Council Reappoints Trustee, Sustains Creeks Vote

By Judith Scherr
Friday December 01, 2006

Despite the community’s pleas asking the City Council to solicit new applications for the post, the City Council Tuesday night approved 8-1 Terry Powell’s bid for a second four-year term on the Board of Library Trustees, with only Councilmember Kriss Worthington voting in opposition. 

Also at the Tuesday meeting, the council upheld the Landmarks Commission’s designation of a structure of merit at 2411 Fifth St., sustained re-inspection fees for rental safety inspections for landlord Vijay Lakireddy and upheld votes on the Creeks Ordinance revision and Zoning Ordinance amendment. 

The call for new blood and a more open library trustee selection process was not a reproach to Powell, speakers said, but directed to the five trustees in general, who self-select fellow board members to recommend for city council approval in a closed process. The exception is one City Council-appointed trustee, who is a city councilmember.  

“I’m asking you not to go ahead and appoint the trustee,” Gene Bernardi of SuperBOLD, Berkeleyans Organized for Library Defense, told the council before they discussed the issue. “Change is needed. There’s a lot of turmoil at the library.” 

Bernardi said the nomination should go back to the trustees, with a request to solicit applications. “Ask for someone with experience in working with unions,” she said. Powell would be considered among the other applicants. 

The library has had three years of difficult times, library worker Roya Arasteh told the council, similarly urging an “open process” soliciting new applications. That would “restore trust and confidence of the staff,” she said. “Our concern is the ‘public’ part of the Berkeley Public Library.” 

While Trustee Chair Susan Kupfer spoke in glowing terms of Powell’s work as a trustee, she agreed with the community speakers. “We should try to design a new process,” she said, calling for the creation of a committee of two trustees and two councilmembers to study the question. 

Councilmember Betty Olds favored the reappointment. “We should give people respect [and reappoint them] if they’re doing good during their first term,” she said. “Terry Powell has done an outstanding job.” 

But Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that during Powell’s tenure, a library tax measure failed. Further, there’s been an “enormous negative reaction to the way librarians are treated,” he said. “It’s time to open this up and consider multiple people.” 

Councilmember Darryl Moore, who also sits as a library trustee, shot back with uncharacteristic vehemence that it was the council’s fault that the 2004 library tax measure hadn’t passed, because they put a number of tax measures on the ballot at the same time. (Moore was not yet elected to the council.) 

Moore said, however, that he planned to bring to the council the creation of a trustee/council committee of four to formulate a new trustee-selection process. 


Creeks, zoning ordinance revisions move forward 

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli had hoped to make some changes in the newly adopted Creeks Ordinance—which came back to the council for a first reading in its final format—and amendments to the Zoning Ordinance, which came back to the council for a second reading.  

The councilmember was concerned that creeks and culverts were being addressed in the same ordinance and that the Zoning Ordinance amendment gave a property owner the right to rebuild a structure of four units or fewer when the destruction was involuntary. Capitelli wanted to remove the distinction between voluntary and involuntary. 

The Council, however, approved both items as originally written. The second reading of the zoning ordinance amendment passed 8-1, with Capitelli in opposition, and the first reading of the revised Creeks Ordinance was approved 6-1-1, with Capitelli abstaining, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak voting in opposition and Councilmember Betty Olds absent. 


Structure of merit upheld 

Despite pleas from the owner of a home at 2411 Fifth St., calling for the City Council to overturn a structure of merit designation by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the council voted 9-0 to uphold the designation.  

“It’s a dangerous structure,” owner Laura Fletcher told the council. “It’s a public taking of a private property,” she said, arguing that the structure cannot be repaired. 

But neighbor and architect Erick Mikiten argued that the structure of merit designation included “a lot of development potential” and that repairs were possible. 


Upheld fines for Vijay Lakireddy 

The council turned down a request from landlord Vijay Lakireddy to reduce fees for slow compliance in fixing violations under the city’s Rental Housing Safety Program in 47 of 60 units he owns at 2033 Haste St.  

Lakireddy argued that because he had so many repairs to do he should be given some leeway. “A lot of items were flagged. We did our best,” he said. 

“When a property owner has far flung real estate holdings, he bears some responsibility for upholding safety laws of the city,” Councilmember Max Anderson responded. 

Mayor Tom Bates addressed Lakireddy directly: “We hope this is a wake up call.”