Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison is not facing any challengers for her District 4 seat representing Central Berkeley. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside, CatchLight

Berkeleyside wants to help you get to know your 2022 candidates for Berkeley City Council, School Board, Rent Stabilization Board and more. That’s why we’re publishing questionnaires with local candidates.

A Q&A with Kate Harrison, who’s running unopposed for the District 4 City Council seat representing Central Berkeley, follows. We asked all City Council candidates why they were running and what they’ve accomplished, and to spell out their views on housing, public safety, and the $650 million bond measure on the ballot this year.

See all of Berkeleyside’s 2022 election coverage. We’ll continue to publish more stories on the key Berkeley races and ballot initiatives to help readers make informed decisions about the potential leaders and policies that could help shape Berkeley’s future.

Click the questions below to see Harrison’s answers.

Why are you running?

I am running for re-election to continue advocating for my constituents and writing and passing progressive policies in the areas of affordable housing, public safety, labor rights, and the climate.

What are your biggest accomplishments?

My biggest accomplishments are in four areas: climate, infrastructure, affordable housing and public safety, all centering equity. I upgraded our electricity to 100% clean energy while protecting low-income customers and used federal ARPA dollars to create the Electrification Fund so low-income residents can make their homes safer and climate-resilient. I spearheaded large increases in General Fund dollars for our roads, parks, the Marina and buildings and ensured funds are spent equitably in the parts of town with greatest need. I wrote and passed Berkeley’s model city-sanctioned encampment that has provided shelter, social services, RV parking, and meals for unhoused community members while making our streets safer and cleaner. Finally, I championed fair and impartial policing and wrote the successful 2020 charter amendment creating an independent civilian Police Accountability Board.

Berkeley’s median home sale price is now over $1.6 million, while rising rent prices are leading everyone from students to longtime residents wondering if they can afford a future here. What are the most important steps the City Council should take to address Berkeley’s severe shortage of affordable housing? How should your district balance the needs of current and future residents as the city grows?

We need to use the affordable housing we have as well as build more. I wrote this November’s Empty Homes Tax to incentivize renting housing units left empty and unimproved for more than 182 days. We should demand and help fund the maximum amount of economically feasible affordable housing at our BART stations. I increased the fee for affordable housing to a level supported by a city-sponsored economic study and fought hard for $1 million for purchasing small sites to keep existing apartment buildings affordable. Reducing construction costs is also key, which is why I [supported] the University Avenue Step-Up modular housing project and legislation to allow other less expensive forms of housing (e.g., tiny homes). In my district, I was a strong voice advocating for Berkeley Way and Jordan Court for formerly unhoused people along transit corridors. This needs to happen across the city.

What should the council do to improve public safety and policing in Berkeley? What changes, if any, should be made to the city’s approach to policing?

I am committed to our police doing what they do best — fight and investigate crime — and community policing to bring officers closer to the community. To that end, I secured $400,000 for bicycle and pedestrian patrols in the Downtown and Telegraph and funded civilian community service officers. I coauthored measures for alternatives — a Special Care Unit for non-violent mental health crises and civilians to address homelessness and minor code violations — for some of the 80% of calls for non-violent incidents that consume over half of police time. We also added dispatchers to the police department to equip them to correctly direct calls and I sponsored a study of the best placements for people to stop the revolving door. My carefully crafted policy about use of force and searches will also reduce the wildly disparate impact of the criminal justice system on people or color and poor people.

Should Berkeley voters support the proposed $650 million infrastructure and affordable housing bond? If the measure passes, what will be your priorities for how that money is spent?

Yes. Our infrastructure/affordable housing deficits didn’t occur in a day or a decade and will only grow worse without the bond measure. On council, I demanded that bond funds be used for long-term capital improvements, not maintenance (the council subsequently allocated $8 million/year in existing funds for paving maintenance), decisions be transparently made with community input, climate resilience and adaptation be considered in all capital projects and developers and businesses share in the burden through appropriate fees so that capital expenditures are not borne solely by residents.

Could you share an interesting story or fact about yourself that voters might be surprised to learn about?

My professional career focuses on enhancing the rule of law around the world, including in Africa, Asia and countries formerly in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. This has given me an abiding love of people and a deep appreciation for differences that helps me every day in serving Berkeley.

For fun: What’s your favorite Berkeley grocery store and why?

Alex’s on Sacramento. Somehow in that tiny space they have absolutely everything I need and things I didn’t realize but discovered I wanted. It is unfortunate that much of Berkeley is a food desert without available fresh food.

Watch forums with City Council candidates

Harrison attended a forum hosted by the Berkeley Neighborhoods Council. Watch a recording of the forum.

See a full list of candidate forums in Berkeley.

The deadline to register to vote online or by mail in Alameda County is Oct. 24, and the election is Tuesday, Nov. 8. We put together a guide to the essentials of how to register and vote, what’s on the ballot, voters’ rights and more.

Here are some other helpful election resources:

See complete 2022 election coverage on Berkeleyside.

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