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Council rolled over to developer Kennedy

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet Staff
Saturday May 19, 2001

Berkeley Lite is an occasional column illuminating those who’d like to shine us on. 


Chalk up one more for Patrick Kennedy, winner of the most recent Battle of the Build.  

Don’t get me wrong, I actually think San Pablo Ave., where he’ll construct a four–story apartment/commercial building’s the most perfect place in the city for a few (but not blocks on end) four–story buildings. Kennedy’s project’s “in my back yard,” by the way.  

(At the same time, wouldn’t it be lovely to line Spruce Street, with its regular bus service in the North hills, with two–story, four–unit buildings?) 

My irradiated beef’s not with the masterful politico from Piedmont – whose hard-won project at Acton and University is yet to break ground – it’s with our wimpy council moms & pop, who give all sorts of lip service to affordable housing, but rolled over and gave Mr. K. the store, with only a drop of “affordable” housing.  

A politician with guts – one who truly wants to figure out a way for the $8–$10/hr. folk who work in Berkeley shops and restaurants to live near where they work – would have come up with a way to give Kennedy what he wanted ONLY in exchange for deeper affordability, and more than just the mandatory 20 percent of the units whose rents must be kept affordable by law to people who earn 80 percent of the area median income (which is about $50,000 for a family of three.)  

Councilmember Dona Spring said as much. She said she’d wanted to fight to get more low income units. But without her colleagues fighting with her, she said making the argument was futile. 

A shame the discussion among them didn’t happen in public. At least then the community would have been able to see which councilmembers were actually willing to fight for affordable housing. 

To his credit, Kennedy points out that he’s the only developer currently building multi-family housing in Berkeley. Also, he favors tenants already living here and especially those who might have to leave unless they get into one of his units.  

Further he argues that he is building housing for folks with moderate means, though this argument is open to interpretation. He says for the 80 percent of the units going at market-rate rents, he will be able to charge only “moderate” rates. That’s because most folks don’t want to live in “that” prostitute-infested neighborhood, he said. 

Spring also recalled that the council had either given or lent (Kennedy says lent) the developers $20,000 early in the process to secure the property because they said they were providing a number of low-income units. 

And now, what’s the council gonna do about all the other 11-odd parcels to be developed along SP Ave? Well, perhaps they’ll toss one or two to an “affordable” housing developer, adding to the divide between affordable & market–rate dwellers, instead of mixing them up in one building.  

And where’s the long–term vision? The group opposing the 2700 San Pablo project asked the question time and again, with no council response. Where are people without backyards going to play, have their “backyard” barbecues, let their children romp? San Pablo Park is heavily used by people from both inside and outside the area. Is the city willing to create new mini–parks for its new San Pablo Ave. residents? Will it demand builders pay for these? Where’s the long-term planning????  


Speaking of planning, since transportation planning’s one of the most talked–of topics in the city - remember bike-to-work day, flags on streets, Santa Rosa lights – you’d think Berkeley would have a top rate-transportation engineer in its planning department. Well, we had a traffic engineer who quit, then one who came for six months and left and now one who quit after one month. What’s up?  


Did you catch the rally outside the City Council Chambers almost two weeks ago? If you passed by you’d have heard the lively chants “Don’t take away our medicine” and seen the brightly–colored placards denouncing an evil-intended City Council for passing an ordinance to implement Prop. 215. Some 200 people participated.  

But a whole lot of them appeared misinformed, if not misled by those who were informed. A number of folks told me the City Council passed its ordinance to get rid of Prop. 215 and disallow their medicine. 

It just ain’t so.  

Now there’s plenty to argue about the ordinance itself. Ought patients to be allowed to grow more than 10 plants for medication? Some argue you need more, because some plants don’t make it. Like the six basil plants I stuck in the ground a couple of weeks ago. There’s two left. Do snails like pot as much as basil?  

But I’m getting off track. 

The argument goes on to say that patients need pot in its various growing stages, some plants ripe to pick and others getting ready. And some patients need more of the medicine than others. 

These are the arguments that informed people were making. 

The misinformed said the council wanted to do away with Prop. 215. But that’s the last thing you can say about our council. Even the most conservative, moderate or whatever-you-want-to-call the minority faction of the council, is in full support of sick people using medical marijuana. 

Now if you want a “bad” guy, try the supreme court.  


One more thing – it’s about those telephones. Remember Jim Keene, yeah, the former city manager, and the fight for the $2 million for the new system. Remember how he sold it to the council by saying the phones would be answered and the operators who answered the phones would stay with the callers until they got to the person who could answer their questions. No more voice mail hell, Keene said.  

Well, try it yourself: 981-CITY.