Voter survey identifies affordable housing, homelessness as priorities for city

Mitzi Perez/Staff

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Berkeley City Council reconvened Tuesday evening at a special work session preceding its regular meeting to discuss results from a citywide survey on potential ballot measures.

The survey, conducted March 13-17, polled 500 registered Berkeley voters and indicated affordable housing and homeless resources as priorities for the city to tackle. Nearly two years ago, a similar survey identified education and jobs as top concerns.

David Mermin of Lake Research Partners, a Berkeley public opinion and political strategy research firm that conducted the survey, and Matthai Chakko, city spokesperson and assistant to the city manager, summarized the results in a presentation to the council.

Almost 64 percent of polled residents said that they believed the city was “on the right track” to provide essential services, such as information on rent control and working to increase resources for underprivileged youth, and that they were optimistic in the direction the city is going.

Residents were also polled on ballot measures that could appear during municipal elections in November.

Proposed general obligation bonds, which Mermin said during the meeting constituted a bulk of the surveyed measures, would require a two-thirds affirmative vote at polls in order to be passed.

A proposed business license tax — which, if passed, would impose a fee on landlords in order to garner revenue for city affordable housing development — did not reach the required two-thirds approval from polled residents, falling seven points below the threshold.

But when the ballot language changed to reflect more information about the tax, such as the fact that the fee could not be passed down to tenants and could bring in $4 million in revenue, residents were more inclined to vote for the measure.

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli noted, however, that though clarification would better inform voters of the technicalities of the tax, ballot-language word limits might restrict the extent of description.

Taxes in support of local transportation agencies and funding for education saw two-thirds or more approval from voters, which Mermin said indicated likely success at polls in November.

A consent item will appear on the council’s regular meeting agenda, which will be discussed after the special work session. If passed, a second survey will be conducted by Lake Research Partners.  

City Council is also slated to continue discussion on a fair elections campaign financing ballot measure at its regular meeting. The measure, if passed, would amend the city charter to appropriate $4 per city resident from the city’s general fund and put the funds into a fair elections fund. Those running for city government seats could utilize the funds for campaigning, thereby leveling the competition among candidates.

Municipal elections will take place Nov. 8.

Adrienne Shih is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adrienneshih.