Berkeley City Council to discuss homeless fund, helicopter noise at meeting

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Berkeley City Council will discuss proposals related to a city homeless fund and news helicopter noise, among other items, at its regular meeting Oct. 17.

At the meeting, the council will decide whether to establish the Homeless Fund. According to the meeting agenda, private entities, such as individuals and corporations, will be able to donate to the proposed Homeless Fund, which will be used to “provide facilities, programs and/or services to individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness or are in danger of becoming homeless.”

Councilmember Susan Wengraf said she supports the Homeless Fund because it would allow members of the Berkeley community to donate money to help create two modular units, which would temporarily house about 25 individuals each.

But Wengraf also expressed concern about the sustainability of funding for the Homeless Fund, pointing to the fact that people could donate one year and not the next.

Local homeless activist Guy “Mike” Lee echoed Wengraf’s funding concerns, adding that the city government has not done enough to encourage community participation to collect donations for the homeless.

“I don’t believe the current city staff has the capability to go after foundation money and I don’t see anybody within the community that’s been asked to identify and write those grants,” Lee said. “So it is high in the sky.”

The council will also decide at the meeting whether to send a letter to local television stations “requesting consideration of the noise impacts on residents in future deployment of news helicopters,” according to the meeting agenda.

Wengraf said she received complaints from city residents about the “never-ending” noise from news helicopters when protests were occurring on campus.

Recently, many protests have occurred in Berkeley, including right-wing rallies in city parks and protests related to “Free Speech Week.”

“I don’t think (the agenda item) is controversial at all,” Wengraf said. “Nobody likes the noise that we’ve been subjected to.”

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, however, said he doesn’t think he will vote for the helicopter noise item because he believes the noise is “a small price to pay for a free press.” He added that he expects to be in the minority in his opposition to the proposal.

“The media can decide for themselves how to cover the news,” Worthington said. “I don’t want to tell them not to use helicopters to cover their story.”

A Zoning Adjustments Board, or ZAB, appeal, filed by residents at a single-family house located at 970 Santa Barbara Road, will also be discussed at the meeting. Kiran Jain, one of the residents, said in an email that she hopes to expand her property to provide space for her children and parents to live in her home.

ZAB has already approved the appeal, and the council will vote to affirm or deny the proposal at the meeting, according to the agenda.

“Berkeley’s zoning process is intense and adversarial,” Jain said in an email. “We wish there were written legal standards to spare other homeowners the agony of going through an emotional, lengthy process.”

In light of recent Hepatitis A outbreaks in Southern California, the council will also discuss preventative measures against potential outbreaks in the Bay Area, including temporary hand washing stations and public restrooms, according to the meeting agenda.

Worthington said he supports these preventative measures, since the state is making vaccination services available. He added that he believes Berkeley should “be in the loop” with the state’s actions.

“We are trying to be proactive in thinking that (Hepatitis A) might move up the state,” Wengraf said. “I’m very much in favor of this (proposal) because it’s preventative medicine. We don’t want any deaths from this if they can be prevented at all.”

Contact Danielle Kaye at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @danielledkaye.