Updated: It's Still Time for a Change in Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Monday April 04, 2016 - 04:05:00 PM

As predicted, Bates & Co. bailed (for the moment) [Update #2, April 6]

A friend long interested in Berkeley's checkered planning history called me early this morning to find out what happened at the Berkeley City Council last night. Before I was three sentences into my explanation she nailed it: "DIsgraceful!"

Don't say we didn't tell you so. Last night the council majority fell all over themselves shooting down Mayor Tom Bates' trial balloons from his original proposal (dictated no doubt by the developer lobby which funded his last campaigns) to upzone what amounted almost all of flatlands Berkeley.

By the time of last night's meeting, what seemed like a sizeable percentage of the residents of the target area, both tenants and homeowners, had signed a petition opposing the Bates Plan, and many of them were at the Berkeley School District audtorium last night, loaded for bear.

Full disclosure: I was one of them. I'm getting too old to sit on the sidelines when my friends are being attacked. The last incentive was provided by the elegant old lady (like me) I see sometimes at the Adeline Farmers' Market, the one who patrols the area picking up trash because,she says, it's her neighborhood. She sternly admonished me that I'd better show up and say something, so I did, even though I don't even know her name, because she commands respect.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T!! That's what the councilmembers kept asking for from the angry crowd, evidently never having been told that you have to earn respect. They were quite correct, their constituents no longer respect them, but whose fault is that?

The meeting followed the all too familiar script. Step one was that the agenda was completely reorganized, so that people who had shown up to protest had absolutely no idea of what was going to be considered when. This was all disclosed in the trademark Bates Mumble, wherein the presiding Mayor skillfully avoids the microphone and gives a good simulation of missing his marbles, though he actually knows just what he's doing. The ensuing commotion was simply too chaotic to summarize here, and the tone of the remarks from the dais and also from the audience had to been seen to be believed.

The bottom line is that all the Bates Bunch managed to accomplish is to pass a resolution imposing a higher affordable housing impact fee on future speculators who want to build more market rate luxury apartments, though just at the minimum level which was recommended by a professional firm more than a year ago. We'll ask one of the several sharp-pencilled citizens in attendance to provide key details here later.

The only other accomplishment of note was to pass, after vigorous advocacy over more than an hour by a beautiful bunch of young folks. a supplemental allocation of $15k to keep a night-time shelter for homeless kids (yes, KIDS) open throughout April. The only no vote, the nadir of civic disgrace in an evening of disgraceful performances, came from the elderly mayor, on the grounds that it was supposed to be a winter shelter, and April's not winter. Duh! Let those durn kids sleep on doorsteps on Shattuck and Telly, okay?

Don't believe this actually happened? You really must watch the video to get the full flavor. 

Is Bates Bailing on By-Right Building? [April 4 update]

Can you really fight City Hall? Maybe, just maybe, for a while anyway. There’s been a flurry of excitement on the progressive email lists this morning because it looks like Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates is backing down, at least a bit, on his outrageous proposals to up-zone and up-build almost all of flatlands Berkeley on his way out the door.

One wag who shall be nameless even suggested that “we need a Republican Party to come in here and declare that Bates is a lame duck and he should let the next Mayor decide. Or just put it to a vote of the people. :)”.

But Bates seems to be a bit cowed by the uproar that his proposals have caused.

This morning our emailbox contained a “Special Bates Update”, a statement which hasn’t yet been posted on the Mayor’s (tax-payer funded) private web page in which he reiterated most of his plans for revising Berkeley’s zoning code, but, almost as an afterthought, withdraws the proposal which has generated the most flak: by-right approval for big center-city developments which would leave current residents out of the loop.

There have been dueling petitions in circulation online from both left (Berkeley Progressive Alliance) and right (Livable Berkeley). As of this writing the Progressives were ahead by about 2 to 1, and they were rallying their supporters to show up at tomorrow’s city council meeting to emphasize their opposition to the Bates scheme.

The East Bay Express has done an unusually good job of reporting on the action. Read it here: Berkeley Progressives Say Mayor Bates’ Housing Plan is a “Blueprint for Gentrification” 






[April 1] First of all, I’d like to thank the several thoughtful and intelligent citizens who responded to the request for more analysis and information which ended my last posting in this space. Their excellent contributions can be found in this issue.

The Mayor’s plan to manufacture electoral consent to give central Berkeley away to developers will come before the Berkeley City Council next Tuesday, April 5, and it’s important that all of you who never wanted to live in Speculation City inform yourselves and make your opinions heard.

A petition started by the Berkeley Progressive Alliance objecting to this scheme has been forwarded to me several times. You can read more and sign the petition here. 






You could even go to the council meeting on Tuesday—public comment starts at 7, and the mayor’s items are at various times on the agenda. Because the current council has negligently permitted the historic Maudelle Shirek Building, the Old City Hall, to deteriorate until it’s no longer usable, the council now meets in the Berkeley Unified School District board room located at 1231 Addison, with the entry at 1222 University Avenue. 

But in the long run, what we desperately need is a new city council to replace this do-nothing bunch. In this issue we’re starting up the Planet’s Election Section again. It’s open to any and all candidates for Mayor and the other open offices which will be voted on in November. 

Candidates who want to make their positions on the issues public (though I know that’s not all of them) may submit statements and/or comments of any reasonable length by email to election@berkeleydailyplanet.com, preferably in the form of an attached Word .doc or .docx file, but if that’s not possible as an unformatted text in the body of the email. 

New issues are posted on Fridays, so comments posted then remain on the home page in the current issue for a full week. However they can be submitted any day of the week and can always be read in the archives. 

We’ve already run statements from some candidates, and they’re welcome to send more if they want. Fred Dodsworth, running for the District 6 council seat now held by Susan Wengraf, happens to have sent us one today which appears in this issue. 

All too many voters base their decisions on the flood of expensive glossy mailers which appear in the last couple of weeks before any election. Without a print paper, we’re at the mercy of those with the money to pay for mail. 

There’s got to be a better way, and there is. 

If you read something here from a candidate that makes sense to you, you can send it on to your contacts by email or social media using the “Share” program in the upper right corner of the page that the article’s on. You can even use this utility to print up a few paper copies and hand them out to friends and neighbors who don’t read much online, still a surprising percentage of the electorate. 

We also welcome comments on the election from readers of all kinds, either about issues or about candidates. 


I note that once again it’s April Fools’ Day, the anniversary of the founding of Berkeley and also of the first issue of the re-started Berkeley Daily Planet in print under the management and ownership of the O’Malley family. It’s hard to believe that was only 13 years ago—it’s been a hard slog. I re-read what we said on the front page, and I think we still believe most of it, but I’m not sure how much closer we’ve come to the lofty goals we articulated way back then.