Berkeley City Council rejects indoor entertainment fee increase for students

Xiaoye Yan/Staff

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UC Berkeley students, including representatives from the ASUC and Berkeley Student Cooperative, filled the crowd at the City Council meeting Tuesday to oppose an increase in the city’s Indoor Entertainment Inspection Fee.

After deliberation, City Council rejected the fee adjustment, which would have increased the inspection fee from $93.50 to $196 per event, and if the initial inspection failed, there would have been a re-inspection fee of $98 for every 15 minutes of the subsequent visit by the fire department.

Deputy Fire Chief Dave Brannigan said every time an inspection fails, there is an additional cost for the city to conduct subsequent inspections.  

“We are trying to incentivize for the houses to get done on the first time — incentive for their safety and for our resources, for things to go well on the first inspection,” said Brannigan, reminding the council of the two fatal fires in fraternity houses in 1991 and 1997.

District 1 Councilmember Linda Maio noted that the fee would only apply to parties of 50 people or more, adding that when divided, the fee would be a small amount for each student. During public comment, President of Berkeley Student Cooperatives Zach Gamlieli said, however, a fee increase to $200, even when divided up, would significantly burden campus students.

Other students reminded the council that many of them had limited means and warned that these increases would drive student parties underground.

District 5 Councilmember Sophie Hahn said she was disappointed that UC Berkeley administration was not present at the meeting to discuss the issue, because she believes the campus should be invested in and dedicated to student safety.

The council decided against the fee increase and encouraged the fire department to come up with an education plan for students instead, so that students may pass inspections the first time around.

There was also some debate surrounding an item to strengthen the Berkeley Police Review Commission, or PRC, and enact short-term reforms for police accountability in the city, as recommended by the report from the Center for Policing Equity and PRC.

Some council members expressed interest in the reform but also concern about the absence of the Berkeley Police Department during the meeting.

“To kill the beginning of moving forward on this tonight would be one of the worst actions that this council could do” said Kriss Worthington, District 7 council member. “This is a fundamental moral issue — are we going to close our eyes and refuse to take baby steps to make this reform — that is so unacceptable.”

Worthington said during the meeting that the proposal is imperative, pointing to the PRC ‘s limited power. His comments were met with clapping and cheering from community members.

The vote for the item was split 4-5, with a majority in support of referring the item to the agenda committee for future action.

“My intention is not to stop this from going forward,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín. “It’s recognizing that police are going into a very intense dangerous situation over the next month and are not fully able to participate in a dialogue with the council or with the commission or with the community about changes.”

The council also passed an act to expedite review for affordable housing projects, allowing the city to prioritize these projects during various approval and accreditation processes.

Ahna Straube covers city government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @akstraube.