The Berkeley City Council authorized the sale of $40 million in general obligation bonds to support affordable housing and separately referred millions of dollars to address houselessness at its regular meeting Tuesday.
Council members authorized the issuance of $40 million in bonds to finance the city’s acquisition and improvement of affordable housing units in the city. The council also approved a $3.9 million contract with Abode Services, a Fremont nonprofit supportive housing provider, to operate an interim housing program at the Rodeway Inn.
Berkeley residents Thomas Lord and Joseph Liesner alleged Abode Services does not provide effective resources for houseless people and criticized the city’s $3.9 million contract during public comment. Liesner also alleged that the university’s plan to temporarily house displaced individuals from People’s Park at the Rodeway Inn is a temporary solution to the long-term displacement that will result from the university’s development.
UC Berkeley administrators announced the Rodeway Inn plan in March after the UC Board of Regents approved a project to convert People’s Park into student housing.
Mayor Jesse Arreguín responded to Liesner’s criticism after public comment.
“Having people live in tents in makeshift structures is not a solution,” Arreguín said at the meeting. “The solution to homelessness is housing.”
The council also authorized the acceptance of a $2.2 million donation from the university to support the Rodeway Inn project at its meeting Tuesday.
Councilmember Kate Harrison committed to listening and helping to address problems at the Rodeway Inn and any other of the city’s shelters in order to assist those experiencing houselessness.
“I can’t in good conscience vote against a housing solution,” Harrison said during the meeting. “Even if I don’t like the way we got here.”
The council also authorized $600,000 in contracts with environmental organizations such as the Association for Energy Affordability and Northern California Land Trust to fund climate equity pilot programs.
Councilmember Sophie Hahn’s proposal to authorize $150,000 to support renovation of 931 Ashby Ave. also passed. Luna Dance Institute will occupy the renovated space to create an ADA-accessible dance education center for children.
Berkeley communications director Matthai Chakko also updated the council on the status of the city’s “website reinvention project.” Chakko said only 7% of surveyed residents trusted that information on the city of Berkeley’s website was accurate. Staff also identified the website’s current old-school design as a problem. An updated city of Berkeley website will be available by next week, according to website project manager Roy Santos.
Arreguín announced at the meeting’s end that it would be the last virtual-only city council meeting. Starting next week, council members and community members are invited to attend future meetings on Zoom or in person at 1231 Addison St.