Sophie Hahn, Stephen Murphy face off for District 5 council seat


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Stretching from Cedar Street to the far northern edge of town, District 5 encompasses both winding residential streets and the bustling shopping districts along Solano and North Shattuck avenues.

The two candidates for the City Council District 5 seat, Sophie Hahn and Stephen Murphy, are both longtime residents of the area, each raising three children in the neighborhood. They share many similar concerns for the largely affluent area — particularly addressing issues with property crime and homelessness. But each candidate hopes to solve the problems facing Berkeley as a whole, a view that current District 5 City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said is key.

“It’s important that all of us take a citywide perspective,” Capitelli said, who is also running for Berkeley mayor. “There’s the greater good that has to be considered in every decision.”

Sophie Hahn

Hahn grew up in District 5. She has lived there for years, and her children are the third generation of her family to live in the district, she said.

According to Hahn, the main issues facing District 5 today are property crimes and business vacancies in commercial areas, specifically on Solano Avenue.

“District 5 is quite blessed, and I think that some of the issues that are most pressing citywide, like the homeless crisis and the affordability crisis, are less acutely felt in this district,” she said, adding that District 5 residents remain concerned about the issues that face Berkeley as a whole.

Hahn supports a regional approach to solving the homeless crisis, favoring measures that will “provide some shelter and dignity and self-determination” through sanctioned tent cities, among other solutions, she said.

Increased police presence is less important for addressing crime than a return to neighborhood watch networks, Hahn said.

“I want to take responsibility as councilperson for filling in what I call a patchwork of preparedness,” Hahn said. “We have many blocks that are organized, but we also have many that are not.”

Additionally, Hahn opposes the threatened closure of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center’s Berkeley campus, saying the number of emergency calls in the district is rising due to the district’s aging population. Hahn said she has already begun working with the California Nurses Association to prevent the closure of the hospital.

Hahn, who is an executive board member of the Sierra Club Northern Alameda County chapter, supports clean energy and urban agriculture.

“I will always be working on many fronts to try and make Berkeley a more sustainable city and to implement our Climate Action Plan,” Hahn said.

Hahn served as the chair of the city Commission on the Status of Women. She is a current member of the Zoning Adjustments Board.

“(Hahn) is somebody who has been a member of the community for most of her life,” said District 5 resident Chris Mammen, who openly opposes Hahn’s rival candidate Murphy. “She is very focused on a lot of the progressive values that characterize Berkeley.”

Stephen Murphy

Murphy and his family have lived on Cedar Street for nine years.

For Murphy, the most pressing issues faced by District 5 are infrastructure, public safety and vacancies in business districts.

Though some District 5 parks “need some TLC for sure,” Murphy said he would remain conscious of the city’s budget.

“We need to make sure that we have good revenue in the city, that we support our Downtown plan that has the chance of providing a significant amount of revenue,” Murphy said.

Murphy hopes to work with property owners along Solano Avenue to bring new businesses into vacant buildings. As a board member of the group From Little Acorns Grow, Murphy aims to bring new tenants to the vacant Oaks Theatre on Solano Avenue.

“(The Oaks Theatre vacancy) has stifled a lot of vibrancy,” Murphy said. “As a City Council member, I think I could do a lot of immediate work to promote businesses in that district.”

Murphy said he would like to expedite the permitting process for small businesses as a potential way to bring new businesses to the district.

He, like Hahn, favors a regional approach to resolving homelessness, which he said is influenced by his experience as the associate director at Alameda County Family Justice Center.

“I work every day with people who are going through real struggles in their lives,” Murphy said. “That greatly informs the policies that I will try to implement.”

Likewise, Murphy said his experience as chair of the city Planning Commission informs his ideas about affordable housing. He approves of the bond measures in the upcoming election and believes the city should incentivize affordable housing, he said.

Murphy has also served as chair of the Alameda County Human Relations Commission.

“Stephen has consistently demonstrated that he is able to work with a broad spectrum of people who have very different ideas of what progress looks like,” said Pamela Gray, District 5 resident and former chair of the city Parks and Recreation Commission. “He gets stuff done.”

Contact Lillian Holmes at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LillianQHolmes.

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  • Christina T.

    I think Sophie Hahn is the clear choice for many reasons, as I also commented on the article where you stated your endorsement of her. I’m surprised you are not mentioning the character and integrity issues surrounding Stephen Murphy and how he was fined $8,500 by the California Court of Appeals, whose judges said these things about him in 2012:

    “What is especially disturbing to us is Murphy’s steadfast refusal to acknowledge his breach of his duty to
    provide us with a document bearing on our jurisdiction and to express any remorse for that breach.”

    “Murphy aggressively and with remarkable temerity threatened [opposing counsel] with sanctions.”

    Murphy’s “response to us ‘was both truculent and dismissive.’”

    Murphy “repeated his personal attacks” on opposing counsel.

    Murphy “demonstrated no recognition whatsoever of the gravity of his misconduct.”

    Murphy “met our concerns with nothing but petulance and disregard.”

    Murphy displayed “steadfast refusal to recognize his conduct as blameworthy.”

    Murphy’s conduct displayed “‘dishonesty and lack of remorse.’”

    You can read more here:

  • perdomo

    Whoever wins, we lose…Murphy has a point with the Oaks. Oaks can really be an epicenter of entertainment on upper Solano. It will draw scores of people each night and these people will want to drink and eat before and after their cinematic experience. I’m not so sure people will want to shop more because Berkeleyites don’t do that, they only spend their money on gourmet food.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Berkeley politics are where fantasy defeats reality, every time :-)

  • goodkind

    This is a fair and balanced article. It makes the two candidates sound very equal. It neglects to mention the recent history that Hahn co-authored the disastrous Measure R 2 years ago which tried to bring down the Downtown Plan, something which has been vetted upside down and backward. That Downtown Plan is our best hope for economic development and more housing. So these two pleasant sounding candidates are on very different sides of the fence. Check out their endorsements – Murphy has the whole school board, 5 out of 8 city council members, Hancock, Skinner, Police & Fire. My take is they are not so equal. And yes, vacancy is a real issue.

  • James Reagan

    Very sad neither know what they are talking about. At least all other candidates for all open offices have a similar rhetoric about affordable housing and homeless issues. Credit to Hahn for tent cities. Boo on Murphy for Oak Theatre like that’s a real issue?

    • Khalisnky

      The future of the Oaks Theatre is actually an important topic to many in District 5 ;-)