Flash: Green Downtown Initiative Petitions Submitted, Likely to Qualify for November Ballot (Updated)

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday May 20, 2014 - 06:42:00 PM
Councilmember Jesse Arreguin and his aide Anthony Sanchez deliver signed petitions to the Berkeley City Clerk.
Tom Hunt
Councilmember Jesse Arreguin and his aide Anthony Sanchez deliver signed petitions to the Berkeley City Clerk.

Proponents of the Green Downtown and Public Commons Initiative submitted close to 4,000 signatures to the Berkeley City Clerk at 4 pm today in order to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

The supporting committee’s official legal title is “Yes on Berkeley’s Green Downtown and Public Commons Initiative, Supported by Councilmember Jesse Arreguin.” State law now requires that the name of elected officials who are proponents of measures must be included in the title.

According to mathematician Tom Hunt, who wrote a spreadsheet program to verify authenticity of the signatures, a total of 3928 signatures were collected by circulators, 3102 of which were valid, non-duplicates according to his calculations.

Ordinarily the City Clerk examines a sample of about 500 of the submitted signatures to determine whether at least 10% more than the necessary number to qualify for the ballot have been collected.

Based on the vote in the last election, 2648 signatures are required to qualify, so the clerk tomorrow will be trying to verify that at least 2913 signatures ( 2648 + 10%) are valid.

The 3102 signatures submitted by proponents add up to the minimum plus 17%, so it’s very likely that the petitions will pass muster to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

The signature gathering process was unusually short, only three weeks.

According to Zoning Commissioner Sophie Hahn, one of those who worked on the text of the initiative, there was a huge outpouring of support from the community, with more than 60 unpaid volunteers making possible a very quick signature gathering process, with a bit of help from 10-15 paid circulators.

In the last 3 days alone more than 1000 signatures came in.

“Signatures came easily compared to many initiatives”, Hahn said. “It was very heartening to go out in the community and understand where the community is on the issues—not the spin.”

She said that those who signed expressed a desire to maintain Berkeley’s urban core as a place of public and civic activity—they want all the features of a green downtown, as expressed in Measure R’s “Green Pathway” but never adopted by would-be developers because they are optional.

According to Hahn, she’s seen lots of support in Berkeley recently for measures which address the income gap, as exemplified by the campaign for a minimum wage which is also the subject of a proposed initiative. The Green Downtown Initiative’s provisions requiring builders to offer prevailing wage to construction, security and maintenance workers for new developments have been popular with signers.

She said that everything in the measure reflects decades of community input, and that Councilmember Arreguin, who represents the Downtown area, has been participating in this discussion for at least 10 years. She believes that the public is now asking for everything which was promised in Measure R but was never delivered.