Berkeley City Council passes series of affordable housing proposals

Ana Isabel Diaz/Staff

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At its regular meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council passed a package of proposals to help create more affordable housing.

There are 23 proposed policies to implement the Affordable Housing Action Plan. The council marked the Small Sites Program, which aims to help nonprofits acquire multi-unit properties of 25 units or fewer, as its highest priority. The program is modeled after a similar one in San Francisco that has been successful, according to Mayor Jesse Arreguín. Other proposals include eliminating barriers to developing student and senior housing, as well as establishing affordable housing on city properties.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who is the original author of the Affordable Housing Action Plan, said the council has been considering these proposals for a while.

“What’s being proposed tonight is what I thought we were going to do a year and a half ago. I think it’s been almost two years since I first proposed this,” Worthington said at the meeting. “It’s beautiful that we’re actually finally getting here, and I’m excited.”

The council debated one proposal that seeks to create per acre density standards, an item that Councilmember Sophie Hahn called “critically important” because Berkeley is currently one of the few cities in California without density standards.

At the meeting, City Council also discussed the allocation of additional city budget funds, although it will not vote on the item until its next meeting. Arreguín stressed the importance of allocating a portion of these additional funds, which are called excess equity, to the General Fund Catastrophic Reserve to ensure resources “in the event of a catastrophic disaster or financial challenge.”

Arreguín also proposed that the excess equity be used to expand the city’s winter shelter program.

“We’re facing a very cold and rainy winter season, and we want to get as quickly as possible a winter shelter in place,” Arreguín said during the meeting. “This money will help us do that.”

During the meeting, the council honored first responders from the Berkeley Police Department and Berkeley Fire Department for helping victims of the North Bay fires and “for going above and beyond the call of duty,” Arreguín said at the meeting.

“This was one of the most rewarding times in our careers,” said BPD Officer Brandon Smith at the meeting. “There will be a time when our city needs help from others.”

Although the council did not discuss the relocation of the council chambers in detail during the meeting, it voted to eliminate all references to 1011 University Ave., one of the locations it is considering, in future discussions of fund allocation, as the location is unconfirmed. Hahn stressed the importance of allocating funds towards relocation “without the limitation of location.”

The council will discuss the relocation at its next meeting Dec. 5.

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