The Editor's Back Fence

As expected, Berkeley City Council Votes One More Time in Favor of Developers and Unions and Against the Public Interest

Becky O'Malley
Wednesday July 15, 2015 - 02:28:00 PM

Some have wondered what the Berkeley City Council did last night regarding the Baksheesh for Big Buildings law (AKA the "significant community benefits" resolution.) I was there, and I wonder myself. Here's a guess, subject to verification when there's time to get attorneys to review the transcript and the video:  

They passed a resolution advising the Zoning Adjustments Board of how they would be "inclined" to vote on the question of whether a given building provided enough "significant community benefits" to qualify for upzoning to previously unknown heights. Here's the cliff notes version: for Big Buildings 2-7, agreements to use only union labor on projects would suck up a large part of the available goodwill, with the crumbs perhaps available for affordable housing and other goodies, public art perhaps.  

We do love our unions, don't we? Big campaign contributors, of course.  

Big Building #1, the RatBP at 2211 Harold Way promoted by revolving door planner Mark Rhoades, gets special-cased, required to do no more than cough up an amount of cash which is piddly compared to the extra profits the developers will glean from the added floors. Why is this?  

Alejandro Soto-Vigil executed a nice piece of theater, in which he asked that very question and then waited, counting off the seconds, for the councilmembers, including the Progs, to fail to answer, as he expected they would.  

What is the legal impact of the council members announcing in advance that they are inclined to vote a certain way? Isn't this decision-makers pre-deciding before being presented with the evidence? Or is it perhaps an attempt to bind a future government, which I learned in the 11th grade was illegal?  

Well, this is Berkeley, and Berkeley, as I think I've said before, gets what it deserves and deserves what it gets. No more than 50 concerned citizens bothered to show up.