7 of 8 Berkeley city measures pass, Measure HH appears to fail

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Mail-in ballots are still being counted, and Alameda County will continue to update election results over the coming days.

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Berkeley residents voted on eight city measures on their November ballots, with Measures FF, GG, II, JJ, KK, LL and MM passing, as of press time, while Measure HH appears to have failed to secure enough votes to pass.

All eight city measures were put forward by Berkeley City Council. Seven of the eight measures required a majority vote, while Measure HH required a two-thirds or 66.67% majority vote. Mail-in ballots are still being counted, and Alameda County will continue to update election results over the coming days.

Measure FF: Fire, Emergency Services and Wildfire Prevention Tax – Passed

Measure FF passed with 75.17% of votes in its favor as of press time.

This measure will enact a $0.1047 parcel tax per square foot on real property improvements to fund local firefighter and emergency responses, wildfire prevention activities, hazard mitigation, as well as upgrade the city’s 911 communications services. The measure is estimated to generate $8.5 million annually.

Taxes will not apply to “very low-income” property owners, according to the measure’s text.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and the City Council unanimously decided to place Measure FF on the November ballot. Community members and members of the Alameda County Taxpayers Association, however, argue against doubling tax payments during the pandemic.

Measure GG: Tax on Transportation Network Company Trips – Passed

Passing with 60.05% of votes in its favor as of press time, Measure GG will create a $0.50 tax on private ridesharing trips and a $0.25 tax on pooled rides until 2041.

The measure is estimated to generate $910,000 a year and aims to help improve the infrastructure of the city, including streets, sidewalks and pedestrian crossings. Since private ridesharing companies use the city’s public infrastructure, according to the measure’s text, these companies “contribute to traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and wear and tear on the public infrastructure,” and currently “do not pay taxes” to the city.

According to the city attorney’s impartial analysis, the tax will not apply to rides paid for or reimbursed by state or federal government health care payers and rides in wheelchair-accessible vehicles, in accordance with state law definitions.

The measure is endorsed by various elected city officials and transit, bike and pedestrian advocates.

In an argument against Measure GG, members of the Alameda County Taxpayers Association and community members called the tax “DECEPTIVE” with no accountability for street maintenance.

Measure HH: Utility Users Tax – Uncertain

With Measure HH appearing to have failed to pass with 52.50% of votes against it, as of press time, the Utility Users Tax will not increase taxes on electricity and gas from 7.5% to 10%. The future of the measure is uncertain, as it has a closer margin than other measures.

When the city declared a fiscal emergency in June due to the pandemic, the city cited a lack of “resources to adequately address the climate crisis and support general municipal services,” according to the measure’s text.

The 2.5% increase would have helped fund the Climate Equity Action Fund to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and established a commission to help implement the city’s Climate Action Plan.

Measure HH was endorsed by the League of Women Voters, the Ecology Center and Green the Church’s local 350 chapter. The same groups opposing Measure GG cited similar reasons to oppose Measure HH.

Measure II: Police Accountability Charter Amendment – Passed

Berkeley residents voted to pass Measure II with 84.22% of votes in its favor as of press time, establishing an independent police accountability board and a director of police accountability.

The measure will replace the Police Review Commission in order to increase oversight of Berkeley Police Department’s policies, practices and procedures. In amending the city’s charter, the new board and director will be able to access records, investigate complaints and recommend discipline against BPD employees.

Measure JJ: Mayor and Council Compensation Charter Amendment – Passed

Measure JJ, which will increase the pay of city elected officials, passed with 64.50% of votes in its favor as of press time.

The measure will amend Berkeley’s charter to provide the mayor compensation that is equivalent to Alameda County’s median three-person household income. City Council members will receive compensation that is equal to 63% of the mayor’s compensation.

According to the measure’s text, annual increases of compensation will be based on the changes in area median income. Compensation may also be lowered by unexcused City Council meeting absences or negotiated salary reductions for city employees.

The city attorney’s impartial analysis states that the charter amendment will require the City Personnel Board to review and amend the salaries to achieve comparable cost savings.

Measure KK: Administrative Provisions and City Attorney Charter Amendment – Passed

With 74.25% of votes cast in its favor as of press time, Measure KK, which will make four updates to the Berkeley City Charter, passed.

Measure KK will eliminate the 40-mile residency requirement for Berkeley Fire Department members. Additionally, it mandates that gender-specific pronouns in the city charter be replaced with gender-neutral language.

The measure will also clarify the terms and duties of the city attorney, who will be elected by the City Council instead of the city manager. To comply with state law, the measure will readjust local redistricting requirements.

Endorsed by various City Council members and Arreguín, the measure will “support good government in Berkeley,” according to the primary argument in favor of Measure KK.

Measure LL: GANN Limit Spending Authority – Passed

Measure LL, which will increase the appropriations limit, passed with a vote of 82.56% in its favor as of press time.

Similar measures to Measure LL are proposed every four years in all California cities to allow them to spend previously approved and collected tax dollars. Money from the measure is spent on essential city services, and if the measure does not pass, services are cut as a result of returning money back to taxpayers.

The services that benefit from the collected funding include public safety, parks and recreation, health services and infrastructure.

Measure LL will allow the city to continue spending the proceeds and income from the investment of previously approved taxes from 2021 to 2024, according to the measure’s text. The text adds that the measure will not increase taxes or impose a new tax.

The measure was placed on the ballot unanimously by the City Council.

Measure MM: Rent Stabilization Ordinance – Passed

To make amendments to the Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance, Measure MM narrowly passed with a vote of 54.25% in its favor as of press time.

Measure MM will prevent tenant evictions caused by nonpayment of rent during state or locally declared emergencies. It will also clarify accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, exemptions and provide the rent board jurisdiction over properties with multiple ADUs.

Measure MM will have ADU owners pay registration fees, follow the board’s eviction policies and comply with rent control limitations.

Additionally, the measure will adopt registration fees for certain partially exempt units, which include single-family homes, condominiums and newly constructed rental units, allowing the rent board to assist tenants and landlords of these units.

Those who oppose Measure MM include former Berkeley mayor Loni Hancock, City Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani and ADU Task Force co-chair Debra Sanderson, among others. They argue that the measure is a “poorly-designed policy that will discourage homeowners” from making affordable ADUs.

Check back for updates.

Contact Thao Nguyen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tnguyen_dc.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Measure FF required a 55% majority vote. In fact, Measure FF required a two-thirds or 66.67% majority vote.