Berkeley City Council discusses sustainability, housing crisis

photo of People's Park signs
Daniel Kim/File
City Council’s meeting detailed environmental efforts to increase recycling and reduce plastic usage. The council also discussed affordable housing initiatives, including agreement between City Council and campus.

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Berkeley City Council acknowledged sustainability efforts and discussed action plans to address Bay Area homelessness during its regular Tuesday meeting.

The meeting began with a proclamation read by Councilmember Rigel Robinson, applauding the contributions of Cal Move Out, a student-led program, in reducing the environmental impact of the moving out process. The collective recycled household items that may have otherwise been discarded on city streets.

“I’m thrilled to be part of this collective redistribution and reuse of almost 200,000 pounds of materials,” said Julia Sherman, a member of Cal Move Out, during the meeting. “I know this program was truly a bright spot for the students, staff and community members impacted by this work.”

Mayor Jesse Arreguín declared in a resolution that July 2021 would be a “Plastic Free July” as part of international efforts to reduce single-use plastics.

The Ecology Center will also hold events throughout the month to encourage a “plastic-free comeback” for Berkeley, according to Denaya Shorter, the center’s community engagement program director.

Martin Bourque, executive director of the Ecology Center, noted that the issue of single-use plastics is tied to climate change and other environmental problems.

“While the solutions need to be public policy, they start in our communities and our homes,” Bourque said during the meeting. “We have a long way to go before we can call ourselves plastic free, but this city has taken this movement to heart, and has for many years, and is increasing efforts to reduce plastic waste.”

After a time for public commentary on the council consent items, All Home California, a Bay Area organization, gave a presentation on combating poverty and homelessness through its Regional Action Plan, or RAP. The plan also received endorsement from Arreguín.

The RAP aims to reduce homelessness by 75% by 2024 through its 1-2-4 framework. According to the plan, for every one unit of interim housing, the city would invest in two permanent housing solutions and four homelessness prevention solutions.

Ken Kirkey, chief partnership officer of All Home California, noted that the ratio may vary depending on the city.

“The likelihood of returning to homelessness is somewhat high in the population of people experiencing homelessness in Berkeley, so we’d really focus attention on the subsidy aspect of the model to help break the cycle of those who are continuing to be placed and then fall back into homelessness,” said Joanne Karchmer, chief impact officer at All Home California, during the meeting.

The council unanimously approved the motion to recommend the RAP.

Justin Horner, associate planner for the city, presented on the redesignation of five parcels to the Adeline Corridor Plan to develop affordable housing in South Berkeley.

“This is the kind of land use and housing values that reflects our values as a city,” said Councilmember Terry Taplin during the meeting. “It’s so important for the African American community to collectively determine how our land is treated and what we do with it and the faith community, being able to provide not only a spiritual home but a physical home for the community.”

The final item of the meeting focused on the General Plan and Housing Element Annual Progress reports; Alene Pearson, principal land use planner, noted that this was the first year Berkeley submitted a General Plan Annual Progress Report.

In closed session, City Council authorized an agreement with UC Berkeley that would facilitate further cooperation and enable the university to send annual payments that would amount to more than $80 million more than 16 years, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

“The city and the university have grown up together,” said campus Chancellor Carol Christ during a press conference. “Unlike some campuses, which are very defined by the border of their campus park, Berkeley is not. We determined that co-investment with the city will improve the experiences of our students, faculty and staff.”

As part of the agreement, the university will plan to reduce master leasing, according to Christ.

The settlement came after increases in enrollment led to prior litigation with the university, according to Arreguín.

“We believe that while the university provides enormous benefits to the city and the region, and the faculty, city and staff do add to the tax base, there are measurable impacts on police and fire services and housing and infrastructure,” Arreguín said. “The annual payments provided by the agreement will enable the city to serve the residents and students that live around the campus.”

The UC Board of Regents plans to discuss the agreement next week, the press release adds.

Contact Zachary Khouri at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @zachakhouri.