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Council Discusses Tax Measures, Condo Conversion

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday March 25, 2008

A long-awaited revision of the Condominium Conversion Ordinance will be before the Berkeley City Council tonight (Tuesday).  

Also on the 7 p.m. agenda will be a contract to manage aspects of a new animal shelter, a feasibility study on impacts of building skyscrapers downtown, an appeal by neighbors of a single-family home proposed for 161 Panoramic Way, a discussion of legal options for challenging aerial spraying to eradicate the Light Brown Apple Moth, a proposal to re-establish the East Bay Public Safety Corridor partnership, and an item that would give the City Council and the public background information on items listed on a commission agenda. 

At a 5 p.m. workshop, the council will discuss various measures it may want to put before the voters on the November ballot, including new taxes for police, fire youth violence prevention, clean storm water, the warm water pool for disabled and elderly people and more. The council will have the option of approving placing the measures on the ballot at its 7 p.m. meeting. 

The chief of police has submitted a report on revisions to the department’s internal procedure for processing complaints against officers. It is an information report that the council can opt to discuss if it chooses to do so. 


Condo conversion 

There was general agreement between housing activists and property owners that the way the condominium conversion ordinance was originally written made it difficult to implement, especially the requirement that units to be converted should be brought up to code. In the revised version before the council, only visible life-safety violations must be remedied. Other code violations must be disclosed, but do not have to be remedied. 

At issue between housing activists and property owners, however, is the 12.5 percent fee charge when the property is sold. “It’s got to be reduced,” said David Wilson, active in issues affecting property owners. Wilson said he supported a $19.87 per square foot fee charged early in the conversion process. 

Rent Stabilization Board Chair Jesse Arreguin said the question of fees should be discussed later. Property owners “want to totally redo the ordinance—they want to maximize profits,” he said. 

Arreguin added that the city ought to put a program in place that helps first-time buyers purchase property.  


Police complaint policy 

Police Chief Doug Hambleton has updated police complaint procedures to include some of the Police Review Commission’s concerns.  

One of the chief concerns involves the case of former Sgt. Cary Kent, convicted of felonies related to stealing drug evidence he was supposed to keep safe. The commission said police colleagues failed to report Kent’s problem behavior and when it was reported, management failed to act on the reports. 

The new regulation states: “When an employee, who is not a supervisor, becomes aware of or observes what he/she believes to be possible misconduct by another department employee, he/she shall, by the end of the employee’s current shift ... notify a supervisor.” 

Requirements for the supervisor to take immediate corrective action and to report the incidents to a commending officer are written into the new rules. 

The new procedure says serious complaints must be reported immediately. They include: dishonesty, commission of a misdemeanor or felony, improper use of force, employee under the influence of intoxicants, discrimination. 


Animal shelter contract 

Also on the agenda is a $50,000 contract ($82 per hour) with former city employee Rene Cardinaux for design and management services connected to building a new animal shelter. Cardinaux would write a request for proposals for the new shelter. Part of the task will be finding the right place for the new structure. A site larger than the current one is needed—which could mean constructing a taller structure at the site—and it needs to be a place where barking dogs will not disrupt residences.  

In November 2002, Berkeley passed Measure I, a $7.2 million bond measure to build a new animal shelter, but an appropriate site was never found. Given rapidly increasing building costs, “the less likely [it has become that] the $7.2 million bond will cover all costs associated with land purchase and construction of a new shelter or the reconstruction of the animal shelter on Second Street,” says the staff report written by Jim Hynes, assistant to the city manager. 


Building higher 

The council will consider whether to allocate $40,000 to study the economic implications of various proposals from the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC), especially whether building structures as high as 16 stories will be necessary to provide revenue for implementation of DAPAC's recommendations.  


Better information 

To give the council more time to read proposals coming from commissions, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak is asking the council to approve an item saying that the full commission packet, which includes background information, must be posted on the Internet at the same time the agenda is posted.