City Council passes funding prioritization on Berkeley Way project

Xiaoye Yan /Staff

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On Tuesday evening, the Berkeley City Council unanimously passed a funding prioritization for the BRIDGE Housing Corporation’s proposed Berkeley Way project.

The plan includes 89 affordable apartments, 30 permanent supportive housing units, 60 temporary or shelter beds, a space for homeless services and a single level of public parking, according to the agenda item. The project will apply for Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities, or AHSC, funding in the fall. If successful, the project will require additional city funds, an estimated $13 million during 2018.

With the prioritization, the project has been identified as the city’s first priority for Alameda County Measure A1 funds and the city’s Housing Trust Fund. No resources will remain for any additional request for proposal, or RFP, projects this year, according to a staff determination.

“The city is all in on this project, literally, by taking this action,” Mayor Jesse Arreguín said at the meeting. “We’re talking about committing … most of our measure A1 funds as well as other funding sources.”

Homeless advocate and former mayoral candidate Guy “Mike” Lee said he was “a little bit disturbed” by the discourse around the project. Lee questioned the staff recommendation to cancel an originally included RFP for affordable housing development projects.

“You’re supposed to be doing an RFP for this project, as I understand, and you’re talking about putting that aside for later down the road? That kind of disturbs me,” Lee said at the meeting. “Number one, it seems to me we’re tossing more money down a black hole, and number two I think it’s a little bit questionable to be setting aside an RFP.”

The Berkeley Way project was first initiated in 2013. BRIDGE Housing, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project and their architects — Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects — were selected to carry out the project in 2014.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington referred to the plan as “a dream that can come true” and said the plan is perhaps the single biggest opportunity for the city to make a difference in affordable housing and homeless services.

“I am thrilled that we are able to take this small step forward tonight to support the single largest number of affordable units and homeless housing, and a homeless shelter and transitional housing for veterans, all in one swell vote,” Worthington said at the meeting.

Additionally, Mayor Arreguín released a collection of supplemental budget recommendations for the fiscal years 2018-19.

The recommendations include a roughly $1 million ongoing amount dedicated to funding for anti-displacement programs, $140,000 for the Berkeley Civic Arts Program and $50,000 for legal and mental health support for immigrants and religious communities.

“I have tried to incorporate as many of the councilmembers’ referrals as I could,” Arreguín said at the meeting. “We’ve really tried to balance the competing priorities.”

Edward Booth covers city government. Contact Edward Booth at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Edward_E_Booth.