1st meeting of campus, city relations committee discusses housing

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The City/UC/Student Relations Committee convened for the first time Tuesday to discuss and organize topics for future meetings.

The committee is officially made up of two UC Berkeley representatives, four campus students and four City Council members. The ASUC and Graduate Assembly external affairs vice presidents and local affairs directors represent the undergraduate and graduate student bodies respectively, while the City Council members of Districts 4, 6, 7 and 8 represent their constituencies, student-saturated areas adjacent to the campus.

Student housing was heavily discussed at the meeting and will also be a primary topic of discussion at the next meeting, alongside group-living accommodations. Additionally, the committee discussed citywide affordable housing, issues with stadium-based noise on Panoramic Hill and matters of public safety, including city lighting, tree-trimming and crime.

Though he is not a part of the committee, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin attended the meeting. According to Deputy City Manager Jovan Grogan, any City Council member may attend, as the meetings are technically special meetings of the City Council.

The committee was created at the Oct. 18 City Council meeting through an agenda item organized by ASUC External Affairs Vice President André Luu and submitted by Councilmember Susan Wengraf. The item argued that a regular forum between the campus, campus students and members of the city would be useful, given the role of UC Berkeley and its student body in the city.

Students comprise about one-third of the city’s population, according to Wengraf.

“The university has a responsibility … to house their students at an affordable level,” Wengraf said at the meeting. “This year, they didn’t even have enough housing for their freshmen. That’s outrageous.”

Councilmember Kriss Worthington raised the related topic of group-living accommodations at the meeting, previously addressed at a city council meeting in February 2016. During that meeting, standards were introduced to combat illegal alcohol use, trash and noise. These actions had allegedly increased because of an unanticipated rise in the population of students inhabiting single- and multi-family residential buildings, according to the agenda item.

The rules put into place as a result of the February 2016 meeting didn’t take into account student suggestions and have had “unintended consequences,” according to Worthington. Worthington, who voted against the second reading of the item, referred to group-living accommodations as his top priority at the meeting Tuesday.

“I consider the city … one of the number-one impediments to student housing,” Worthington said at the meeting. “The city and its Byzantine regulations have prevented more student housing than anything I can think of.”

The committee is currently organized around a shifting moderation and leadership system, alternating between the city and UC Berkeley. The city will be responsible for managing the committee this year, and the campus will take over next year. Committee members will also take turns moderating the meetings.

The committee has tentatively planned two more meetings in the spring semester, one in March to address student housing and one in April to discuss safety.

Edward Booth covers city government. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Edward_E_Booth.