Berkeley mayor, students hold first working group meeting

Sarina Kernberg/Staff
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates talks to students at the first meeting of a new working group.

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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and several City Council members held the first in a series of working group meetings aimed at improving collaboration between the city and students Wednesday evening.

The meeting — which was held at Eshleman Hall on the UC Berkeley campus — drew students from a variety of campus groups, including the ASUC Senate, the Interfraternity Council and the Berkeley Student Cooperative, as well as the Associated Students of Berkeley City College and centered around issues of affordable housing, second responses and public transportation.

At the meeting’s start, Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, a UC Berkeley alumnus himself, stressed the importance of “putting student issues at the forefront of what city officials are doing.”

Stephanie Altamirano, Berkeley Student Cooperative vice president of external affairs, asked for the city’s support in pressuring the campus to allocate a plot of land on Dwight Way and Telegraph Avenue for the construction of new affordable housing in the form of a new cooperative building. Altamirano said the university recently sent the BSC a letter explaining that the land would be allocated for the relocation of a faculty child care center.

ASUC Senator Elliot Goldstein also emphasized the need for additional affordable housing and reminded city officials that affordable housing was made a priority in the council’s Southside Plan, which was passed in 2011.

Following statements from numerous students in support of increasing affordable housing, Bates announced the creation of a subcommittee within the working group to focus solely on the issue.

Senators from the Associated Students of Berkeley City College described the need for improvements to city transportation services to improve their constituents’ commute to school and to allow them to get home after night classes.

Kristophe Green, ASBCC senator, said students taking night courses at Berkeley City College are often forced to leave their classes early due to a lack of late-night buses. Representatives of the ASBCC also suggested greater cooperation with BART in order to keep costs down for student commuters.

Discussion at the meeting also turned to noise violation legislation, which was recently the subject of significant contention when the City Council considered extending the probationary period that follows a residence’s second complaint.

Representatives from the UC Berkeley Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils proposed fostering closer cooperation between students and the city in hopes of establishing better relations between the Greek system and city residents.

ASUC Senator Andrew Albright distributed a “Pledge to Students” to council members at the meeting encouraging them to not make the second response ordinance more restrictive.

The pledge also included several other issues from safety to student representation in local government.

The date for the second meeting will be decided by an online poll but should take place sometime shortly after UC Berkeley’s spring break.