City Council to consider amendments to Group Living Accommodations Ordinance

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This piece has been updated to reflect additional comments from Councilmember Linda Maio.

Berkeley City Council is scheduled to consider amendments to the Group Living Accommodations Ordinance during its next regular meeting May 30.

The GLA ordinance, originally passed in January 2016, requires “mini-dorms” and group-living accommodations, or GLAs, to change their operational standards.

This resolution, proposed by Councilmember Kriss Worthington, offers a series of revisions to the ordinance, including the withdrawal of section 13.42.040D, which allows the city to remove bedrooms from violating mini-dorms or GLAs covered under the ordinance. Worthington said he did not believe “moving bedrooms is the right thing to do during a housing crisis.”

“Removing an apartment or a bedroom from an apartment isn’t a punishment for the person who did something wrong — that’s a punishment for generations of students and tenants,” Worthington said. “With one less bedroom or apartment unit in perpetuity … you’re going to punish generations to come.”

The resolution also calls for the addition of student nondiscrimination clause, amending the ordinance to allow for three violations in a 12-month period instead of two, and proposes to permit recorded music to be played after 10 p.m. from Sundays to Thursdays and 1 a.m. Fridays to Saturdays.

Councilmember Linda Maio said she was hesitant about supporting a proposal that would weaken the GLA ordinance without a full discussion from all community stakeholders, adding that she hopes the proposal is postponed to the fall.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín said the city needed to address key issues with the ordinance, adding that the provision to remove bedrooms “punishes students.” Arreguín also said the city needed to create a balance in addressing the concerns of both its students and non-student residents.

“What is clear is that this ordinance is not working,” Arreguín said. “It’s a bad approach and creates difficult circumstances in order to fix the housing crisis.”

The resolution notes the ASUC has been “vocal” in its opposition to the GLA ordinance, adding that the proposed amendments took student suggestion into consideration.

In March, then-ASUC Senators Rigel Robinson, Marandah Field-Elliot, Bianca Filart and Helen Yuan sponsored ASUC Senate Resolution-63 titled “Calling for the City of Berkeley to Revisit and Reform the Group Living Accommodations Ordinance.” The ASUC Senate passed the resolution in April.

Similar to Worthington’s resolution, the ASUC resolution also calls for removing section 13.42.040D to disallow the city to remove bedrooms, adding a student nondiscrimination clause, allowing for three violations within a twelve-month period, and allowing music to be played after the ordinance’s listed times.

Former ASUC Housing Commission Chair Matthew Lewis said student advocates may request a delay of the consideration of the GLA amendments until September “so students have their say” on the issue.

“When (the council) passed the GLA bill, it was very restrictive to students to get some accommodations in place,” said ASUC Senator-elect Alexander Wilfert. “I hope we are able to work with the city to make sure we’re able to effectively combat the issues of students in group housing.”

Contact Bobby Lee and Connie Meza at [email protected].

A previous version of this article stated that Matthew Lewis said student advocates may request a delay of the consideration of the GLA amendments until December. In fact, Lewis said a delay may be requested until September.