Mayor Jesse Arreguin envisions respect, collaboration for Berkeley’s future

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Karen Chow/Staff

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While newly elected Mayor Jesse Arreguin was moving into his new office at Old City Hall, members of the homeless encampment outside were moving out.

Less than 24 hours after Arreguin swore in as mayor, city officials disbanded a homeless encampment without his prior knowledge. Arreguin was surprised and upset.

This was at least the third time that the city had disbanded a homeless encampment in the past two months, but the first during his tenure as mayor. He had hoped that the encampment would remain in place until he could implement his plan to address Berkeley’s homelessness crisis, which begins with a six-point item that will be introduced at Berkeley City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday.

He described this plan as a “a monumental shift in council policy and council priorities on homelessness.” His plan to address homelessness is indicative of a new direction he envisions for Berkeley.

During election season, Arreguin ran a grassroots campaign that trailed opponent Laurie Capitelli’s in donations by more than $10,000. Now, he sees his election, as well as the ascension of three other self-proclaimed progressives to City Council, as a mandate for change.

“Now that we are in office and have a five vote majority on the City Council, we have to follow through,” Arreguin said.

Some of the change he hopes to enact with his item on homelessness is the authorization of camping on designated public property. The passage of the item would also repeal an ordinance restricting the storage of belongings on sidewalks.

“We should be focusing our limited resources on actually developing solutions rather than criminalizing the condition of being homeless,” Arreguin said.

For long-term solutions to homelessness and preventative measures, Arreguin’s office will develop a comprehensive agenda in the coming months. Arreguin hopes to develop a plan by the beginning of January for a navigation center, which would offer centralized homelessness resources.

Many view Arreguin’s approach to leadership as one focused on providing opportunity through progressive politics.

“You’re going to see a Berkeley that is going to live up to the history of its culture,” said Gus Newport, who served as Berkeley’s mayor from 1979 to 1986.

Arreguin said as mayor, he is in a unique position to help facilitate regional dialogue and collaborative solutions for the Bay Area, not only concerning homelessness but also affordable housing and displacement.

Funds from recently passed Measures A1 and U1, which increase taxes on property value and property owners respectively, will help to bolster county and city resources for affordable housing in the coming years.

There’s a lot that we need to do as a community to build housing that is really equitable and will address needs of not just the people that can afford luxury housing, but our low- and moderate-income families,” Arreguin said.

Some, however, are uncertain about how developers and property owners fit into Arreguin’s vision.

As mayor, Arreguin will pursue further regulation on housing, including the potential development of a mandatory inspection program and the adoption of policies designed to prevent tenant displacement.

Capitelli previously said he anticipates Arreguin will scrutinize housing development more closely, noting that “time will tell” how developers will respond and if they will be able to afford these changes.

I’d have to wait and see until he makes more specific proposals,” said Sid Lakireddy, president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, in regard to the effect that Arreguin’s leadership will have on the housing market.

Despite the concerns of some members of the Berkeley community, unity remains one of Arreguin’s central goals. Given the results of the national elections, Arreguin says that it is “all the more important now that cities ban together and that we work cooperatively and regionally.”

One of his first moves of this nature, Arreguin said, would be to organize a taskforce of local mayors to strategize against the closure of the Berkeley campus of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, which is slated to consolidate with its Oakland campus before 2030. The campus provides the only emergency room in the city.

“Especially given that we are prone to a number of natural disasters, there’s a really critical need for us to have an emergency room in our communities,” Arreguin said.

Arreguin also wants to unite City Council itself around a common set of goals. He added that under his leadership, the council will be “a completely new environment,” centered around respect and collaboration.

To extend this collaboration to the citizens of Berkeley, Arreguin is committed to making the City Council more accessible. He plans to hold monthly office hours, and to introduce town hall meetings in each district.

Additionally, Arreguin hopes to incorporate social media into the process of public comment. The city will be launching an online civic engagement platform called Peak Democracy to facilitate this.

“I want to make sure that every council member has the opportunity to speak, and that everyone has an opportunity to be heard, and that people are treated with respect,” Arreguin said.

Because Arreguin has a broad base of support and has extensive experience in local politics, Newport believes he will be able to actualize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s idea of a “Beloved Community.” Newport described this as a community of “social justice and peace” in which “all people will have to learn to live side by side.”

To District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington, this is the most hopeful time in the past 20 years of Berkeley’s government.

“(Arreguin’s) potential is so immense,” Worthington said.

Contact Aleah Jennings-Newhouse at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ajn_dc.

