City Council discusses RV parking, wildfire prevention, cyclist tickets

Vanessa Lim/Staff

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Responses to October’s PG&E shutoff, moves to address homelessness and a vote to decriminalize cyclists running stop signs moved through approval at Tuesday’s regular Berkeley City Council meeting.

After a bluster of criticism directed toward the Berkeley Police Department ticketing cyclists for running stop signs, City Council passed a recommendation to treat stop signs like yield signs — called an Idaho stop. District 7 Councilmember Rigel Robinson, behind the item, said Berkeley would be the first city in California to make such a move.

“It’s important to note, the bicyclist is most likely to get hurt when not following rules,” Robinson said during the meeting. “Here in Berkeley, we can take tangible action to move this vision forward.”

The item — sent to the city transportation commission for review before a final voteasks that resources are not prioritized for enforcing stop sign violations on cyclists, and direct efforts toward traffic calming measures. The item cites a UC Berkeley transportation study that suggests allowing Idaho stops increases safety.

“Transportation is responsible for 60% of Berkeley’s carbon emissions,” said Ben Paulos, a city energy commission member. “The idea of giving tickets for slow and go behavior at stop signs is a disincentive for people riding their bikes.”

During the meeting, City Council also passed a resolution supporting SB 378 that would regulate future power shutoffs.

Introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, the bill aims to prohibit utilities from using taxpayer funds to oppose emerging utility options, create a process for customers to recover costs from planned power outages and prevent customers from being charged during future planned outages.

After declaring the city’s commitment to wildfire prevention Oct. 15, City Council approved a budget referral of $550,000 for wildfire mitigation measures

In addition to clearing dried vegetation exposing the Berkeley Hills to wildfire hazard, it will also continue the temporary fire captain position, which was originally set to end by February 2020.

Looking to potentially expand its foremost supportive homeless shelter, council members voted to send a proposal to expand the Pathways STAIR Navigation Center with a third sleeping unit. The proposal will need approval of the $750,000 during the budget allocation process. Recently, the temporary rehousing shelter shared the outcome of operations after its first anniversary, which came out with mixed results.

In other efforts to create sanctioned shelter spaces, City Council considered turning a city-owned lot on 1281 University Avenue into temporary overnight recreational vehicle parking while city staff seek out lots for overnight parking. Overnight parking, yet to be proposed by city staff, was coupled with the city’s overnight recreational vehicle dwelling ban, passed in March amid opposition.

“Our community really desire to find locations for the homeless but sometimes when something is proposed in someone’s neighborhood they don’t want it,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín said during the meeting. “We should be more open-minded.”

Coinciding with the start of the public impeachment process of President Donald Trump led by House Democrats, City Council members also moved to back a letter supporting the impeachment.

Contact Blake Evans and Brandon Yung at [email protected].