After lobbying efforts spearheaded by the ASUC, the City/UC/Student Relations Committee voted Monday to approve the recommended amendments to the city of Berkeley’s Group Living Accommodations Ordinance, or GLA.
Next month, City Council will vote on the amendments, which include no longer evicting residents for GLA violations, removing the process by which a GLA can be designated as a public nuisance after incidents of sexual violence, standardizing noise constraints and defining more clearly the responsibilities of property managers. The ordinance applies to GLAs, such as co-ops, fraternities and sororities, as well as “mini-dorms.”
ASUC President Alexander Wilfert, who ran on a platform that included amendments to the GLA, celebrated the vote on social media, tweeting that the vote is a “huge step in the right direction for students.” When the GLA was first passed in 2015, it did not include student input, according to Wilfert.
“Students opposed it (when it passed), but we didn’t really have the leverage or the ability when we tried to fight it,” Wilfert said. “They shouldn’t be passing legislation without student input.”
ASUC representatives have lobbied to amend the GLA since 2015 but have recently received broader support, according to ASUC Senator Zach Carter.
“Traditionally this bill was something that was only lobbied by Greeks,” Carter said in an email. “In reality, the GLA bill affects anyone who has 6 or more people living at their address. When we made this known, we were able to get much more intersectional support.”
Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who worked with both student and neighborhood leaders to promote the changes, said he supports the amendments to the ordinance, which will no longer be inequitable.
Arreguín said the city should not be removing bedrooms while it is in a housing crisis — one amendment ensures bedrooms in GLAs will not be lost due to violations such as underage drinking.
“If someone is 20 and drinking in their bedroom, they shouldn’t be evicted from their home for that,” Wilfert said.
The new amendments also apply the same citywide noise regulations to GLAs. Previously, GLAs were bound to stricter regulations, according to ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay, which discriminated against students, she said.
According to Arreguín, the city received feedback indicating a clause in the GLA can serve as a disincentive for survivors to report sexual violence. The amendment strikes that clause, which details a process that victims can choose to go through to designate a GLA or mini-dorm where they experienced sexual violence as a public nuisance.
Wilfert said ASUC representatives will continue to lobby City Council to implement more amendments to the GLA, which he said are “common sense reforms.”
“The student community has asked the city to make these changes, and we’re listening — we’re responding,” Arreguín said.