Instant Runoff Voting Stalled, UC Reps on Downtown Planning Panel By Richard Brenneman

Friday February 24, 2006

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and UC Berkeley’s representation on the panel helping formulate a new downtown plan were among the issues confronted by the City Council Tuesday.  

Councilmembers approved a recommendation by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) to ask UC Berkeley to appoint three ex-officio members to the panel, which is charged with helping to draft a new plan for the city center. 

The plan was mandated in the settlement of the city’s suit against the university’s Long Range Development Plan for 2020, which proposes a major expansion of university offices into the downtown area. 

The council rejected (6-2-1) a motion by Kriss Worthington to include a student and a staff member among the three and to require that the university name three DAPAC members to participate in its planning processes for their downtown additions. 

Only Dona Spring supported his motion and Max Anderson abstained. All three voted for the main motion, which carried unanimously, with the addition of a phrase urging the university to include city representation as it plans its expansion. 


Instant runoff voting 

Instant Runoff Voting, endorsed overwhelmingly by Berkeley voters in 2004 and hailed as a way to make elections more democratic, isn’t proving so instant. The process of making it happen in Alameda County has been paved with roadblocks. 

The council also delayed action on a Worthington proposal to place a measure on the June ballot amending Measure I, the 2004 ballot initiative approved by 72 percent of Berkeley’s voter endorsing so-called instant runoff voting (IRV). 

That measure approved adoption of IRV so long as it didn’t cost the city money, but the Alameda County Counsel’s office has said that IRV can’t be conducted in a regular consolidated election, while three city attorneys in the county—including Berkeley’s Manuela Albuquerque—disagree. 

If the city ran its own IRV election, costs could run as much as $300,000 to $400,000, said City Clerk Sara Cox. It would cost $80,000 to put Worthington’s proposed measure on the June ballot, said City Manager Phil Kamlarz.  

The council will take up the issue again on March 7.  


Other matters 

In other action, the council: 

• Upheld a Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) decision dismissing homeowner Merilee Mitchell’s appeal of its decision to approve an addition to a home at 1616 Delaware St. 

• Raised the price of flat-rate evening parking in the city-owned Oxford Street lot along Oxford between Kittredge Street and Allston Way from $2 to $4. The Transportation Commission had recommended $5—to match the charge at other city lots—but the council decide a 100 percent raise was enough. 

The lot could be closed as early as late autumn if all the needed funds have been raised to begin construction on the David Brower Center and Oxford Plaza housing that are scheduled to rise on the site. The project’s use permits require replacement of the existing parking spaces in an underground lot. 

• Approved two resolutions designating the Ed Roberts Center as the city’s first choice to be the recipient of a total of $5 million in funding from two federal agencies. The votes are in support of grant applications by the non-profit center for disability organizations that has been approved for construction on the eastern parking lot of the Ashby BART station. 

• Passed an ordinance allowing owners of Accessory Dwelling Units (otherwise known as mother-in-law apartments) constructed in garages or as additions to homes to tear them down without filing for a special permit from the city. 

Worthington and Spring voted no, saying they didn’t want to permit destruction of housing, but the council agreed with the planning commission, which had held that the ordinance would actually encourage creation of more such units. 

• Approved fee increases at city summer camps in Tuolomne County, at Echo Lake near South Lake Tahoe and the city day camp held at the Berkeley Marina. 

The highly popular camps are always booked, with Berkeley residents getting the first call on openings. The new fees will gradually eliminate reduced rates for Berkeley residents and make the camps more financially self-sufficient. 

• Agreed to hold a March 7 workshop on the city’s participation in the Community Choice Aggregation, a program created that allows cities to bundle commercial, residential and other electric power consumers for the purposes of buying bulk power at a discount.  

The program was created by state legislation in 2002 as a result of the California power crisis in which energy traders nearly bankrupted the state. Councilmembers said they want the workshop because they have questions they want answered before investing more city money in the program. 

• Directed the Transportation Commission and city manager to look into rectifying the impacts of new striping along Telegraph Avenue that merchants claim may be costing them customers. 

• Directed the city manager to report back to the council on whether or not Department of Homeland Security (DHS) computers tested by the city may have rendered city data bases vulnerable to federal snooping. 

According to privacy rights advocate Gene Bernardi, one server tested by the city is to be installed at the San Ramon Fire Department to provide location data in event of emergencies, and she said another server had been installed at city hall. 

The resolution was jointly sponsored by Wozniak and Spring..