Why would a group of Berkeley residents that supports affordable housing, repairing our roads, and reducing wildfire risk oppose a measure that purports to help fund these things? Because Measure L was poorly and hastily drafted and includes a loophole that would allow the $650 million to be spent on virtually any project. Read the fine print, and you will find this phrase:

dollar amounts are estimates … and are not a commitment or guarantee that any specific amounts will be spent on particular projects or categories of projects.

This language guarantees years of arguments over how this money would actually be spent, but does not guarantee affordable housing, responsible repair of our streets, or anything else.

After decades of neglect, we need a responsible street repair program. The city has allocated just $1.95 million annually for roads during the past decade, even as budgets grew to nearly $500 million. Bonds are for investments that will last decades. But roads are not that durable, and this measure would allow bond funding even for repairs that will last for only seven years. We tried that with Measure M and the quality of our roads deteriorated. Roads will have worn out before children entering first grade this year reach high school, but they will be members of AARP before the bonds are paid off in 2070 —including $475 million in interest.

Measure L contains no specific housing plans. In addition to the giant loophole above, the measure does not prioritize housing for our neediest residents. The measure just says that funds can be used for “extremely low, very low, low, and middle income families and individuals.” We have at least $55 million left for affordable housing from Measure O — what we don’t have is any reports on how we have spent that funding or any written plan on how we would spend the additional $200 million that is advertised (but not committed to) in this measure.

We voted for Measures O and P in 2018 because they promised a comprehensive approach to the homeless in Berkeley. Measure O would fund housing, and Measure P would fund the social services necessary to get the unhoused into housing. Yet, in the city’s budget adopted in June, $6 million in funding from Measure P was swept into the general fund, with the following rationale: “… the final budget strategy recommends the use of Measure P for nexus programs typically funded through the General Fund … .” As the Homeless Services Panel of Experts, which the council appointed to oversee Measure P funds, recently wrote, “[t]his flies in the face of the original intent of Measure P.”

Solving our most pressing challenges will require more than just a massive, ill-defined bond; it will require careful planning, commitments, community buy-in and transparent follow-through. Measure L provides none of this.

We must do better to make meaningful progress on housing affordability, infrastructure, and disaster preparedness. We still have both housing bond money and infrastructure funds from Measure T1 that will not be spent in the next four years. And Measures FF and P provide millions yearly for disaster preparedness and homelessness services, respectively. These funds give us ample time to develop clear and specific proposals for the 2024 ballot that are targeted to our problems and include robust oversight to be sure promises are kept.

Visit http://berkeleyansforbetterplanning.org/ and help us spread the word and develop a better measure for 2024. In the meantime, vote No on Measure L this November.

Jim McGrath is a former Parks and Waterfront Commission and Public Works Commissioner and ran the campaigns for Measures F and T1. Nancy Rader serves on the city of Berkeley’s Disaster and Fire Safety Commission. Laurie Capitelli is a former Berkeley Councilmember and current member of the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Commission. Carla Woodworth is a former Berkeley Councilmember. Alex Sharenko is an engineer and former city of Berkeley Housing Advisory, Zero Waste, and Labor Commissioner.

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.

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See complete 2022 election coverage on Berkeleyside.