City Council authorizes legal aid funds, urgent public bathrooms measures

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Xiaoye Yan/Staff

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On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council authorized the transfer of $300,000 for the next two fiscal years to the Rent Stabilization Board for eviction defense contracts and approved two urgency items related to public bathrooms, while pushing back consideration of a number of police accountability reform measures to September.

A proposed referral to assess the Berkeley Police Review Commission’s suggestions for police accountability reform — in light of a Center for Policing Equity report published by the Berkeley Police Department that highlighted racial disparities in BPD traffic stop data — was continued by the council to September 12, citing the absence of police officers at the meeting due to the Tuesday funeral for former Berkeley police officer Alan Roberds.

“I feel it would be better for us to consider this at a time when (the police officers) can be present (and) when we can hear their voices along with the voices of the community,” said Councilmember Sophie Hahn at the meeting.

The council considered agenda item number 33, which proposed amending city contracts with the Eviction Defense Center, or the EDC, and East Bay Community Law Center to offer more eviction defense services for extremely low, low and moderate-income level Berkeley residents.

The goal of the program is to expand current “counseling and advocacy” services to tenants to avoid potential displacement during the “current housing emergency,” according to a city council report on Item 33.

“What I read in (this item) is that it’s for services in addition to (the) rent ordinance which means quality issues,” said campus Graduate Assembly External Affairs Vice President Jonathan Morris at the meeting in favor of the proposal. “There (are) lots of graduate students (that are) very low through moderate income and would be able to take advantage of this. This is one step towards getting (safe housing) and it’s really important.”

The item was also met with some resistance, even prompting landlords from outside Berkeley to lobby against the proposal at the meeting. Multiple speakers raised complaints about the EDC in particular, claiming the organization treated landlords unfairly. Others in opposition alleged that the proposal was a misuse of measure U1 funds.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who co-sponsored the motion, stressed that the measure was in line with what measure U1 had promised regarding preventing homelessness.

“There’s nothing illegal… that’s happening here, it’s general fund money (to be used) at (the council’s) discretion,” Arreguín said at the meeting. “But regardless it’s completely within the intent of measure U1.”

The motion carried with Councilmember Susan Wengraf abstaining.

The council also approved two urgency items introduced by Mayor Arreguín and Councilmember Ben Bartlett, authorizing the purchase of a portable restroom in a South Berkeley city parking lot and the development of a “Neighborhood Public Toilet Policy.”

The items will allow a third-party to come forward and fund the portable restroom, provided the third-party meets the requirements set forth by the council.

The local advocacy organization Friends of Adeline is expected to come forward to fund the project, and multiple public commenters pledged their support at the meeting for the placement of the portable toilet in the form of both donations and signatures.

“Thank you both for doing this,” said Councilmember Cheryl Davila at the meeting, who also requested to co-sponsor both bills. “It’s a really important thing to do. It’s the right thing to do.”

The council also approved the placement of a sign at 2150 Shattuck Ave, home to Skydeck — a workspace environment for startups partnered with the campus.

The Berkeley City Council will break for a summer recess and resume its regular meetings September 12.

Contact Elena Aguirre at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @eaguirreDC.