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BERKELEY'S NEWS • DECEMBER 06, 2022

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Berkeley City Council debates ballot measures, vacancy tax

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JONATHAN HALE | STAFF

In a meeting Wednesday morning, Berkeley City Council focused on major ballot measures pertaining to vacancy taxes, affordable housing and street maintenance.

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Staff

AUGUST 03, 2022

Berkeley City Council discussed potential ballot measures for the upcoming Nov. 8 election in a special meeting Wednesday morning.

The meeting focused on three major ballot measures: the $650 million General Obligation Bond Measure, a general tax measure to place a tax on vacant residential units and the amendment of the Rent Stabilization and Good Cause for Eviction Ordinance. Lasting more than seven hours, the meeting ended at around 5 p.m.

Prior to voting and amending the proposed ballot measures, the council approved a motion to allocate additional Measure P funding to the “Step Up Housing” project.

“Taking the action today to put this on the ballot is one of the most important actions that we will take probably during our time on the city council,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín at the meeting. “If we are successful to pass this bond, it will have a positive, transformative impact on our city.”

During the public comment session, members of Berkeley Tenants Union criticized the meeting’s timing. Residents complained that starting the meeting at 9 a.m. posed a barrier to access for working-class residents who could not take time off work.

Residents also aimed criticism at the council for scheduling the meeting at the same time as UC Berkeley’s closing of People’s Park to begin construction, a decision that was met with significant protest.

The council unanimously approved a ballot measure that would issue a general obligation bond to help fund issues including affordable housing and street maintenance and safety.

While discussing the proposed bond, Councilmember Sophie Hahn expressed disapproval regarding the decision to almost fully fund the street improvement budget while providing less funding for affordable housing.

“Maybe for the first time in the city’s history, instead of fighting over crumbs here, we are fighting over abundance,” Hahn said at the meeting.

Vice Mayor Kate Harrison’s vacancy tax was passed as well, despite concern for the tax’s implementation. If approved by Berkeley voters, the vacancy tax will be applicable to any units that are not exempt from tax and that are empty for more than 182 days in a year.

According to Harrison, the goal is to discourage landlords from holding vacant units. Councilmember Rigel Robinson, who co-sponsored the ballot argument with Harrison, said the tax would help the city utilize vacant housing that is already built.

The meeting ended with a motion to take no action on amending the Rent Stabilization and Good Cause for Eviction Ordinance due to the council being unable to make a majority decision on all but one of the recommended amendments.

Contact Rae Wymer at [email protected], and follow them on Twitter at @rae_wymer.
LAST UPDATED

AUGUST 04, 2022


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