City Council candidates from Districts 5 and 3 dined on salmon then stepped to the podium to respond to questions from Chamber of Commerce members at the City Club Tuesday.
Questions from the audience of about 65 business people stuck to issues such as economic development and the November bond measures.
While most questions from the group were general and posed to the entire panel of candidates, developer Patrick Kennedy took the opportunity to go after District 5 candidate Carrie Olson.
Kennedy attacked Olson’s opposition to the General Plan, and mocked a decision of the Landmark Preservation Commission – of which she is an active member – to landmark the Hot Dip Galvanizing structure at Gilman and Fourth streets, the corrugated metal building its detractors called a “tin shed.”
The building’s Landmark status was eventually overturned by the City Council.
“I’m glad I get to respond to this finally,” Olson said, explaining she was absent when the commission voted on the structure. If she had been there, she would have voted against it, she said.
Olson then went on to take on Kennedy’s “Gaia” building, under construction on Allston Way. The council hopeful said she opposes the “process, not the project.”
“Ten stories are being allowed for an approved seven stories,” she said.
She argued that the project has grown from the City Council-approved 87 feet, or seven stories to 10 stories because of lofts, office spaces and an elevator tower that will make it a total of 116 feet. The project has been granted a building permit, however.
Vice Mayor and District 3 incumbent Maudelle Shirek took the opportunity to maintain that she is pro-business. “If you look at the records,” the 89-year-old vice mayor said. “You’ll see my clear, strong support for jobs and my fight to save industry in Berkeley.”
Her opponent, James Peterson, brushed lightly over his widely-reported admission of taking campaign money from an applicant before the Zoning Adjustments Board of which he is a member. Peterson recused himself from voting on the applicant’s project at last week’s ZAB meeting.
He went on to say he would offer “a new vision, and a new voice for a new Berkeley.”
Peterson called Measure Y, which Shirek supports, a “poorly written, ill-conceived ordinance that uses the elderly and handicapped to enforce rent control.”
Measure Y restricts owner move-in evictions.
Marcella Crump-Williams, also a District 3 candidate, opposed the measure as well. She said that it “could be devastating to a lot of people.”
The District 5 candidates; Olson, Miriam Hawley, Tom Kelley and Mark Fowler – candidate Benjamin Rodefer attended but had to leave early before the measure was discussed – all gave their support to the measure.
Before he left, Rodefer asked business leaders to get involved and prevent Berkeley from becoming “another Walnut Creek or Fresno.”
“We’re in danger of being co-opted,” he said.
District 5 candidate Mark Fowler had the most unique idea on how to help the council handle its business more efficiently. Give the council vitamin therapy and a catering service, he said.
Hawley, a member of the AC Transit Board, suggested holding a series of meetings within District 5 to deal with traffic something she believes to be a big problem in the district.
“We’ve looked at it by the street and that doesn’t work,” she said. “We need to deal with it in a more holistic way. We need to look at the neighborhood as a whole.”
“Berkeley is really coming together in many ways,” said Tom Kelley, a member of the Green Party. Kelley asked the business leaders to help put an end the “us versus them” division between business owners and neighborhood residents.