Update, 4:39 p.m. At a special meeting that took fewer than 10 minutes the City Council authorized the $800,000 home loan for City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley. The vote was unanimous but four council members were absent.
Williams-Ridley, appointed city manager in March 2016 after a short stint as deputy manager, currently commutes from Sacramento. Her contract entitles her to a loan with a 3% interest rate for purchasing a house within a 10-mile radius of Berkeley.
“Recognizing the burden and expense of relocating her family from the Sacramento area, the contract provided for a housing loan,” today’s agenda item says.
According to the item, which is sponsored by Mayor Jesse Arreguín, the $800,000 amount is based on house prices in Berkeley and the large difference between prices here and in Sacramento.
The loan, which would come out of the city’s general fund, supplements Williams-Ridley’s $267,648 salary. She has already made offers on homes in the area, according to the item.
“City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley considers the move very important to her interest in being more available to the Berkeley community and being able to attend more community events,” said Matthai Chakko, a spokesman for Berkeley.
It is common for cities, including Walnut Creek, Palo Alto and others in the Bay Area, to provide relocation assistance to senior employees so they can live near their place of work. Oakland also has a program offering loans to public safety employees and teachers buying a home for the first time. If authorized, Williams-Ridley’s home loan would not be the first given to a Berkeley staff member.
In 2009, the City Council gave Michael Meehan, then Berkeley’s new police chief, a $500,000, 3% loan, which helped him to buy a house in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood.
That loan drew attention when it came out that then-Councilman Lauri Capitelli may have benefited from the sale of the house.
Capitelli brokered the sale for Red Oak Realty, where he had previously been a partner, and received a $5,925 payment. It had previously, and erroneously according to Capitelli, been reported that the councilman had worked as Meehan’s agent and had received a much larger commission. Capitelli donated the fee he received to charity to assuage any ethical concerns. He denied any allegations of ethical misconduct.
Meehan resigned in September 2016 and the City Council is set to appoint Andrew Greenwood, interim chief, to the position tonight.
The special meeting on the home loan begins at 4:30 p.m., followed by another special meeting at 5 p.m. on the city’s employee benefits liabilities and park improvement projects. Highlights on the agenda for the regular meeting, which starts at 7 p.m., include the continued zoning appeal for 2902 Adeline Street, the Pathways Program homelessness plan, resolutions to replace the Board of Library Trustees and an ordinance on gender pay equity for city staff and contractors.
The City Council meets at Old City Hall at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.