Berkeley City Council District 6 candidates responded to questions concerning climate change and housing, among other topics, at an Oct. 23 town hall before the upcoming Nov. 3 election.
Hosted by the ASUC Office of External Affairs and BridgeUSA at Berkeley, candidates Richard Illgen and incumbent Susan Wengraf spoke on their plans for these issues if elected. The first topic of the town hall centered around climate change, with both Wengraf and Illgen discussing possible courses of action for the city of Berkeley.
“If you have good transit, you don’t need a car,” Wengraf said at the event. “That, for me, is the biggest single thing that we can do.”
Wengraf added that building housing along transit corridors is the “solution” to reducing vehicle carbon emissions. She also said she wished to mandate solar panels on all municipal and school buildings.
Illgen also had plans to reduce carbon emissions, stating that he would ensure that vehicles are completely electric and calling for more transit lines.
Candidates also answered affordable housing concerns for both students and Berkeley residents.
When asked about affordable housing development at the Ashby and North Berkeley BART stations, Illgen said “purely affordable housing” is possible with the proper funding.
“We need to preserve public lands for affordable housing because we do have the ability to control what the land costs are on these sites,” Illgen said at the event.
To increase housing affordability for older students and middle class residents, Wengraf created an amnesty program that allowed for 5,000 illegal units in Berkeley to be rented without fear of reprisal. She also passed funding for a modular apartment building to be occupied by the unhoused community.
In terms of student housing, both candidates said UC Berkeley has not provided enough units to fulfill student needs, adding that they support development on sites such as People’s Park if necessary.
Illgen also noted his support for Proposition 21, which seeks to give local governments authority to expand rent control. He added that he also supports commercial rent control as a means of aiding struggling businesses during COVID-19, calling small businesses the “backbone of the economy.”
“Private development in Berkeley has been master leased by the university … and then used in place of dorms,” Wengraf said at the event. “That housing is supposed to be for everybody, but it’s not.”
During the event, both candidates also said they do not support cutting the Berkeley Police Department’s budget by the intended 50%.
According to Wengraf, police officers need to be “reeducated” and “retrained” to reflect the community’s values. Illgen, however, noted his support to deflect some of the BPD’s functions to mental health professionals, as well as redirecting funds to other programs.
“These things take a lot of time away from policing,” Illgen said at the event. “We can keep the public safe while reducing the police budget.”