Flash: Berkeley City Council's Special Meeting Online Tonight at 6

Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison
Tuesday March 17, 2020 - 03:02:00 PM

There is an emergency meeting regarding the novel coronavirus and the City response to it tonight at 6pm at 1231 Addison St. As always you can watch via live webcast here, and tonight you are especially encouraged to do so. Because this is an emergency special meeting, we know that many will not have yet had the opportunity to read through the materials, and so all four items will be summarized below, followed by a list of frequently asked questions. The situation is changing rapidly, and we are doing our best to communicate any changes to you. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to reply to this email and ask. 

Berkeley City Council Special Meeting, 3/17, 6pm 

1. Ratification of Recommendations Issued by the Director of Emergency Services and the Public Health Officer Regarding Meetings of Legislative Bodies. 

To substantially limit public gatherings, the recommendation is to suspend or limit meetings of commissions, policy committees, or the full Council in the following ways: 

  • Full meetings of the Berkeley City Council: the City will continue to advise and implement social distancing by limiting the capacity of the Council Chambers, providing an overflow room, attempting to limit the duration of the meeting, only conducting essential business, and limiting or suspending ceremonial items.
  • Council Policy Committee Meetings: the Agenda and Rules Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee may continue to meet. All other policy committees (public safety, health and life enrichment, land use, and facilities and environment) are suspended. The 120 day deadline to vote an item out of committee has been waived.
  • Boards and Commissions: all Boards and Commissions shall not meet for a period of 60 days. The only exception is for quasi-judicial commissions, or commissions that serve a role mandated by law, shall be allowed to meet only regarding items that are time-sensitive and/or mandated by law. The vast majority of commission meetings will be suspended for the next 60 days.

2. The COVID-19 Emergency Response Ordinance 

The coronavirus has caused many workplaces to furlough their employees or cut their hours. This loss of income affects tenants' abilities to pay their rent at the end of the month and could lead to evictions. The safest place for people to be is inside their homes. We must make sure that the disease does not spread because people lose their homes. The emergency ordinance disallows evictions because of lost income. In times like this evictions are a matter of public health. 

3. Berkeley COVID Relief Fund and Expanding Flexible Housing Pool 

The coronavirus is proving to be disastrous for renters, small businesses, and arts organizations. Businesses and nonprofits are instructing employees to stay home, many without pay. Gig workers and those with performance contracts will no longer be working and garnering income. Rent payments to local landlords will be delayed which could lead to eviction and possibly impact the ability to pay mortgages and property maintenance. 

To that end, the City Manager is requested to create a tax-exempt special fund up to $3 million dollars, to provide gap assistance to small businesses and arts organizations significantly impacted (demonstrated decrease in gross receipts or patronage) by the COVID-19 state of emergency. The City Manager is requested to consider all federal, state, grants and philanthropic funding available to provide economic relief to businesses and arts organizations which can be leveraged with the City’s additional funding. 

Rent assistance to tenants will be administered by Bay Area Community Services (BACS) under their current contract for the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool. Tenants with demonstrated impact from the COVID19 epidemic will qualify for access to Flexible Housing Subsidy funds for this purpose. 

4. Strategies for Special Populations During COVID-19 Crisis 

Referral to the City Manager to develop and implement strategies to address the needs of populations in Berkeley who face unique challenges during the COVID-19 crisis. These populations include the homeless, people with disabilities, seniors, single parents with children, the food insecure, undocumented immigrants, and stranded visitors. Each of these populations face unique obstacles to social distancing, obtaining medical treatments, and other necessary responses to the coronavirus. The City Manager’s Office is hard at work identifying locations for the trailers and tents to be provided by the state and readying City facilities for use. Our office is also asking that the City protect individuals experiencing homelessness through deploying Porta Potties, more handwashing stations, trash pickup, rodent control, utilizing public billboards to distribute information, and allowing homeless advocates to provide services and supplies.