Berkeley City Council to discuss cannabis retail applications, forestry ordinance at Tuesday meeting

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Berkeley City Council will convene Tuesday to review a number of items, which consider the safe storage of firearms and the timeline of the application process for cannabis retail.

Out of the 14 items on City Council’s consent calendar and the 10 items on the action calendar, items concerning an urban forestry ordinance and the number of allowed cannabis retail establishments may provoke debate within the council.

Items two and three address housing funds for the city’s homeless and low-income populations. They call for the construction of 54 permanent affordable housing units for the homeless population and 89 low-income housing units. If the council adopted these items, the city would receive tens of millions of dollars in funding from the state, according to Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

Worthington added that this project is, “the most important project in the entire city in the last 10 years.”

According to the agenda, one of the items, which had unanimous “aye” votes after the first reading, will require that firearms within a residence be stored safely in a locked container or disabled with a trigger lock.

Another item refers to adjustments in the city’s health plan in 2019, which, if passed, will increase health plan costs. Kaiser Permanente rates are rising by 3 to 6 percent, and Sutter Health rates are increasing from 5 to 9 percent, according to Worthington.

“We would love to pay a lower amount, but this is what these companies are allowed to charge and will charge,” Worthington said about the city’s two main health care programs.

Item E would create a set process for applicants applying to sell cannabis. While City Council has agreed to accept equity permits, the application process does not currently include a timeline, according to Worthington.

According to Worthington, the item is likely to provoke discussion because of the debate on the number of pending applications that will be allowed to be accepted. While Councilmember Ben Bartlett calls for four equity and two nonequity approvals within two years of application, other council members have opinions ranging from zero to four approvals.

“If we’re going to have equity applicants, we should give them chance to apply,” Worthington, who co-sponsored the item, said. “Claiming that you’ll have an equity program is meaningless if they have to wait years before applying. That’s not equity.”

Item F, sponsored by Councilmembers Kate Harrison and Cheryl Davila, requires native tree planting upon the completion of residential construction. The item has since been moved to the Dec. 11 agenda, according to Harrison’s office.

Other items include the authorization of another inclement weather shelter from December 2018 to April 2019 and a layout for a citywide shared electric scooter pilot franchise program.

Contact Alexandra Casey at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @acasey_dc.