Election Section

Berkeley Measure R: 2 Cons and a Pro

By B. Soffer
Saturday October 09, 2010 - 05:24:00 PM

[EDITOR’S NOTE:The Bay Area News Group (San Jose Mercury. Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, West County Times, Berkeley Voice and more) has come out against Berkeley’s proposed Measure R.

Here’s a link to their editorial

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates wrote an op-ed in response supporting Measure R.

Now B. Soffer of the Green Party has sent us his rebuttal, reprinted below:] 

Release the Hostages, Tom! I don’t want to call you a liar any more than I want to compare you to the Republicans in Congress, but it seems that this is the year of holding everything everyone wants hostage for the more controversial items the politicians or their donors want. Nationally the Republicans want to hold the middle class tax cuts - which everyone agrees on- hostage until they get tax cuts for the rich. 

Locally, Tom you’re holding the “green components”—which everyone also wants—hostage for tall buildings and the gutting of Berkeley’s Landmark protections. This will inevitably lead to replacing Berkeley’s older affordable housing with million dollar condos at a much faster rate. This is why developers and not environmentalists are the major funders behind the Measure R campaign. 

Tom, Measure R's green components that you speak of are also agreed to by most of the opponents of Measure R. The two controversial items, tall buildings and gutting landmark protections by creating a fast track around them, virtually guarantee a Referendum. 

Remember that “R” stands for referendum. Voters gathered 9200 signatures to stop the last downtown plan the Council passed. The same folks will gather the minimum of 5,558 signatures on any plan containing these controversial items, thereby delaying the above to 2012 at the very least. 

Without the controversial items a plan could be passed now by the City Council. Councilmember Kriss Worthington proposed passing the 90% that everyone could agree on but the Council majority said NO!! They also refused to put Councilmember Jesse Arreguin’s alternative Downtown Plan on the ballot. Instead they put this instruction to themselves on the ballot to come up with a plan (not and actual downtown plan). 

Berkeley needs a revitalized welcoming Downtown with plazas, open space, clean and wide sidewalks, tree-lined streets and bicycle amenities. A safe, vibrant green Downtown Berkeley, will help local merchants, attract business, create jobs, increase our economic vitality, improve public safety and strengthen the tax base, raising revenue for the City. 

Berkeley also needs affordable housing and innovative new green buildings requiring the highest standards in energy efficiency and sustainable amenities, such as rainwater catchments, open space, and recycling. We need development that has easy access to transit, car sharing, bike parking and will support a fund to provide alternatives to single occupancy vehicles, such as bus passes for residents and workers. Berkeley wants developers to hire local workers at fair wages. 

These are things Measure R promises and most opponents of R support. But Berkeley needs a new downtown plan with these things NOW!!! Measure R mandates none of these wonderful things we all want. 

Testimony to before the City Council by the city attorney and others made clear that the only things binding in Measure R are that any plan shall include the two controversial items the developers want: the gutting of landmarks protections and tall buildings, in this case 3 new buildings as high as the Wells Fargo and Great Western Buildings. 

Why is Measure R is supported by the Sierra Club and some other groups? They want all the promises of Measure R and are willing to swallow the controversial parts whether they like them or not. They probably are also hoping for a seat at the table when an actual downtown plan is drawn up. But remember that the Sierra Club also supported the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant! 

The Green Party, Berkeley Citizens Action, and Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and others want everyone to vote no on R! Berkeley needs to send a Message to the City Council majority by defeating Measure R: 

Release the hostages NOW!!!” 

Pass a plan without the controversial parts but all the good things, NOW!!! 

Try to amend it separately later if you want the controversial parts included. 

Berkeley shouldn’t be forced to wait for the Downtown we all want.