Council Considers Ballot Measures; Public to Speak On Fee Increases

By Judith Scherr
Friday May 16, 2008 - 05:03:00 PM

The City Council will consider on Tuesday which tax measures to place before voters on the November ballot.  

A 6 p.m. workshop on undergrounding utilities will precede the 7 p.m. council meeting. 


Ballot measures 

Councilmembers have made it clear: they do not want to scare off taxpayers by proposing more tax measures or higher assessments than citizens are willing to pay. Each tax measure must pass by a two-thirds vote. 

To eliminate guesswork, they hired David Binder Research (DBR) for a second voter survey to further narrow the number of measures and costs for each to be placed on the November ballot. 

A report from DBR was not available Friday afternoon. The three measures the council will consider are:  

o a fire and disaster preparedness tax costing the average homeowner (with a 1,900 square-foot house valued at $300,500) about $90 per year; 

o a library bond to upgrade branch library facilities costing the average homeowner $33 per year;  

o a bond to fund replacement of the heated therapy pool slated for demolition and renovate the three outdoor neighborhood pools, costing the average homeowner $28 per year. 

The council will also look at asking voters to approve a change in its redistricting process. The city redraws district boundaries every ten years in the year following the census, to equalize each of the city's eight council districts. The proposed measure would give the city more time to complete redistricting. 


Fee hikes 

The council will hold a public hearing on proposed fee increases for environmental health, planning, and transfer station fees. 

City staff is proposing a 25 percent hike in land use planning fees, last raised in 2004. New fee proposals reflect higher costs, including staff salaries and benefits, according to a city staff report. Land use planning includes use permits, variances and more. New fees associated with condominium conversion are proposed. 

Increases in engineering and building and safety fees are proposed at 5 percent. Most transfer station fee hikes are proposed at around 9 percent. Staff had not released the environmental health fee report by Friday afternoon. 


Antenna moratorium 

Concerned about possible health impacts of cellular phone antennas, a number of neighborhood groups have contested locating the antennas in their neighborhoods. City staff is revising the antenna ordinance and councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Max Anderson and Dona Spring are asking for a six-month moratorium on new antennas while staff works on the revision. 

The councilmembers' report says antennas should be placed more equitably throughout the city: “The inequity of the present system of antenna distribution in Berkeley (14 locations in South Berkeley, two in North Berkeley, none in the Berkeley hills) has meant that some neighborhoods are unfairly exposed to more antennas than other neighborhoods,” the report says. 


Police and Protests 

An item proposed by Worthington asks staff to explain why there are sometimes more police than demonstrators at peaceful protests and why police have asked some demonstrators to go to a “free speech zone” to protest. The item also forwards to staff a request from the Berkeley College Republicans for a parking space in which to demonstrate against Code Pink at the downtown Marine Recruiting station.  

“My personal opinion is that the 'free speech zone' is the United States of America,” Worthington writes in the council item, adding “having more police officers than protesters to monitor a peaceful non-violent protest seems like a waste of important resources.” 


The Council will also address: 

o supporting Alta Bates Summit Medical Center nurses in their contract dispute with the hospital 

o supporting the people of Haiti 


It will also hold public hearings on: 

o the 2008-2009 budget 

o street light assessments 

The council has an option to discuss items for information, or simply to accept them: 

Among the reports is one on foreclosures in Berkeley. 


The full City Council agenda is at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=20420. 

The council meets at the Maudelle Shirek Building, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Meetings are televised on BTV-ch 33 and broadcast on KPFB-89.3 and streamed at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=9868