Rigel Robinson, the incumbent representing District 7 on the Berkeley City Council, answers questions from Berkeleyside. He’s running unopposed for reelection.
Why are you running?
It has been the privilege of my life to serve you on the Berkeley City Council. In 2018, we ran a historic, student-run campaign. Every day in office since then has made it even more clear to me how important it was that we took that leap. The work goes on. I would be honored to have your vote!
What are your biggest accomplishments?
It’s been a long and challenging four years. Thanks to the vigilance of our community, Berkeley’s COVID death rate remains among the lowest in California. Important work has seen delays during the pandemic, but we are making meaningful progress in District 7.
We are moving forward a zoning update that will encourage significant new density on Southside to address the severe shortage of student housing near campus.
We approved conceptual designs for the Southside Complete Streets project, to bring bus lanes and bike lanes to District 7 streets and the pedestrian plaza redesign of Telegraph Avenue I have been advocating for.
We allocated $14 million to build permanent supportive housing at People’s Park, a historic and urgently needed project in my district, and led the work to provide transitional housing for the residents of People’s Park and support them in their journey to permanent housing.
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?
The housing crisis is the defining challenge of our time as a region. Let’s put our years of notoriety for resistance to new housing behind us — Berkeley can now lead the nation in ending exclusionary zoning and densifying transit-rich neighborhoods. In my first term, I introduced legislation to extract more money for affordable housing from developers and end single-family zoning in Berkeley, while fighting for tenant rights and expansion to rent control to protect current residents.
In the years ahead, I look forward to working to maximize the quantity of affordable housing units at our BART station projects and approving a Housing Element that brings greater density to our transit corridors, key “missing middle” housing across the city, and an influx of student housing around campus.
Berkeley is demonstrating for cities everywhere how to plan for growth while putting equity first.
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?
After moving to Berkeley from St. Louis in 2014, just as the Ferguson Uprising was beginning, some of my first experiences advocating for change here in Berkeley were around the issue of police reform. On the council, I have protected the rights of protesters to peacefully protest, and have introduced measures to redesign the city’s approach to traffic enforcement. We can prioritize the safety of our residents and address important resource needs for our first responders, while also putting in the work to reallocate responsibilities from police that do not need to be performed by armed officers. This is the focus of our ongoing development of the Specialized Care Unit, an initiative I was proud to cosponsor. We are making progress, but we have a long way to go.
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?
The bond measure is our greatest opportunity to build the future we have dreamed of, to fulfill our goals of affordable housing, safe streets, and rich civic infrastructure. We must fully implement our pedestrian and bike plans to eliminate traffic fatalities. Our civic center and marina, gems of the city, will crumble without our help.
New subsidized housing and critical infrastructure improvements have been delivered thanks to Measures O and T1, but we cannot keep up with the need. If you believe in an affordable, sustainable and resilient future for Berkeley, join me in supporting the bond!
Could you share an interesting story or fact about yourself that voters might be surprised to learn about?
My roots in Berkeley go back generations — my great-grandmother was Class of ‘23 at UC Berkeley, that’s 1923. I will be Class of ‘23 too, as I wrap up my master’s degree at UC Berkeley next year!
For fun: What’s your favorite Berkeley grocery store and why?
This is the hardest question! Realizing I could bike to Berkeley Bowl in six minutes changed my life. You can fit a lot in a bike bag! I also love exploring the markets on San Pablo, like Mi Tierra and Middle East Market. My attempts at making ghormeh sabzi get better every time.