Berkeley City Council to continue deliberation about short-term rentals at Tuesday meeting

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Berkeley City Council will meet Tuesday to discuss the biennial budget, short-term rentals and the possibility of moving council meetings to Berkeley Unified School District’s board room for three months.

The council approved continuous funding for homeless services as well as for children and youth programs at its previous meeting June 9. Since then, Mayor Tom Bates has proposed funding for three other community agencies: Bananas’ Child Care Support Services, WriterCoach Connection and Stiles Hall’s Berkeley Scholars to Cal.

Bates said in budget documents that he considered these agencies for funding based on their proposals, reviews and expected contributions to the 2020 Vision, a citywide movement to ensure the academic success of Berkeley’s youth by closing the achievement gap in local public schools by 2020.

Each program has been recommended for an additional $20,000 in funding that will be pulled from the city’s discretionary fund, Sundays on Telegraph and the city’s telephone system replacement fund, according to budget documents.

According to David Stark, executive director of Stiles Hall, the funding will allow Berkeley Scholars to Cal to seek matching funds to give an additional 25 students going into the sixth grade long-term support until their high school graduation.

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said that funding these additional programs would postpone the city’s telephone system replacement, a 10-year savings plan for telephone system upgrades, by an additional year.

City Council is also expected to continue the discussion about short-term rental regulations, as the public hearing was cut short at the council’s previous meeting. The proposal by Bates and Councilmember Lori Droste would legalize and regulate short-term housing rentals, or rentals not exceeding 14 consecutive days.

For David Skolnick, a Berkeley community member who spoke during public comment at the last council meeting, the short-term rental site Airbnb has taken him and his wife out of debt for the first time and helped them “avoid economic catastrophe.”

While Capitelli said he sympathized with those dependent on income earned from renting out their homes, he worries about the potential creation of a “cottage industry where people are running de facto hotels,” he said.

Capitelli and fellow Councilmembers Susan Wengraf and Jesse Arreguin will propose at the meeting a request for a trial program from the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education that will allow City Council to meet at the district’s board room for three months during the 2015-16 calendar year.

In 2012, Old City Hall was labeled seismically unsafe, and although the council looked for new locations, its meetings remained in the hall.

“My objections to Old City Hall is it’s dilapidated, has terrible seating, awful acoustics, and the poor building is just falling apart,” Capitelli said.

The last council meeting was held at Longfellow Middle School because of anticipation for a large crowd, but it was difficult to hear a lot of the speakers, Capitelli said.

The City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Old City Hall on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Contact Sujin Shin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @sujinjshin.