A Guide to Berkeley Measures KK and II

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday October 16, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM

Measure KK (Berkeley Bus Ordinance)

Shall the initiative ordinance Requiring Voter Approval of Exclusive Transit-Only and HOV/Bus-Only Lanes be adopted? 

Majority approval required. 

Measure KK is in many ways an extension of the battles over AC Transit’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, so to understand KK, you must also understand the underlying issues surrounding BRT. 

BRT is a proposal by the transit district to have speeded-up bus service along what is currently the 1 and the 1R line route from downtown San Leandro to downtown Berkeley. Just as the 1 and 1R do now, the Berkeley portion of BRT would run from the Oakland borderk, along Telegraph Avenue, to the entrance to the university, then down Bancroft Way, and loop around the downtown BART station. 

The best way to describe BRT is as an inner-city light-rail system without the rails, and using regular AC Transit buses (in this instance, AC Transit’s 60-foot accordion-type buses at the beginning). In place of the rails, AC Transit proposes taking over the center lanes of Telegraph Avenue for bus use only. In place of the current bus stops, BRT would establish light-rail-type stations roughly at the locations of the current 1R stops, complete with ticket vending machines. The local 1 bus line would be eliminated in the process.  

To help speed up the bus trip, the district proposes to eliminate payment of fares at the fare box when entering the front of the bus; instead, riders could enter from any of the bus doors (the 60 footers have several) and would only have to have a bus pass or a proof-of-payment slip received from the outdoor ticket vending machine. Finally, in the same way that the district operates the rapid buses along San Pablo Avenue, BRT buses would be able to modify traffic signals to some degree, ensuring that the buses would meet mostly green lights on theit trips. 

Because the dedication of bus-only lanes would require the elimination of some parking spaces along the BRT route, the BRT proposal also includes some plans to have replacement parking just off the route. 

Because BRT would require extensive changes along Telegraph Avenue in particular, AC Transit cannot impose the system on Berkeley but must work in conjunction with the Berkeley City Council (as it must with the Oakland City Council and the San Leandro City Council in those respective cities). AC Transit is currently conducting negotiations with representatives of those cities around possible modifications to the BRT proposal. 

In practice, this means that under the present BRT approval process, Berkeley residents get two chances to influence the ultimate shape of the proposal, as well as three chances to influence its adoption or rejection. The first comes when the Berkeley City Council formally considers BRT and either supports the proposal as written, or suggests what are called “preferred local alternatives,” or modifications to the proposals.  

The second chance comes when the AC Transit Board—an elected body, with three of its seven directors voted on by Berkeley residents—considers the “preferred local alternatives” suggested by the three affected city councils and then votes on the entire BRT proposal. The proposal would then go back to the three respective city councils for a final up-or-down vote of approval. 

Essentially, the proponents of Measure KK are seeking to add a direct Berkeley resident approval vote on the BRT proposal to any influence residents might have on the Berkeley City Council or AC Transit Board of Directors approval process. If KK passes, AC Transit and the City of Berkeley could not establish transit-only lanes on Berkeley streets—one of the major components of BRT—without first taking the proposal directly to Berkeley voters in a special or general election. 

If passed, the measure would apply not only to BRT but to any possible future transit proposal that involved the dedication of transit-only lanes along Berkeley streets. 

Opponents of Measure KK—most of whom are vocal BRT and public transit supporters—generally say that the measure would tie up the city’s transit planning process, and would probably doom implementation of BRT in the city. Proponents of Measure KK—many of whom are also public transit supporters—generally say that their purpose is not to scuttle BRT entirely, only to make sure it is not forced down residents’ throats without a chance for significant modifications. 

Measure KK has been one of the most discussed ballot measures in recent years, and the various aspects of the debate are far too complicated to sum up in one story. Readers are invited to read the ballot measure itself, including the arguments in favor and against, as well as to read the Daily Planet reader commentary and letters to the editor archives over the past several months to see the extensive discussion. 

Measure II (Berkeley Council District Reapportionment Charter Amendment) 

Shall the City of Berkeley Charter be amended to give the City until December 31st of the third year following the decennial census to adopt new council districts that are as nearly equal in population as feasible? Majority approval required. 

From arguably the Berkeley election’s most controversial ballot measure (KK), we move on to its least contentious. 

The boundaries of Berkeley’s City Council districts are set so that each of the eight districts has roughly the same amount of population. The size of the city’s population is determined by the United States Census, which is completed every 10 years. Because the population declines, or grows, or grows more slowly from neighborhood to neighborhood and district to district, the district lines must be readjusted every 10 years, following the completion of the national census, in order to get the district populations back into balance. This procedure is known as reapportionment. 

Under the current City of Berkeley schedule mandated by the City Charter, that reapportionment must be completed by Dec. 31 of the year following the completion of the census. For the next census, scheduled for 2010, that means the council district realigning must be done by within one year.  

The proponents of Measure II, including the entire Berkeley City Council, believe this is simply not enough time to make the district line changes, including handling any disputes about census counts. Instead, through Measure II, they want to add two more years to the deadline by which the new district boundaries must be drawn. 

Practically speaking, if Measure II passes, it would mean that the currently drawn Council districts would stay in place for 12 years (through the end of 2013), rather than the current 10. That would only be a temporary hiccup. All of the district realignments following would be in ten year intervals (2023, 2033, 2043, etc.).  

No arguments in opposition to Measure II were filed for this election. 

Because Measure II does not mandate that Council realign the districts by the end of the third year, it only sets that as the last date, there is always the possibility that some future council—seeing an upcoming election where an earlier realignment might influence who gets elected and who gets defeated—could conceivably manipulate an election by redistricting earlier than the third year. But the process of reapportionment is so complicated, with no way to change one district without generally affecting the entire city, that the chances of such a manipulation seem remote.