City Council delays discussion on sidewalk regulations at Downtown Berkeley BART station

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Mayor Jesse Arreguín removed a controversial recommendation that would prohibit lying and camping near the Downtown Berkeley BART station from the City Council agenda at its Thursday meeting.

The removal comes in light of a federal court ruling that an ordinance — similar to Arreguín’s recommendation regulating “unpermitted lodging” — was unconstitutional in Boise, Idaho. The Eighth Amendment prevents criminalizing homeless people “sitting, sleeping, or lying outside,” the judges concluded.

“Given this recent case and the fact that we’re evaluating this case and how it applies to our existing laws, we’ve been advised we should not take action at this time,” Arreguín said at the meeting.

While the conversation to enforce regulations around the Downtown Berkeley BART station ended Thursday, the discussion will continue at the City Council meeting Oct. 16, Arreguín said at the meeting.

Council members also voted to eliminate parking for the proposed Berkeley Way Project, which constitutes the largest number of permanent affordable housing units for the homeless in Berkeley’s history. Delays on the council item could have resulted in missing the February 2019 deadline to apply for state funding for the project — a loss of about $20 million.

“We cannot allow this to stop dead in its track after 11 years of effort,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington at the meeting. “We have to move forward with this right now and not risk missing the deadline.”

Councilmember Susan Wengraf said at the meeting, however, that residents who live in the hills of District 6 do not have access to good public transportation. She added that these residents need parking options in Downtown Berkeley because they have to drive their cars to get there.

“I want people to understand — people who live in the hills don’t have any other option,” Wengraf said at the meeting. “We have people who depend on vehicles to do their shopping.”

Several attendees, such as Sophia DeWitt from East Bay Housing Organizations, urged the council members to move forward with the project without parking.

According to Arreguín, the project was postponed last year because of discussions over parking. Parking would have to be built elsewhere in Downtown Berkeley to offset the impact of continuing the project without parking, he added at the meeting.

Council members also discussed making it easier for people to register and gain access to accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, by placing an ADU on top of an existing garage and allowing residents to register more than one ADU.

“We all know how desperately people in this community and other communities in the Bay Area need housing,” DeWitt said at the meeting.

Alyssa Bernardino is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @alybernardino.