UC Berkeley alumnus to run for City Council District 7

Lorenz Angelo Gonzales/Staff

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A UC Berkeley alumnus filed candidacy for Berkeley City Council District 7 on Monday, making him the youngest candidate thus far in the council race.

Sean Barry, 27, who worked as an assistant editor of The Daily Californian, said his platforms include revitalizing Telegraph Avenue, creating more affordable housing and improving public safety in the district. Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who has held the District 7 seat since 1996, said he will decide whether to run again based on which student candidates end up filing in the near future.

Worthington said he would want to coordinate his plans about running with progressive students who are also interested in running and hopes to come to a decision by July 4. About 86 percent of District 7 is composed of student-aged residents, having recently been the subject of a lengthy redistricting debate over the creation of a new “student district.”

Barry said he believed bringing more age diversity to the council is one of the reasons people advocated a student supermajority district so strongly.

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, an early endorser of Barry, said he also thought having a younger member on the council could bring a valuable perspective.

“At his age, he is well in tune of the wants and needs of Southside students,” Capitelli said. “The fact of the matter is, students comprise a third of the population of Berkeley, and it’s important to have a younger person (on the council) more in touch with these perspectives and views.”

Barry said he has seen the issue of declining Telegraph area businesses continue to be a prominent one. His plans to improve city business include restructuring the permit system currently in place, which he said puts an arbitrary cap on the number of certain types of businesses allowed in the area.

He would also like to increase flexibility on where office space is allowed in the city and on the size of new housing units. Additionally, he would want to make it easier for bars and restaurants to open shop in a way that improves business and preserves the culture of the area.

“We need to do what we can to reduce vacancies and make sure we have a menu of options to create a place people want to live in and shop in and spend time in,” he said.

In addition, Barry wants to focus on climate change, health issues and job opportunities. Steps such as improving the Berkeley Climate Action Plan and increasing awareness about health services available to the public could make the district a leader in such areas, he said.

Barry has worked on the Community Health Commission and Planning Commission and has chaired the Waterfront Commission. Mayor Tom Bates appointed him to the Waterfront Commission and said Barry’s past work has given him a wide diversity of experience in topics pertaining to the city.

Barry said he has worked with members of the ASUC as a way of getting plugged in with students.

Worthington has also stressed the importance of including student voices in city government and has frequently appointed students to city commissions.

ASUC President Pavan Upadhyayula, who has met with Barry once in person and continues to keep in contact with him over email, said their discussions have mainly focused on issues of mental health and improving the safety of the campus area.

“Being in Berkeley multiple stages of my life, I think what people want is somebody who can speak for students and the campus area but also someone who has a citywide vision and is going to go into (the council) with existing ideas and relationships,” Barry said.

Nico Correia is the lead city reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @nicolocorreia.