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  • Brad Daniels

    This guy is going to turn Berkeley into a bigger toilet that it already is

    • david macdiarmid

      I take your words literally. Berkeley STINKS, every recessed doorway , enclave, covered bus stop stink of decades of bum-piss. Berkeley people piss on the own TV remote, Very nasty city

  • lspanker

    A tight rental unit supply ensures that Berkeley property owners can posture as progressive defenders of humanity on one hand while charging high rents for their residential units on the other. It’s all smoke and mirrors, but don’t count on the dumb bunny activist liberals to ever catch on to how the game is played…

  • pretty clear arreguin is on a power trip already

    • C Bierbauer79

      Why not? He has the entire Chamber of Commerce, the greedy developers and UC on his side. The people are just the ones who have to pay and pay while he and his buddies play.

  • lspanker

    I see that the Daily Cal is not going to make any pretense at attempting objective journalism – they have made it clear that they are a mouthpiece for Jesse, and nothing more.

    • DragonflyBeach

      Honestly though, who reads the DailyCal over Berkeleyside? Not trying to be mean but the flatness of opinion here puts it on par with the Berkeley Daily Planet. At least the website’s design is modern though.

      • berkeleyside censors its comments section fastidiously and thoroughly. I got censored for calling felarca a thug. Its just a giant echochamber over there.

  • david macdiarmid

    The State and Feds will never help Berkley with its 1000’s of homeless. The problem is for Berkley to solve. Start w/declaring long-term homelessness and drug-addiction to be a social disease that some citizens have contracted. Quarintine them to a camp in agricultural areas of California. Reteach them how to eat, sleep and wake. Live without drugs, get along w/others, shower/bathe,shave, cut hair, pull rotten teeth, cure of real contagious diseases, diagnose the crippled and get them govt assistance.
    Have huge gardens and orchards. Teach them to pick fruit. Get them ready for the harvest season, arrange jobs picking, by the bushel. Teach them how to make money. They will make $100 a day for 3 months a year, $200 a day if Trump deports 3 million and builds the wall. They will leave your facility with a nest egg and a plan. However,..some have IQ’s below 50…you will have to make them “associates” of the facility.
    I didn’t think this up. This is standard practice in Japan. Never a crime to have caught a disease they say. Is their duty to help infected individuals and prevent spread. They enforce discipline at facilities w/bamboo split-cane and in your face yelling. They call this the bitter medicine. The cured are very thankful and often donate in gratitude. Others, get reinfected and return……..Japanese have a 95% success rate, 99% for those that return. There is no time limit. You are released when you are cured, period. This systems rules are under health and public safety, not criminal statutes. give it a try, no harm in trying. Much harm though in trying nothing, or worse, using police batons and K-9 dogs. The worst thing that couldd happen is that you will pay for their one-way ride across the state and never see them again.

  • Dan

    I’m very interested in seeing how this all unfolds in the coming months. I’m very hopeful that homelessness in Berkeley can be addressed in some substantial way. I’m glad the Mayor is addressing this issue – and I’m generally supportive of the direction he is going in. Having said that – I would like to offer the following for his consideration:

    1) I was a little surprised by how the article started off. The way I read it either – someone at the city was using the issue to make a political statement, or, the Mayor allowed something to happen that he didn’t support. Now I’m aware that we have a “weak” mayoral system – so I’m not entirely sure whether the Mayor can get involved in that level of detail of a city agency (or agencies – who was the lead agency here??). Regardless, I wonder what the underlying motivations were. It is hard to understand why this wasn’t prevented if that was the Mayor’s preferred plan.

    2) What are the economics here? There is no reason to believe that *any* solution will be achieved without the expenditure of additional funds. If this were an easy problem to solve it would have been solved *decades* ago. There are long-term, systemic reasons that we, as a society, have people in abject poverty living on our streets. This is a failure of leadership and responsibility – by all of our citizens. As residents of Berkeley – if we cannot figure out how to solve this problem, then how can we expect any other city in America to do so? How will A1 and U1 funds be used in this effort.

    3) What are the metrics? How do we know when we’re succeeding?

    I applaud my city for tackling this issue in a progressive way. I appreciate the election of Jesse Arreguin as an expression of that desire. I am looking forward to seeing how this all unfolds and would welcome the opportunity to participate in a solution – beyond my participation as a citizen of Berkeley and a supporter of Homeless people in the Bay Area.

    • Anybody But Jesse

      The lack of metrics is the key point.

      • C Bierbauer79

        Smoke screen.

  • Arnie Passman

    arreguin came to the city council in my district as a psychopath came to my block. he never responded to my contact, and the problem remains to this day, 7 years later, as jesse reached for the stars.