Community groups plan rally for homeless rights at City Council meeting Tuesday

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A large crowd is expected at the regular Berkeley City Council meeting Tuesday night to express concerns about contested agenda items, such as the approval of four ordinances restricting the actions of homeless people on public streets.

At the meeting, the council may adopt further restrictions on top of existing ordinances for certain actions in public spaces, which some critics call “anti-homeless” laws. These ordinances prohibit people from lying down in city-owned planters, placing objects more than 2 square feet on sidewalks for more than an hour, and urinating and defecating in public.

City Council will also discuss action items to adopt a biennial budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 and, at a 5:30 p.m. special closed-session meeting, the appointment of a city manager to replace Christine Daniel, who announced her resignation June 2. Daniel will leave the position July 24.

Sally Hindman — the executive director of South Berkeley nonprofit Youth Spirit Artworks — who called the ordinances a “criminalization of homeless people,” said that various community groups — including Copwatch, American Civil Liberties Union, interfaith groups, concerned residents and homeless people — are planning a rally in front of Old City Hall at 6 p.m. to address homeless people’s rights. Hindman foresees several hundred people’s participation.

Elliot Halpern, board member of the ACLU Berkeley/North East Bay Chapter and member of the city’s Homeless Task Force, said the ordinances are a “huge step backward” for resolving homelessness issues because violations of the ordinances will leave criminal records, which will restrict services in the future, such as housing.

The council is set to approve an updated community agency budget allocation after it sent proposals from Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin and Max Anderson to a subcommittee last week for potential integration.

The council will also discuss a recommendation to forward $250,00o in funding to the Berkeley Unified School District to enhance the Gardening and Cooking Program for 2015-16. The funds will be taken from the city’s general fund, which will later receive funds from the sugar-sweetened beverage tax revenue.

Additionally, the council will review the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision to reject Campanile Way as one of the city’s landmarks. Steven Finacom, board member of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, said the city misguided the landmarks commission by telling it that Campanile Way is already registered as a national heritage site, when it is not. He urged City Council to refer the decision back to the landmarks commission for reconsideration.

Some community members also expect public commenters to contest City Council’s decision to exempt the 2211 Harold Way project from a system of providing significant community benefits — such as affordable housing and local labor — that received preliminary approval Thursday.

Contact Yuka Koshino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @YukaKoshino.