City Council to fund housing for low-income and homeless students

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Anissa Nishioka/File

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Berkeley City Council voted to direct revenue generated by development projects near campus toward housing for extremely low-income or homeless college students during its regular meeting Tuesday evening.

The council will draft a letter to Chancellor Carol Christ asking her to create similar funding streams as part of a recent move by the city to invest in student housing, as encouraged by members of the ASUC and the Berkeley Student Cooperative.

Out of all items on the agenda, the interim use for the Premier Cru property, bought by the city in April 2017, dominated the meeting’s discussion. The Premier Cru buildings on University Avenue currently house the city’s winter homeless shelter.

The council also voted to begin searching for local organizations that will make temporary use of the Premier Cru building complex on University Avenue. The city intended for the building to be used for affordable housing but plans to allow other organizations to use the building until a housing plan is developed. In addition, negotiations will begin for use of a section of the premises by the Berkeley Food Network, a nonprofit that distributes food to the homeless.

The council postponed decisions on marijuana taxation to a later date. It also decided to postpone a decision about whether to adopt an ordinance governing the use of surveillance technology by the city until the March 13 council meeting. This decision occurred in order to give council members time to review a new surveillance proposal put forward by Mayor Jesse Arreguín, which was designed to reconcile the Police Review Commission’s ordinance with that of the police and fire departments.

Citizens expressed their frustration with the city’s decision during public comment.

“It looks like you as a council are conspiring against us by making us show up again and again if we want to talk about a real issue,” said UC Berkeley researcher James McFadden, who attended the meeting.

With little time left to discuss, the council postponed a vote on the highly anticipated recreational cannabis tax reduction from 10 percent to 5 percent. The item was discussed last, and because not all council members were able to stay for the discussion and vote, the council voted to move it to the next meeting.

Multiple public commenters representing the cannabis industry spoke at the meeting, urging the council to lower the tax. Some urged the council to consider lowering the local tax to 2.5 percent, which would bring it on par with the medical marijuana rate.

“We have to leave Berkeley, if Berkeley continues to tax us at 5 percent,” said Elvis McGovern, representative of Weird Science Labs in Berkeley. “We will really be put out of business.”

Rachael Cornejo and Sophia Brown-Heidenreich at [email protected].