Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board candidate Andy Kelley. Courtesy: Kelley campaign

Name: Andy Kelley, 34, environmental and climate change advocate

What office/district are you are running for? Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board commissioner

What is the main reason you are running? Berkeley is facing record-high rents and rising unemployment. Too many of our neighbors are in danger of being displaced, too many homeowners are struggling to pay their mortgages, and relief from our federal government is coming too slowly. There has never been a more important time to have dedicated, community-minded members of the rent board to act with compassion, equity, and understanding. I’m running for rent board because housing is a human right and if we don’t act with diligence Berkeley could see record high evictions, foreclosures, and so many of our neighbors forced from their homes. If elected, I will be a voice for working families, students, seniors, and our diverse communities. I’d be honored to earn your vote.

Why are you qualified? I’ve been a tenant in Berkeley for over 15 years. I know what it is like to live in dorms, in a small apartment complex, to have a corporate property manager, and to rent from a mom and pop. In 2018, I served as co-chair of Berkeley’s successful Measure O&P campaigns which raised $135 million for affordable housing and services to prevent homelessness in our community. I currently serve as Keith Carson’s appointee to the Alameda County Planning Commission where I have been an outspoken advocate for affordable housing and walkable communities. I’m a past chair of the Berkeley Public Works Commission and am familiar with Robert’s Rules, seeking public comment, and making meetings accessible to the public. I’m ready to get to work on day one to serve our community fairly and equitably.

What sets you apart from other candidates? I have a proven track record of building coalitions and working across differences. In a city whose politics can often prove divisive, I have the distinction of being endorsed by Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Former Vice Mayor Linda Maio, all 8 City Councilmembers, the entire School Board, and 12 current and former Rent Board Commissioners. I love our city and have spent the past decade working to make it a better, more affordable place to live. I don’t have any financial interest to profit off at the Rent Board — I’m running to be a strong voice for working families, to fight for fairness, and to increase access and accountability.

I’m honored to be nominated by the Berkeley Tenants Convention — a diverse coalition of over 1,000 tenants, landlords, and homeowners — to be an advocate for Berkeley’s most vulnerable residents. My top 3 priorities are: improve outreach, increase accessibility, and support affordable housing and programs to keep struggling residents housed. I’m endorsed by the Sierra Club, Democratic and Green Party, Alameda Labor Council, Berkeley Firefighters, Berkeley Tenants Union, Berkeley, Wellstone, and Stonewall Democratic Clubs, BCA, BPA, East Bay DSA, Friends of Adeline, SEIU 1021 and Cal Berkeley Democrats.

What brought you to Berkeley and when did you come? I spent my summers in the East Bay at my grandparents’ house in Concord riding BART to visit Telegraph and Lake Merritt. When I was accepted to Cal, it was a welcome opportunity to be near family. I immediately fell in love with the Berkeley community, our diversity and embrace of the differences that make our city wonderful. After coming out in college and finding such a close-knit and supportive LGBT community, I decided to stay in my adopted home town. I’d be honored to serve the city I love.

What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years?
1. Access to affordable housing. Too many seniors, students, and working families are being priced out of Berkeley.
2. Recovering from COVID equitably. The pandemic has forced many beloved restaurants and local businesses to shutter. Too many residents are at risk of losing their homes and being displaced.
3. Risk of wildfires. Climate change is here. Its impacts were just seen in orange skies and awful air quality that trapped many of us in our homes.

What are your ideas to begin to solve them? As a co-chair of the Measures O & P campaign, I helped secure $135 million in funding for affordable housing and homelessness prevention. We can leverage the new buildings being constructed in order to secure additional units of affordable housing. But new units are only part of the equation. We need to create incentives for landlords to convert current, especially older, market-rate properties into permanently affordable units. One possible pathway could be exempting properties that choose to voluntarily reduce rents from paying a portion of their current property taxes.

With so many tenants and homeowners in danger of losing their homes, we must act to prevent our neighbors from being displaced. In addition to protecting tenants unable to pay rent from eviction, we need to help homeowners and landlords in danger of not paying their mortgages. One option could be for the city to provide zero-interest lifeline loans to help property owners stem off foreclosure until meaningful relief can come from the state.

Reducing wildfire danger is key. As public works chair, I was a signatory for Measure T1 to fund vital infrastructure repairs and want to see it implemented. I fought for funding to reduce fire danger in our community and retrofit our Senior Centers as seismically safe emergency shelters. I’m supporting Measure FF to provide crucial funds for wildfire prevention and emergency response. I’m proud to be the only candidate for rent board endorsed by Berkeley firefighters.

What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? With construction slowed down by COVID, now is an ideal time to invest in affordable housing, but we lack the necessary funding to meet current needs. I propose the city investigate the option to pass a bond measure to fund affordable housing now that would be paid back by future in-lieu fees paid on new construction. There would be no increased costs to developers or residents, but it could allow us to access 30 years of affordable housing fees and matching funds decades sooner.

How will you be accessible to constituents? I promise to always be accessible. I will hold regular office hours, meet with stakeholders, and make myself available to community members. My email and phone number are listed and easily accessible on my website. As part of my campaign I’m conducting a call for ideas from tenants and homeowners on how we can improve the Berkeley rent board together. Berkeleyside readers can share their ideas and suggestions with me here:

How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $10,000

Share a personal interest or passion people might be surprised to learn about. I absolutely love to cook, especially for family and friends. In fact, I considered going to culinary school more than once. It’s relaxing and makes me feel like I’m back in my grandma’s kitchen. Plus there is nothing quite like making people who you care about smile. I especially love learning traditional methods and recipes for making dishes from around the globe. I’ve never been able to travel much, so getting to taste and understand foods from different parts of the world is very powerful to me. The sometimes unexpected combinations can be wonderful. Food has the power to uplift and inspire, and with days like today finding the 30 minutes to shut out the rest of the world, listen to some good music, and practice self-care is key.

Learn more about Andy Kelley online: WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram

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