New: Why You Should Attend the Berkeley City Council Meeting on Tuesday (Public Comment)

Elisa Cooper
Sunday November 15, 2015 - 09:56:00 PM

If you care about the future of housing in Berkeley and preventing criminalization of the homeless, please join us for the Tuesday, November 17th City Council meeting at City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  

The Special Work Session starting at 5:30pm will be addressing the Business License Tax on Rental Property, otherwise known as the Robin Hood Tax. This ordinance would apply a tax to large landowners to be, theoretically, directed into the Housing Trust Fund.  

The regular Council Session, which starts at 7pm includes seven items that relate to the plight of vulnerable tenants and homeless people. 

The Consent Calendar includes an amendment to the Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance to waive parking requirements in “walkable neighborhoods”: this deprivation of parking spaces may have disparate impact on the poor. 

The New Business on the Action Calendar includes an effort to appeal ZAB's decision to allow the demolition of 2631 Durant Avenue (Item 21). This demolition would remove several rent-controlled units with no legal way of replacing them. Circumstances suggest the landlord contributed to the inhabitable state of the units so the entire building could be replaced with market rate units. 

Old Business leads with a request from the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission to appoint a lawyer/organization director to one of the vacant slots for Elected Representatives of the poor (Item 22). As this person is not a direct representative of the poor, she should be added as a Council Member appointee rather than taking up one of the slots meant for direct representation of the poor. Items number 23 and 26 are of special interest to tenants: Item 23 attends to improving housing safety and habitability for tenants: Revising the Rental Housing Safety Program. and Item 26 strengthens eviction protections: Refer to the Rent Stabilization Board to Consider Creating an Ordinance Preventing Evictions for Minor Offenses. Items 24, 27, and 28 concern the situation of homeless people. Item 24 recommends implementing the Tier One Recommendations from the Homeless Task Force. Items 27 and 28 are blatant attempts to reintroduce, under new labels and catchphrases, laws that criminalize the homeless. Item 27 (Protecting our Parks from Unsafe, Unsanitary Conditions) encourages escalated police presence to enforce park rules that are meant to discourage homeless encampments. 

Item 28 (Improve Conditions on Our Community Sidewalks) heaps on laws to criminalize sitting on sidewalks or sleeping in public places by reducing the space allowed for personal belongings to 2 square feet and implying the impact on the homeless will be mitigated by “storage provided” without establishing a convenient location for this storage or taking into account the impact of additional bureaucratic hassle on the lives of homeless people. The sidewalk laws to criminalize the homeless have been rejected by Berkeley voters multiple times, and criminalization is still criminalization even if the threats of enforcement are smuggled in between offers of relief such as extending the transition-aged youth shelter hours and increasing the number of public restrooms. Furthermore, City Council seeks to empower a “Traffic Engineer” to oversee enforcement so regulations may be enforced arbitrarily without further reference to City Ordinances or the will of the voters. 

If you want to join the fight against criminalization of the homeless, there are a number of protest actions that need your support. Please show up for these planned civic actions at the steps of City Hall: 

  • Monday 6:00 am: Prayer Circle and Fasting
  • Monday 11am: Press Conference
  • Monday 6pm: Sing out/Rally for Justice and Human Rights
  • Monday overnight: Sleep out in solidarity with the homeless
  • Tuesday 6pm: Rally and speak out
  • Tuesday 7pm: City Council Meeting
At the very least, please show up at the City Council Meeting, Tuesday 7pm! Everyone has the potential to lose their housing in today’s environment of rampant speculation: please show up for the homeless. 

Tweet this: Fight #criminalization of the #homeless at the Tuesday 11/17 City Council meeting at #Berkeley City Hall! #HomesNotHandcuffs