July 20 2020

Tomorrow, 7/21, City Council will be discussing several potential ballot measures for the upcoming election in November. I’ve summarized the potential ballot measures below:

  • Repealing the residency requirement for sworn members of the Berkeley Fire Department (read proposed language here). Currently, language in the City Charter requires that “Any sworn member of the fire department who is hired subsequent to January 1, 1995, may not reside greater than a radius of forty (40) air miles from the boundaries of the City of Berkeley.” Since this language was adopted, BFD has dramatically increased participation in mutual aid programs.  In other disasters such as earthquakes or even on normal days in the Bay Area, recall time to the City will be dependent on traffic conditions and damaged infrastructure more than miles traveled.


  • Placing a special tax measure to fund firefighting, emergency medical response and communication, and wildfire prevention/preparedness on the ballot (read proposed language here). This measure would enact a tax at a rate of $0.1047 per square foot of building/structural improvements, which is estimated to generate $8.5 million annually for firefighting, emergency medical response, 9-1-1 communications services, and wildfire prevention and preparedness, until repealed by the voters. Since this would provide restricted general revenue, it would require passage by two-thirds of voters. 


  • Adopting a tax on transportation network companies (read proposed language here). This measure would enact a tax on users of Transportation Network Companies (such as Uber or Lyft) for prearranged trips originating in Berkeley, at a rate of 50 cents per trip for private trips and 25 cents per trip for pooled trips, regardless of the number of passengers on the trip, which is estimated to generate $910,000 annually for general municipal services. Oakland and Emeryville are considering similar measures. 


  • Adopting an increase in utility users tax from 7.5% to 10% and to increase the gas users tax by up to an additional 2.5% to fund general municipal services, to establish a climate equity action fund that may receive a portion of the revenues from the increase in electricity and gas users taxes (read proposed language here). In 2009, the City adopted a Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A significant impediment to greater progress on the City’s Climate Action Plan is the lack of funding. This tax would provide an estimated $4 million annually. 


  • Direct the City Manager to: prepare a ballot tax measure to increase the electricity and gas portion of the Utility Users Tax by 2.5%, except for CARE customers, for the purpose of funding a Climate Equity and Action Fund, and providing authority to the Council to potentially raise the gas portion an additional 5% at a rate of 1% per year (read proposed language here). This proposal comes from the City’s Energy Commission, which recommends that a referendum be placed on the ballot to ask voters to create an ongoing funding stream for carbon reduction activities, called a Climate Action Fund, with annual revenues of $5 million to $10 million. 


  • Amending the City Charter to make the office of Mayor and City Councilmember full-time positions, with remuneration set at a level reflecting full-time employment (read proposed language here).

On 7/28, Council will discuss an additional set of amendments to the Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance for the November ballot proposed by the Rent Board which would include the following (read proposed language here): 

  1. Adopt a secondary Registration fee for three types of partially-exempt units (single family homes, condominiums, and newly constructed units); 
  2. Amend the Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance to limit the substantive basis for eviction for nonpayment of rent so that it does not apply to rent payments that come due during a state or local state of emergency when triggered by applicable federal, state, or local emergency legislation; 
  3. Repeal the “golden duplex” exemption for owner-occupied duplexes that were owner occupied on December 31, 1979, so tenants in eligible owner-occupied duplexes will have rent control and/or eviction protections; 
  4. Repeal the Accessory Dwelling Unit exemption for rental units in a residential property containing a single, lawfully established and fully permitted Accessory Dwelling Unit where the landlord also occupies a unit in the same property as his/her principal residence and the tenancy was created after November 7, 2018, so tenants in eligible Accessory Dwelling Units will have rent control and/or eviction protections.

Council is holding a special meeting on Thursday which includes discussion of revisions to the Berkeley Police Department’s use of force policy. The proposal is from the Police Review Commission, in response to a Council directive to update the City’s use of force policy. Recommendations include adoption of minimal use of force and minimal reliance standards, comprehensive reporting of uses of force and threats of force, adoption of core principles to provide the philosophical foundation for a use of force policy.

To provide input on any of the potential ballot measures or Council items, you can write to [email protected]. If you want to participate virtually in one of the Council meetings, you can find instructions to call-in or join via Zoom at the top of each meeting agenda (7/21 agenda here, 7/23 agenda here, and 7/28 agenda here).

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Lori Droste
Berkeley City Councilmember, District 8