Beyond Measure S

CITY AFFAIRS: Following the failure of Berkeley’s proposed ban on sitting on commercial sidewalks, solutions to homelessness are still needed.

When Berkeley voters were weighing whether to approve Measure S, we hoped the ballot initiative would fail and force the local community to come up with better solutions to combat homelessness. Now, that moment has arrived.

The measure, which would have prohibited sitting on commercial sidewalks in Berkeley during certain hours, failed. But the results still indicate that there are many Berkeley residents who are dissatisfied with the level of homelessness in the city and want it to change somehow. Nearly 48 percent of voters approved the measure, and many of those who voted against it likely still wanted to see homelessness decrease in some way.

Berkeley City Council must bring the community together for a thorough discussion about what can be done in place of Measure S. Any such discussion should focus on getting homeless individuals to the services they need. Councilmember Jesse Arreguin’s intention to put the issue before the council next month is a good start, but a more comprehensive dialogue will be necessary.

Mayor Tom Bates, who strongly supported Measure S during the election, should not quit attempting to address the issue of homelessness just because that plan failed. During his re-election campaign, he also said he wanted to work on revitalizing Telegraph Avenue, where homelessness is rampant. Bates would be smart to start there, as decreasing homelessness on Telegraph is related to the overall need for turning the area around economically — the area has potential to be used as a pilot for making progress on both fronts throughout the city.

City Council members have already begun working with local residents to discuss ways of improving Telegraph. As that process continues, homelessness should be a key part of the conversation. With the public’s interest in the issue piqued, city officials now face a prime opportunity to help the homeless — they cannot squander it.