Ban on tree species, implementation of gender neutral bathrooms on City Council meeting’s agenda

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Berkeley City Council will hold a meeting Tuesday to discuss several items, including banning certain tree species, implementing gender neutral bathrooms and finalizing policies regarding police enforcement in response to the December protests.

According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, some tree species, including blue and red gum eucalyptus and Monterey pine, are costly, unsuitable to Berkeley’s landscape and pose higher risks as a fire hazard. Although Berkeley keeps a list of appropriate species for public properties, the city does not yet have regulations that ban the planting of particular trees on private properties.

“We want to have a healthy urban forest,” Chakko said.

The council will consider three options. One option continues the city’s current policy of not planting blue and red gum eucalyptus and Monterey pine trees on city property. A second option would prompt a resolution to prohibit affected trees. The final option would ban the species on both public and private properties.

All three options include a public education component via the Berkeley Forestry website, which would encourage property owners to conform to fire safety standards. Additionally, all three plans would permit Monterey pines within the Berkeley waterfront.

The city will also consider an item establishing gender neutral public restrooms. If passed, this item would direct city staff to draft an ordinance to make all single-stall public restrooms gender neutral.

“We want to create a climate that is accepting and welcoming so everybody can use public accommodations,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin.

This item mirrors a proposal that was implemented in West Hollywood last year. Arreguin said all details of the item, including a time frame, will be decided when it is referred to city staff.

Other agenda items include proposed modifications of Berkeley Police Department policies, including a motion supporting demands of protesters in Ferguson, a temporary ban on tear gas and other less-than-lethal crowd control techniques, an investigation of BPD conduct by the Police Review Commission and the implementation of in-vehicle and body cameras for BPD officers.
The measures, which follow protests in response to police killings of unarmed black men last year, will be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting after being tabled twice.

“Hundreds of students participated in their first political protests of their lives in December,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “For Berkeley to greet innocent, peaceful protesters with batons and tear gas is wrong.”

Tuesday’s meeting will be preceded by two special sessions, one of which will involve the appeal of two construction permits previously denied by the Zoning Adjustments Board.

The projects, at 2204 Dwight Way and 2201-2205 Blake St., were alleged by residents, including the South Side Neighborhood Consortium, to be “minidorm” structures — privately owned houses converted to small residence halls for students. A minidorm is defined by zoning laws as a dwelling unit that is occupied by six or more unrelated persons over the age of 18 years.

Contact Jennifer Kang and Lenin Silva at [email protected].