Tuesday’s City Council meeting will discuss the Housing Accountability Act and several items addressing homelessness and affordable housing, among a number of other proposals.
Housing Accountability Act
Last October, the San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation filed a lawsuit against Berkeley City Council, alleging that the council has been continuously violating the state housing development law and going against California’s Housing Accountability Act.
Although the state law implements certain requirements on building, such as having to meet zoning standards, Krista Gulbransen, director of the Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition, said those restrictions should not keep the city from continuing development.
“Yes, it’s always difficult to bring to the local level the state mandate, translating what can and can’t work, (but we) have to figure out what can work, (we’re) not seeing enough growth or new development to meet the HAA,” Gulbransen said.
Gulbransen emphasized that the city currently lacks housing, adding that if landlords do not “add stock,” it increases pressure on currently existing buildings.
According to City Councilmember Lori Droste, this has been a conflict that has garnered attention of people across the state.
“(Item 29) would make (it) that much more difficult to create housing in our city, asking the city to measure shadows and do things like that to make it more difficult to approve housing,” Droste said. “Are shadows more important than homes for people? … I don’t see any reason to add additional layers to create desperately needed housing. (Item 29) will lead to more displacement.”
Throughout the year, city council members and the mayor have dedicated a significant amount of effort toward affordable housing and homelessness issues.
“The mayor said ending homelessness and affordable housing were his top priority of the year, and so we’ve put so much more attention this year,” City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said.
Several ideas have been brought up and have been narrowed down to a “short list of possibilities,” Worthington said. These ideas, according to Worthington, are still being processed as council members figure out how to implement them “into the real world.”
Paul Buddenhagen, director of health, housing and community services, requested that the city establish a homeless services coordinator. City Council has approved the creation of the position and will discuss classification and salary range of the coordinator.
“We haven’t had a person with this title for many years,” Worthington said, “I think if you want to give enough attention to an important issue you need to have someone coordinating all these many different efforts on homelessness.”
Also on the agenda, Item 24 recommends adopting a resolution to reduce hunger and homelessness for college students.
Efforts to alleviate homelessness will also extend beyond the city.
The city will consider sending a letter to Sen. Nancy Skinner and Gov. Jerry Brown urging them to support AB 923, a bill which would provide housing and shelter for homeless populations in San Francisco and San Diego.
Vitality of University Avenue
University Avenue, a significant commercial corridor for the city of Berkeley, has recently seen an increase in the number of vacant storefronts and live-work frontages, according to background written in Item 19.
The item requests for an action plan to increase the attractiveness and vitality of University Avenue.
According to Worthington, in order to address the issue in a speedy and affordable manner, the city can recruit interns and launch a project instead of hiring high-paid managers.
“It’s one small step, but we need to do much more than one street,” Worthington said, “I support this but I think we need to be looking at storefront vacancy in all our major commercial corridors.”
A previous version of this article misquoted City Councilmember Lori Droste as saying that the Housing Accountability Act would make it more difficult to build housing. In fact, Droste was referring to a city council agenda item.