Berkeley City Council to discuss results of new referral prioritization system

Francesca Ledsema/File

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At its Tuesday meeting, Berkeley City Council will discuss the prioritization of City Council referrals to staff and an appeal over the decision not to designate 2556 Telegraph Ave. as a historic landmark.

City Council will review the results of a referral ranking done by Re-Weighted Range Voting, which allows the council to inform city staff on which of their 79 outstanding referrals take priority and should be completed first. After every referral is scored by each council member, the referrals are then ranked based on which received the highest score.

“I think it’s helpful that we are prioritizing referrals, but I do not think that should mean that we don’t consider new ideas,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. “There always may be new approaches and ways to improve city services.”

According to Arreguin, some council members believe the city should limit the number of referrals a council member can introduce. Arreguin said that such a limit would be problematic, adding that it would prevent council members from “doing our jobs as legislators.”

Arreguin added that overall, the council prioritized his referrals because they represented the concerns expressed by the community. Councilmember Kriss Worthington, however, said several of his technology referrals were not adequately prioritized.

“Many of the important uses of technology to improve the city and make us faster at providing information to the public don’t get ranked very highly,” Worthington said. “For me, using technology in cost-effective ways to increase transparency is one of the highest priorities to having a better city.”

During its regular meeting, City Council will have a public hearing regarding the appeal of the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision to deny an application requesting that 2556 Telegraph Ave. be made a landmark. The city received an application for the building to be demolished, which initiated a mandatory review to determine the historical significance of the structure, given that it is more than 40 years old.

While council members cannot legally express their individual opinions on the matter, several members said they anticipated that the item would attract many residents to speak at the meeting.

“There are a lot of people in the Southside area who wanted to see that building landmarked, and the developers are proposing a project that would involve the demolition of that entire building,” Arreguin said.

Arreguin said that he thinks developers should consider a solution that mitigates the impact of demolition on pre-existing small businesses. He added that one possible strategy would be providing commercial spaces in the new building for some of these small businesses — an idea Arreguin said the developers are considering.

The Tuesday special meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. and will be followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m.

Contact Brenna Smith at [email protected]