Berkeley City Council meetings to discuss health equity, housing development

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Berkeley City Council will hold a regular and special meeting Tuesday to discuss the health inequality gap in the city and a proposal to develop housing in the Telegraph Commercial District.

For the regular meeting, Councilmember Kriss Worthington submitted a recommendation for the city to amend its zoning ordinance to allow increased housing development in the Telegraph Commercial District between Dwight Way and Bancroft Way.

In order to develop additional housing, a previous proposal recommended an increase to the maximum height allowed for main buildings adjacent to Bancroft Way. Worthington proposed that this amendment should be applied to the entirety of the Telegraph Commercial District north of Dwight Way, noting that developments would be beneficial to businesses around the area.

“In my mind, these are essential policy changes to allow development of housing in the Berkeley campus area,” Worthington said. “From an environmental point of view, from a sustainability point of view, it’s the most logical area.”

Worthington, alongside Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin and Maxwell Anderson, also proposed a resolution to oppose Sutter Health corporation’s plans to cease operations of the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley.

A state law passed in 1994 requires that all hospital buildings be retrofitted by 2030 in order to withstand major earthquakes. The medical center — which is owned by Sutter Health — has been declared seismically unfit, leading to Sutter Health’s decision to move Alta Bates’ services to Oakland.

According to Michelle Nandy, an emergency room nurse who has been working at the hospital since October, community members who oppose the Sutter Health decision will gather at the council meeting tomorrow. Nandy said the transfer of Alta Bates services to Oakland will lead to elongated waiting times and put a lot of undue stress on patients.

“We nurses can find jobs elsewhere, but we love our hospital and our community,” Nandy said. “There is a reason why people choose to work in certain places.”

Apart from the regular meeting, City Council will also hold a special session beforehand to discuss health equity in Berkeley. According to Dr. Janet Berreman, the city director of public health, the work session will focus on steps the city may take to improve health equity, which she defined as the “fairness and equality of opportunity in health across (the) city’s different communities.”

The council item will largely revolve around a public health evaluation from May, by the Berkeley Public Health Division, conducted together with the Bright Research Group. The report outlined a lack of health equity for racial and ethnic minority groups and named a list of healthcare equity priorities the city could engage with.

The special meeting and regular meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., respectively, Tuesday at City Council chambers.

Contact Jessie Qian at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessieq96.