Berkeley City Council passes budget for next 2 years, allocating funding for housing support, community groups

Katherine Finman/Staff

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Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a $895 million budget at its meeting Tuesday night to allocate money for different purposes, organizations and ventures for the next two fiscal years.

According to a press release from the office of Mayor Jesse Arreguín, the city’s budget — going into effect July 1 — includes $386 million in general funds. The approved budget divides the 108 total items into two categories: those receiving funding immediately and those receiving funding in November. According to Arreguín, the city designed the budget with public input in mind and prioritized public and pedestrian safety, disaster preparedness, affordable housing, preventing displacement and advancing an equitable and sustainable community.

“The budget really is a reflection of our values,” Arreguín said during the meeting. “It is the way that we actually are able to manifest the vision and the policies that we adopt on the City Council.”

The budget passed at the meeting included new funding for organizations lacking allocations as of the June 11 council meeting, including Healthy Black Families, a nonprofit organization focused on creating equity for Black children, families and community members in Berkeley.

According to Arreguín, the budget also includes the “biggest investment Berkeley has ever made to address the housing crisis,” with a total allocation of $900,000. These funds are being divided into different categories and programs, including a fund for legal aid for those facing evictions, housing retention programs and rehousing funds.

The funds will be coming from Measure U1, Measure O and Measure P, which were passed by Berkeley constituents in the November 2016 and 2018 elections to address aspects of the housing crisis, including affordable housing, according to Arreguín.

“Obviously, we need to do more, but that is the starting point,” Arreguín said, eliciting cheers from the audience.

The budget also includes funds to reopen the West Campus Pool full time, as it has operated on a part-time, seasonal schedule since the Great Recession. The funding will allow the pool to be open year-round for four hours every day, which many constituents said during public comment would help with equity and accessibility, as more constituents would have access to swimming regardless of what community they live in.

Other items in the budget include funding for a youth theater program, funding to support cooperative work and housing enterprises and funding to provide stipends to interns who work in City Council offices, which Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson said was one of his priorities.

“Honestly, I feel so privileged that this is the first budget I get to support,” Robinson said during the meeting. “Budget meetings can be deeply, deeply contentious, but I think it is good that we spent most of tonight celebrating.”

Sabrina Dong is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected]g and follow her on Twitter at @Sabrina_Dong_.
Contact Kate Finman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.