Name: Ben Gould
Job: Graduate student researcher
What is the main reason you are running? I’m running for City Council because I believe in Berkeley’s future and the future of our Downtown. We should have an elected representative who understands the experiences of everyone living in the district, and that believes that better times for our City lie ahead, not behind. As someone who was born and raised here, I love Berkeley; and I will work tirelessly to ensure it will become more affordable, inclusive, and sustainable. I will bring a fresh perspective to City Council and ensure we have a range of perspectives when making decisions that affect future generations.
Why are you qualified for the position? The diversity and depth of my expertise and experience make me uniquely qualified to serve as District 4’s City Councilmember, and ensures I will hit the ground running. I am currently finishing two Masters degrees, in Public Policy and in Environmental Engineering, at UC Berkeley; I’ve spent years working as a policy analyst; and before that, I was an engineer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. I was born in Berkeley, went to Berkeley public schools, and graduated from Berkeley High, so I’ve witnessed Berkeley’s promise and its challenges. I’ve worked hard to meet these challenges, building a wide-ranging record of progressive victories and service in Berkeley. On the UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly, I fought for – and won – access to LGBT-inclusive health care for all students. As Chair of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission, I fought for the health of our children and our soil against lead poisoning, and I developed green building and indoor air quality standards. I have also served on the Housing Advisory Commission, the Zoning Adjustments Board, and the Police Review Commission. I will draw on my exceptional qualifications to craft and implement workable, progressive solutions to help our city rise to its challenges.
What sets you apart from other candidates? My lived experience, my positive vision for Berkeley’s future, and my fact-based approach to policymaking.
I am a graduate student living in Downtown, and was born and raised in Berkeley. I understand the challenges faced not only by families and homeowners, but also by renters and young people. My opponent moved here when rents were affordable and hasn’t grappled firsthand with our housing crisis.
I believe that creating more housing across all income levels is essential to keeping Berkeley vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive. My opponent, on the other hand, is more concerned with erecting bureaucratic hurdles than building housing; and has even disregarded independent economic analyses in her opposition to new housing Downtown. I will fight to create housing that gives students, young people, and low- and moderate-income families an equal opportunity to call Berkeley home.
I am a pragmatic progressive. I am driven by values of fairness, equity, and social justice; and my decision-making will be grounded in data, realism, and the perspectives of constituents. I’ve been endorsed by Dan Kammen, Distinguished Professor of Energy; and Professor Karen Chapple, head of the Urban Displacement Project, because they believe I am the best candidate to translate policy ideas into practice.
How did you end up in Berkeley? Berkeley has always been my home. I was born at Alta Bates Hospital, and attended Berkeley public schools from kindergarten through Berkeley High School. I went to UC San Diego for my undergraduate degree, but soon after arriving I realized I love Berkeley too much to stay away for long. Just days after graduating, I moved back to Berkeley, got an engineering job at Lawrence Berkeley Lab and an apartment in Downtown, and haven’t regretted it once. I’m proud to now be completing my graduate degrees at UC Berkeley, and looking forward to continuing to work to improve my community.
What are the three biggest challenges Berkeley faces in the near future? The three biggest challenges that Berkeley faces are housing affordability, homelessness, and resiliency.
Berkeley faces an unprecedented housing crisis. For students, seniors, teachers, nurses, low-income families, and too many others, finding housing they can afford is near impossible. Rapid job creation throughout the Bay Area is bringing in new workers faster than we are creating housing. The resulting shortage enables landlords to rent or sell only to the very highest bidders, leaving everyone else struggling to find homes they can afford. This is a regional issue, but there is still a lot we can do in Berkeley to help alleviate the problem.
The severity of homelessness in Berkeley is a product of both the crisis of housing affordability and insufficient social and mental health services. Homelessness was a problem before the current housing crisis, but a shortage of affordable housing has exacerbated the problem. Involuntary homelessness is an extraordinary struggle for those who experience it, and it also puts stress on our civic resources, including our public spaces, business districts, and City budget and staff. However, with new funding, implementation of best practices, and regional coordination, we can better help our homeless neighbors secure the housing and care they need.
Lastly, we need to ensure Berkeley is a resilient community able to weather economic downturns, a changing climate, and higher infrastructure demands. Berkeley has over $500 million in deferred maintenance and needed capital improvements. We need to tackle these infrastructure needs to ensure the City runs smoothly and is prepared for natural disasters. Berkeley must also strive to meet its climate change prevention and adaptation goals by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, conserving water, and increasing the share of energy we use from renewable sources. Finally, we have to achieve all of this within a realistic and responsible budget.
What are your ideas to solve them? Housing affordability, homelessness, and resiliency are closely intertwined, and I am determined to tackle them comprehensively on the City Council.
To preserve our values of diversity, inclusiveness, and opportunity while addressing this housing shortage, I want to pursue an array of policies and build more housing for people at all income levels, focused along transit corridors. I will defend Berkeley’s tenant protections and push for improved zoning that establishes clear, consistent requirements, to encourage the creation of housing that meets high but achievable affordability and environmental standards. Our commercial and transit corridors offer ample opportunities for new housing that will help us achieve our affordability goals and enhance Berkeley’s community fabric, so we can do all of this while continuing to respect Berkeley’s architectural heritage and diverse neighborhoods.
This affordable housing is needed as part of a regional housing-first approach to addressing the root causes of homelessness. I will focus on expanding upon the success of the City’s Homeless Coordinated Entry (the “Hub”) by funding programs with a track record of success, reducing duplicative services, and strengthening a continuum of care. I will pursue creative solutions to provide housing for the homeless, including micro-units, tiny homes, and public-private partnerships. I will stand firmly against criminalizing homelessness, but encampments are not an acceptable solution – we need to keep our public spaces clean, safe, and welcoming for everyone.
To make our community more resilient, I want to focus on repairing and upgrading our infrastructure, adapting to a changing climate, and improving our City’s financial situation. By encouraging economic development and adopting more cost-effective budgeting, we can improve our City’s financial position to achieve other goals. I would also prioritize upgrading our electrical grid, roadways, and stormwater systems, to prepare Berkeley for natural disasters and ensure a more sustainable future.
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? Reactivating Berkeley’s Civic Center as a focal point for the community to come together and connect with their City government.
How will you be accessible to constituents? I will hold regular office hours at coffee shops around District 4, semi-regular hours at the Downtown Farmers’ Market, and by appointment. I will respond to emails and phone calls within 24 hours, and will send out a monthly newsletter. Lastly, I will also actively reach out to the community, to get input and feedback on issues facing Berkeley and to remain up-to-date on the experiences of every resident.
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? I expect to raise over $20,000 for my campaign.
A final thought? I would be honored to serve my neighbors in District 4 and across Berkeley as your representative on City Council. I am fortunate and thankful that Berkeley has been my home my entire life, and I want to ensure Berkeley is a place that is welcoming and affordable for all so that others can have the same opportunities to live here that I have had. You can learn more at www.bengould.org, on social media @BGould4Berkeley, or by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I hope to earn your vote when you mail your ballot before March 7.
Learn more about Ben Gould on his website. Voters may return their ballot by mail or drop them off in the permanent ballot box in front of 2180 Milvia St. Voters have until Feb. 20 to register, in person or online. Residents who don’t know which district they are in can use a district locator provided by the city of Berkeley. No postage is necessary to return the ballot.