City Council set to discuss affordable housing accommodations, sidewalk regulations

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Berkeley City Council will meet Tuesday evening to discuss affordable housing and sidewalk regulations, among other items.

In an attempt to develop housing for homeless people in Berkeley, as well as to create a healthy housing economy within the city, Councilmember Ben Bartlett continues to push forth the “Step-Up Housing” Initiative. The initiative is responsible for establishing an approval and permit process for the construction of affordable housing on city-owned land. It also assigns the management and operation of the housing to nonprofits and tenants.

“It’s a strong step towards addressing the homeless crisis and really creating a model to succeed in caring for your people in light of looming and severe budget cuts from the Trump administration,” Bartlett said. “In Berkeley, we are blessed to have such a caring and thoughtful community that is leaping at the opportunity where other cities have failed to. In Berkeley, it’s all doors open.”

According to Councilmember Kriss Worthington, Bartlett’s original proposal was focused on a specific 100-unit plan. Now, the gates are open for a variety of companies to make proposals.

“We want anybody who has the capacity to build the needed housing for the homeless,” Worthington said. “We have to keep an open mind about how are we going to get these things accomplished.”

The initiative is set to address the homelessness and housing situation through a swift implementation plan. The city of Berkeley has a homeless population of 900 to 1,200 people — a number that may grow given projected federal budget cuts, according to Bartlett.

Bartlett’s proposal aims to provide below-market housing and serve the community on a needs-based criteria.

Tuesday’s consent calendar also includes an item addressing the city’s homeless crisis, specifically focused on changing sidewalk regulations. The sidewalk regulations would be largely conducted by the city’s traffic engineer and will take into account specificities regarding size limitations of belongings and the constitutional rights of sidewalk inhabitants. The item does not, however, require that storage lockers — free public facilities for homeless community members to keep their assets — be in place before the regulation is passed.

Homeless advocate Mike “Guy” Lee said he will accept the sidewalk regulations but added that he is not satisfied with them. Lee alleged the policy will not be enforceable without storage lockers but said it’s not a policy worth fighting.

“The real problem that I have with it is that the traffic engineer is responsible for implementing it,” Lee said. “I don’t think that’s a proper use of his time.”

Also on the agenda is the approval of medical cannabis cultivation regulation, the re-establishment of the Berkeley Tourism Business Improvement District and a referral of moderate-income housing strategies to the Housing Advisory Commission and city staff.

Contact Sunny Tsai and Edward Booth at [email protected].