Berkeley City Council discussed affordable housing, student mentorship and biking safety at its regular meeting Tuesday.
The council’s first act was to proclaim May as Affordable Housing Month in Berkeley.
“Stable affordable homes are the solution to homelessness and supports seniors, families, youths, veterans and people with disabilities and special needs, as well as our whole community,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín during the meeting.
However, during public comment later in the meeting, Jim Nelson, a teacher in Oakland and UC Berkeley alumnus, criticized the building of student housing at People’s Park. He also asked the council not to support the effort, stating that it would displace the community that lives there and relies on its resources.
Nelson alleged that the project only benefits campus and not the entire Berkeley community.
“It is a terrible project,” Nelson said at the meeting. “Y’all should be serving the Berkeley community and not UC Berkeley.”
Another commenter, Peggy Scott, advocated for affordable “green” buildings as opposed to high-rise towers with market-rate units. She claimed that Berkeley currently has more than a thousand vacant, market-rate units.
Scott also emphasized her preference for low, environment-friendly buildings that “(fit) into our communities.”
“Tall buildings lock in heat and increase global warming,” Scott said during the meeting. “Tall buildings made of concrete and steel are terrible for the environment.”
Later during the meeting, Berkeley Scholars to Cal was honored by Arreguín for its work in helping Black and Latine students in the Berkeley Unified School District succeed.
Arreguín said the program has consistently produced better outcomes for Black and Latine students with high potential in the Berkeley Unified School District.
“The Berkeley Unified School District has collaborated with Berkeley Scholars to Cal program in order to achieve the district’s 2020 plan to eliminate the predictive power of race on student success,” Arreguín said at the meeting.
The program pairs young students with campus student mentors, according to Arreguín. He noted the students’ “tenacity,” expressing gratitude for the support they received from the program.
The council also approved a conceptual design for the Hopkins Corridor Traffic and Placemaking Study, which addresses pedestrian and bicyclist safety on Hopkins Street between Sutter Street and Gilman Street. The conceptual design includes a physically protected bikeway, bus boarding islands and intersection safety treatments such as corner sidewalk extensions and high-visibility pavement markings.
Corey Dorsey, a resident on Hopkins Street, said they support the bicycle improvements during public comment. Dorsey noted from personal experience that Hopkins Street is “incredibly unsafe,” adding that their partner was nearly hit by a car this past weekend.
Fourth grade student Alvin Talbot also said they support the project.
“I really want to have protected bike lanes because I want to stay safe,” Talbot said during the meeting.