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Jubilee Grant, Goodbyes on City Council Agenda: By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday November 16, 2004

There will likely be more cake than debate at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. 

With three newly elected councilmembers set to begin their duties at the next meeting on Dec. 7, the council will begin Tuesday evening with festivities for outgoing members Miriam Hawley, Margaret Breland and Maudelle Shirek. 

Hawley and Breland chose to retire and Shirek lost a write-in bid for a ninth term. The council will also say goodbye to City Clerk Sherry Kelly, who is retiring in two weeks. 

When the ceremonies end, the council will consider a proposal from Housing Director Steve Barton to allow troubled affordable housing developer Jubilee Restoration Inc. access to, and greater control over than in past years, an annual $26,000 city grant. 

Last month the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) froze payment on a $121,633-a-year grant for Jubilee’s homeless youth program. An investigation conducted by the federal agency found evidence that Jubilee had engaged in nepotism and misallocated funds, prompting some councilmembers to question Barton’s recommendation to grant the nonprofit city money this year.  

“This doesn’t sound like a good deal,” said Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, who said he would rather reallocate the funding to a different organization. 

The city grant, required by HUD to secure the federal grant money, has previously helped pay for a youth outreach coordinator for Jubilee’s homeless youth drop-in center. Since the youth program director resigned this fall, the outreach worker essentially runs the drop-in center. 

Barton is proposing that Jubilee use the city funds so that it can retain its staff to address the allegations in the HUD report. As a condition to receive the city funding, Jubilee will allow HUD to provide the city with all of its findings, comply with city reporting requirements and use the money only to respond to HUD and maintain its housing development activities. 

Berkeley has not released yet the grant for this year because Jubilee has failed to complete reports documenting its spending of the grant for the prior year. 

In its report, released last month, HUD found that Jubilee had transferred money from HUD accounts to pay for ineligible costs including an office luncheon. Jubilee was supposed to use the HUD grant, which was first issued in 2002, to pay for three full-time homeless youth counselors, but HUD found no evidence that any of the positions were filled until October 2003. 

Also, HUD objected to Jubilee Executive Director Gordon Choyce and his son, Deputy Director Gordon Choyce II, maintaining seats on the board of directors. They have since resigned from the board. Jubilee also employs Charleton Lightfoot, the son of board treasurer Charles Lightfoot, as its adult program coordinator, raising questions of nepotism. 

Jubilee has until Nov. 20 to respond to the charges. 

Already the investigation has jeopardized Jubilee Village, a proposed 110-unit affordable housing development. The council voted last week to delay guaranteeing up to $3 million in HUD sponsored loans for Jubilee to purchase the property at 2612 San Pablo Ave. until Jubilee cleared itself of HUD’s charges. 

Also on the agenda for Tuesday is a proposal for the council to conduct a public hearing on whether to charge for Sunday parking at the Oxford Parking Lot. Last year, the lot averaged $481,633 a week for six days of operation. If Berkeley charged for parking on Sundays, it could generate an additional $62,400 a year, Assistant City Manager for Transportation Peter Hillier wrote in a report.