Member of city homeless community Guy ‘Mike’ Lee announces mayoral candidacy

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Guy “Mike” Lee, a member of Berkeley’s homeless community, announced Monday that he is running for city mayor in the fall 2016 elections.

Lee, 60, will be running against Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin and Laurie Capitelli for current Mayor Tom Bates’ seat. Lee believes that the homeless in Berkeley are not confident that the other candidates represent their interests.

On his campaign website, Lee outlines a 90-day plan — centered on affordable housing, homelessness and crime reduction — to take Berkeley in a “new direction” if he were to be elected.

“This is not a campaign of promises, this is a campaign of solutions,” Lee said. “This 90-day plan, we may not be able to do it. What it is is a start of a discussion of how we get into a new direction to benefit the 99 percent, not the one percent.”

The plan includes a resolution to define affordable housing as $500 per month for a studio apartment, $750 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Alejandro Soto-Vigil, who serves on the city Housing Advisory Commission and Rent Stabilization Board, said rent is complicated, involving nonprofits, private landlords renting to federally funded programs and reduced inclusionary housing rates.

“The whole strict standard of setting rent at that level is not realistic because it’s a lot more complicated than just that,” Soto-Vigil said. “Should rent be reduced? Absolutely. Can local government do that? I don’t think so.”

Another of Lee’s 90-day plan proposals is to require future developments to provide at least 50 percent affordable housing or pay 50 percent of the project’s value to nonprofits.

Additionally, Lee’s solution for homelessness includes an urban village with semipermanent structures. This specific plan focuses on providing stability and an exit strategy for the homeless, while recognizing that some may wish to live as “free spirits.”

“The good thing about Guy ‘Mike’ Lee running for mayor is to keep the issue of homelessness front and center because it is a long-term issue that we have to tackle,” Soto-Vigil said. “At the end of the day, homelessness is everyone’s problem.”

Capitelli and Arreguin were unavailable for comment.

Lee recognizes that he lacks the professional qualifications of the other candidates but said that he is committed to strictly following the law and doing what is right for the entire community.

Lee will kickstart his campaign with a community-oriented event Feb. 12. The city mayoral election will be held Nov. 8.

Contact Amelia Mineiro at [email protected].