Final city bond measures for November ballot to be decided on in July

Tony Zhou/Staff

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At its meeting Tuesday night, Berkeley City Council discussed results from a second community survey conducted to determine which bond measures voters want on the November election ballot.

The survey included specific ballot measures that will generate tax revenue for the city to fix its aging infrastructure, which includes restoration of some of the city’s pools. The council considered five bond measures, and city staff will bring back information for three of them, which could appear on the November ballot.

The council directed city staff in March to add questions to the survey regarding a possible community pools bond, which has been a contentious issue in the city ever since several were shut down over the last few years.

According to the survey report, there is a majority of resident support for a ballot measure that involves reparation of city streets and watershed improvements. On the other hand, voter-preferred bond measures that would fund pools or affordable housing did not approach the two-thirds threshold for passage by survey participants, according to survey results.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin continued to advocate for the bond measures that involve restoring affordable housing and community pools.

“Landlords make huge windfall profits, and rents have gone up with cuts in federal funding and less affordable housing,” he said. “(The) Berkeley student co-op association is interested in using the money to build affordable student housing. We also need a pool for the safety of the community and recreation.”

Many community members present at the council meeting expressed support for the restoration of the city’s recreational pools and said the pools contribute to building a happier community.

City resident Bill Lee said at the meeting that his kids learned how to swim at Willard Pool and “all children, all seniors should have the chance to vote to have a neighborhood pool.”

Despite community input in support of the restoration of the city’s pools, Councilmember Linda Maio was concerned the city would have too many bond measures on the November ballot.

“We would like to fund everything,” Maio said. “As we go down (the ballot when people are voting), it is going to cost more money. We have to think about what the response of the voter will be when we are asking for (more money).”

Mayor Tom Bates said that having two bond measures on the ballot would “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs” and that he would like the streets and watershed bond on the ballot — a $50 million bond dedicated to street repaving and repair as well as green infrastructure improvements.

At the meeting, the council directed the city manager to come back with ballot language for a $30 million dollar bond, according to Arreguin, on street resurfacing, repair, watershed management and infrastructure, given that Measure B is on the ballot. Measure B would increase the Alameda County transportation sales tax to 1 percent and attempt to improve Bay Area transportation.

Arreguin also requested a $20 million pools bond to fund a new warm water pool, the reopening of Willard pool and locker room improvements at the West Campus and King pools. Arreguin said the measure could cost a total of $50 million and include a $984,000 parcel tax for operating costs.

City spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said the council will discuss the ballot language again on June 26 and will have to decide by July which bond measures they want to include on the November ballot.