Affordable housing, homelessness to be addressed on November ballot

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Homeless services, affordable housing and the environment are among the issues Berkeley residents will vote on in the November election. Here is the breakdown for the four measures — Measures O, P, Q and R — that the Berkeley City Council placed on the ballot.

Measure O:

Measure O would approve a $135 million bond measure that would be used to create more affordable housing in Berkeley.

Although the money would be placed in the general fund, the money raised by the bond would be subject to an independent oversight committee appointed by the City Council, according to the measure language.

“(The bond) gives Berkeley money we can leverage 4-to-1 from matching funds from county, state, and other public funds to create or preserve $600 million worth of housing,” said City Councilmember Sophie Hahn. “This measure itself not only provides affordable housing — it unlocks other funds.”

Opponents of the measure argue that the bond requirements are being used to disguise a tax as a bond measure and that the city will not properly use funds.

City officials, however, emphasize what they say is the bond’s importance in fighting the growing housing crisis.

Measure P:

Measure P was put on the ballot to raise funds for the city’s homeless services and fund the Pathways Program. If passed, Measure P would increase the transfer tax rate for the top third of property transfers by 1 percent.

“We have a growing crisis of homelessness in Berkeley,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín. “We need more funds to build shelters, mental health services, housing subsidies. (Measure P is) essential to deal with the homelessness crisis. Unlike previous measures on homelessness, it’s designed to help the homeless, not criminalize them.”

Opponents of Prop P argue that the tax is vague, that it is a general tax and not a special tax, and that it will not be used for homeless services.

The rebuttal argument, however, compares the bond to Measure D, or the “Soda Tax,” which was also passed as a general tax but has been verified to have been spent correctly by a third-party analyst.

The measure will also establish a “Homeless Services Panel of Experts” for how the city should spend the funds.

Measure Q:

Measure Q was created in response to California Proposition 10, which will also appear on the November ballot. If Prop. 10 were to pass, it would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which limits the number of buildings that can be under rent control in California.

Should Costa-Hawkins be repealed, Measure Q would update portions of Berkeley’s existing rent control legislation, which was passed in 1980.

According to city Rent Stabilization Board chair John Selawsky, if Prop. 10 were to pass, and therefore repeal Costa-Hawkins, rents in rent-controlled units would return to their 1980s levels.

“If Costa-Hawkins (continues) and Measure Q does not pass, rents would roll back to 1980s rent, legally, and we’d have to enforce that, legally,” Selawsky said. “And no one has figured out a way to get out from under it without a court case. It would create chaos.”

In addition to updating Berkeley’s existing rent control legislation, Measure Q also includes a provision that would provide a blanket exemption for accessory dwelling units, or ADUs. An ADU is a “secondary unit with complete independent living facilities.” This part of the measure will go into effect regardless of whether Prop. 10 passes and Costa-Hawkins is repealed.

Measure R:

Measure R would set a goal for the mayor and City Council to create a 30-year plan to update infrastructure, making it more environmentally friendly and technologically efficient.

“I think infrastructure is extremely important but not talked about as much,” said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “(Measure R) is combining the nuts and bolts of infrastructure with being a greener city. We could just upgrade our infrastructure, sidewalks, storm drains, sewers the way they are, but that would be more expensive and perpetuate environmental damage.”

Unlike other measures appearing on the ballot, Measure R is an advisory measure and would create not a law, but rather a goal for Berkeley if it passes in November.

The plan would aim to find solutions for updating Berkeley’s infrastructure, some of which was “constructed more than 70 years ago during the Works Projects Administration,” according to the measure.

“By having the voters of Berkeley support this vision for sustainable infrastructure, it makes it a priority of the city of Berkeley,” Arreguín said. “That will ensure that not only will the staff be dedicated, but also the money (will be dedicated) into implementing the vision.”

 

Contact Alexandra Stassinopoulos at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AE_Stass.