City Council to discuss Upper Hearst updates, vehicle dweller program

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Berkeley City Council will convene at its regular Tuesday meeting to discuss drafting a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report, or SEIR, for the proposed Upper Hearst development, a referral for the creation of a “vehicle dweller program” and support for SCA-1, which expedites public housing projects.

Item 15 on the action calendar discusses a draft of an SEIR on the proposed Upper Hearst development for the Goldman School of Public Policy. The project site sits on an approximately 44,900-square-foot portion of campus-owned property on the northwest corner of La Loma Avenue and Hearst Avenue.

Two separate buildings — “an academic building” and “residential building on top of a rebuilt parking structure” — will be built, according to the agenda. City council will submit comments to the city manager about the Upper Hearst SEIR, which will then be passed on to the campus by April 8.

Item 17 on the action calendar calls for the creation of a “vehicle dweller program” to support those living in their vehicles to stay in Berkeley without fear of being criminalized, fined or displaced. According to the agenda, Berkeley residents and businesses have consistently requested the city council and city staff to identify a place for people living in their vehicles, so as not to block city streets.

Among those living in vehicles are families with young children, UC Berkeley students, Berkeley Unified School District’s elementary, middle school and high school students, and those who are employed but cannot afford housing.

Item number 21 from the last council meeting stated that the ban on recreational vehicle parking may not be enforced until the city establishes a permitting process, which the “vehicle dweller program” in Item 17 accomplishes.

The “vehicle dweller program” will issue RVs or vehicles three to six month permits at an affordable sliding scale permit structure, provide pump-out services, waste disposal and social services, and up to $3,000 per vehicle for mechanical and sanitation repairs, according to the agenda.

Item 11 in consent calendar calls for a support for SCA-1, which repeals Article 34 of the state constitution. Article 34 requires a citywide vote for construction of publicly funded low income housing projects. Repealing Article 34 will speed the process of funding low-income housing projects without electorate approval, according to the agenda.

Soli Alpert, the legislative assistant for City Councilmember Rigel Robinson, said that Article 34 created a delay in the construction process, and supporting SCA-1 will allow the state to have more affordable housing.

“We think housing is important not only in Berkeley, but in other places as well,” Alpert said. “SCA-1 will be on ballot, and we’ll be voting as a state to support it. It wouldn’t have a direct impact on the city of Berkeley, but its impact on the state will have a huge impact later on in Berkeley.”

Bella An covers city government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @BellaAn_dc.