At its regular meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council voted on two major budget proposals and enacted revised building codes to more effectively reduce emissions from newly constructed buildings.
City Council approved both Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s midyear budget proposal and Measure P funds, which are raised through real estate transfer taxes and used to address the homelessness crisis.
“Approving a balanced budget while advancing a more equitable and sustainable city is a sign of a healthy budget that we can all be proud of,” Arreguín said in a press release.
During the meeting, Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani introduced an alternative proposal to roll back spending on certain budget items to account for “known and unknown fiscal risks” with a $3 million contingency.
Council members were quick to rebuke the revised proposal.
“I am extremely confident that our staff are aware of known and unknown eventualities,” said Councilmember Sophie Hahn during the meeting. “I do not see any basis for questioning their expertise.”
Other council members agreed that while the city is unable to account for every single unforeseen circumstance and that budgeting is especially difficult, there still must be a sense of urgency in serving the public.
The city also keeps a percentage of general funds in both “catastrophic” and “stability” reserves to account for similar unforeseen eventualities, according to Arreguín.
City Council then heard recommendations from the Homeless Services Panel of Experts, which was established by Measure P to help the city determine how revenues should be used to mitigate Berkeley’s homelessness crisis. The panel’s proposal included continued funding for the construction of Youth Spirit Artworks’, or YSA’s, Tiny House Village project, which will provide housing for homeless and transitional youth.
Dozens came in support of YSA, urging the city to support the proposed Measure P funding for the Tiny House Village.
“The project has been built by the support of the greater Bay Area community to serve these at risk youth,” said Patrick Lerchi, YSA’s Tiny House project build manager. “It’s thanks to their efforts and leadership that we’ve embarked on this mission to empower them.”
Led “by the people that it serves,” the Tiny House project will increase the number of available youth beds in the area by 40% once construction is complete, according to Lerchi.
City Council also unanimously approved a motion to reenact previous city building codes with revisions that will more strictly regulate emissions standards for certain newly constructed buildings.
“We’re really lucky to have a planning department that is incredibly visionary,” said Councilmember Rigel Robinson. “The city of Berkeley is lucky to be led by such brilliant planners really thinking about the relationship between their planning work and the climate.”
Members of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, an organization that aims to “electrify” California’s homes and workspaces, came wearing signs that read “Berkeley supports building electrification” to urge City Council to adopt the proposed measure.
During public comment, professionals from organizations such as the National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club drew upon their expertise to show support for the new regulations.
“Society- and economy-wide decarbonization will be hard, but we have no other choice if we want to prevent the worst-case impacts of climate change,” said Nick Young, a senior project manager for the Association for Energy Affordability Inc., in an email.
City Council also heard a presentation from the city’s Department of Public Works outlining the conceptual design for the Milvia Bikeway Project proposal. The project will create a protected bikeway and other modifications intended to protect pedestrians and cyclists in the notoriously dangerous area.
“I hope we can escalate the timeframe for the project now that it is fully funded,” Arreguín said.