Donations from organized labor have driven a surge in fundraising for two measures on the Berkeley ballot this fall.

A prominent San Francisco housing figure has also gotten involved in one of the measures, a push to tax vacant homes, while a local developer’s contribution to the other measure, a $650 million housing and infrastructure bond, is drawing scrutiny from opponents.

Berkeleyside is tracking spending on local races ahead of the 2022 election. As ballots arrive in voters’ mailboxes, here’s a look at some of the players in the campaigns for measures L and M.

Measure L backers cut big checks

As September drew to a close, the campaigns for and against Measure L, which would raise money to build affordable housing and repave streets, weren’t all that far apart in fundraising. Campaign finance reports showed the yes side, “Committee for an Affordable and Resilient Berkeley,” had raised $17,745 as of the Sept. 24 cut-off date, while the opposition group, “Berkeleyans for Better Planning,” hauled in $11,619.

Since then, though, over $130,000 has poured into the Yes committee’s coffers, most of which came from local unions in the building trades.

The No campaign hasn’t reported any donations over $1,000 in that time, and smaller contributions won’t be disclosed until the next filing deadline on Oct. 22.

The largest single contribution to the Yes campaign was a $50,000 donation from the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association Local Union No. 104 Issues Committee on Sept. 27. Political committees for Construction and General Laborers Local 304 and Operating Engineers Local 3 have given $10,000 and $25,000, respectively, this week.

There are no contribution limits for ballot measures, unlike campaigns for offices such as city council and mayor. Donors in those races can’t give more than $250, or $60 if the candidate is using public financing.

Related story

Affordable housing groups have also been major supporters of the Yes campaign. The Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California gave $15,000 on Wednesday, which followed another $15,000 contribution from Resources for Community Development, a Berkeley affordable housing developer. Mary McDonald, the treasurer of the Bay Area Community Land Trust, which has partnered with the city on affordable housing acquisitions, chipped in $2,500 last week.

A limited liability company tied to developer Patrick Kennedy also gave $15,000 to the Yes campaign last week.

Opponents of the measure have sought to highlight that donation, issuing a press release Tuesday that calls it into question because Kennedy is seeking city approval for several housing developments around Berkeley. The No campaign called for the measure’s proponents to return the donation and “stop soliciting money from companies with business pending before the City Council.” The Yes side gave no indication it would return the money when asked for a response; Ray Yep, who chaired the city’s Vision 2050 Task Force, wrote in a statement that “Measure L is backed by a massive community coalition.”

Aside from those donations, the Yes campaign has also gotten support from city officials past and present: Former councilmember Gordon Wozniak has contributed $8,045, Councilmember Sophie Hahn gave $8,000 and Mayor Jesse Arreguín gave $1,000. Berkeley Federation of Teachers has given $1,000 as well.

The opposition group has received $1,179 from former parks commissioner Jim McGrath and $1,000 from former councilmember Laurie Capitelli, among other donations.

Vacancy tax Measure M gets support

The campaign to pass Measure M, the proposed vacant homes tax, raised $6,373 ahead of the Sept. 24 filing deadline.

The Yerba Buena Consortium LLC, a subsidiary of the San Francisco-based Tenants and Owners Development Corp., contributed $1,000 to the effort. The housing nonprofit is run by John Elberling, a frequent donor to housing-related initiatives and a lightning rod in that city’s political sphere.

Since the filing deadline, Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents more than 500 city of Berkeley employees, has given $15,000 to the measure.

Other donors to “Make Housing Available in Berkeley — Yes on M” include activist Margot Smith, who gave $1,000, and Councilmember Kate Harrison, who gave $250.

The measure is not facing any organized opposition.

Nico Savidge joined Berkeleyside in 2021 as a senior reporter covering city hall. Born and raised in Berkeley, he got his start in journalism at Youth Radio as a high-schooler in the mid-2000s. Since then,...