City representatives speak to ASUC Senate about proposed group living space ordinance

Mitzi Perez/Staff

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At Wednesday’s ASUC Senate meeting, representatives from the city of Berkeley presented a proposed city ordinance aimed at imposing additional regulations for “mini-dorms” and group living accommodations.

The proposed ordinance would affect mini-dorms, defined as dwelling units occupied by six or more people over 18 years of age, and spaces such as fraternities, sororities and co-ops. During the presentation, Jim Hynes, assistant to the city manager, said the ordinance was drafted in response to student injuries and deaths, neighborhood complaints and instances of sexual assault.

Under the new provisions, mini-dorms and group living accommodations would be required to designate a “responsible resident” tasked with dealing with waste disposal, responding to complaints and reporting any notices from the city to the building owner. In addition, gatherings where alcohol is served and more than 10 nonresidents are in attendance must end by 10 p.m. on weeknights and by 1 a.m. on weekends.

During Hynes’ presentation, which he gave with City Attorney Zach Cowan, various senators brought up concerns surrounding enforcement procedures and the proposed regulations for serving alcohol at gatherings.

According to Student Action Senator Andre Luu, it is “unrealistic” to effectively implement the alcohol-related provisions, which prohibit alcohol from being served in bedrooms occupied by an underage resident or in any common areas accessible to those under the age of 21.

“If students don’t get alcohol in their residence, they will just go out to other places to get it, which creates unsafe situations,” said CalSERVE Senator Aanchal Chugh.

Hynes explained that during the drafting process, the city realized that “one size doesn’t fit all” when it comes to regulating student housing. As a result, the proposed ordinance includes the possibility of exempting a group living accommodation from certain provisions if it has established protocols considered functionally equivalent to those in the ordinance.

Still, Matthew Lewis, the ASUC director of local affairs, said that several aspects of the proposal are “misguided,” including the provision that allows the city to remove bedrooms from a living space in the event of repeated violations. He said that this would push more students — who may have resided in a co-op or other group living accommodation — into the general housing market, where many students may not be able to find affordable housing.

Berkeley City Council plans to host a work session Tuesday — which ASUC officials have publicized to their constituencies and are encouraging students to attend — where the council will discuss and potentially revise the current version of the document.

“It’s very obvious that the bill is designed to target students,” said Student Action Senator Will Morrow. “The ASUC’s role is to mobilize student opposition and represent the formal voice of student concerns.”

Ariel Hayat is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ArielHayat.