.” Harrison said instead of waiting for developers to come forward with ideas for tall building, the city should figure out what it wants and tell the development community, thereby helping developers create projects with community benefits that the city has identified as important. She also wants to get residents involved earlier in the planning process, she said.

Kate Harrison announced her candidacy for the District 4 seat on Wednesday. Mayor-elect Jesse Arreguín has endorsed her. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Kate Harrison (center, holding notebook) announced her candidacy for the Berkeley City Council District 4 seat on Nov. 30, 2016. Mayor-elect Jesse Arreguín (left of Harrison) has endorsed her. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Harrison is married to Jim Hendry, one of two Berkeley residents who filed a lawsuit challenging the EIR prepared for 2211 Harold Way, a 302-unit project that the City Council approved in December 2015. (The suit was dismissed.) However, Harrison said his actions do not mean she is opposed to tall buildings. Hendry had not questioned the height or scope of the project, but rather the financial pro-forma the city used to determine the community benefits package. Moreover, her husband acts independently of her, said Harrison.

Harrison said her priorities would be to increase the availability of affordable housing, improve the city’s green infrastructure, increase public participation, and ensure that small businesses thrive. She pointed out that she is a small-business owner. She owns and runs Kate Harrison Consulting, a public-sector consulting firm.

“I am concerned about our small downtown business owners in this district and making sure they can remain vibrant here,” she said.

Harrison is also interested in establishing vacancy fees on unrented retail spaces; limiting chain retail stores; bringing more young people onto commissions; ensuring an equitable distribution of park and recreation facilities; and fixing the “broken” planning process, according to her website.

The crowd that came out to support Harrison included former Mayor Gus Newport, who said his good friend, the actor Danny Glover, also endorsed Harrison. Newport said he intended to reach out to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, too, for an endorsement. (Sanders is talking in Berkeley on Friday Dec. 2 at Zellerbach Hall at 2:00 p.m.)

Others who attended included Alejandro Soto-Vigil, a Rent Board Commissioner who is leaving his position as aide to City Councilman Kriss Worthington to become Arreguín’s senior advisor; John Selawsky, a Rent Board commissioner and former member of the school board; Pam Webster, a member of the Rent Board; Jacquelyn McCormick, who ran Arreguín’s campaign and will now serve as a senior advisor to the mayor; Stefan Elgstrand, who worked for Arreguín while he was a City Councilman and who will now be an assistant to the mayor; Rob Wrenn, the co-founder of the Berkeley Progressive Alliance and a former Planning Commissioner; Moni Law, a community activist who works for the Rent Board; and others involved in the political process, including Zippy Collins and Diana Bohn.

Sophie Hahn and Ben Bartlett, who will be sworn into the City Council Thursday, have also endorsed Harrison.

Harrison has engaged the San Francisco political firm Adriel Hampton to help with her campaign, although she said there will be a strong grassroots component as well.

Ed: A correction was made after publication to this story to clarify that Linda Maio has not endorsed Ben Gould.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...