Election Section

Why I'm Running for the District 6 Seat on the Berkeley City Council

Fred Dodsworth
Friday April 01, 2016 - 01:59:00 PM

Here’s what I put together so far for folks asking about my intentions… This is a first draft, I'm hoping District Six residents will help me refine it to better serve our community and our future. I'm sure this list of ideas will grow and evolve as I hear more from people. I'm eager to hear the new ideas our citizens imagine, and the existing ideas our current council has ignored. 

My biggest issues are related to the quality of life in Berkeley, and the cost of living in Berkeley, i.e. What we get in return for our high taxes and high cost of living expense. Further, where we do have control, I'm profoundly committed to securing our future by investing in long-term solutions to our education crisis and our climate crisis and our addiction to war and colonialism. This includes increasing our commitment to a more egalitarian society where the young and the old are treated with care and respect, where women earn on parity with men, where men and women earn a living wage for our community, where the color of one's skin or the spiritual beliefs of the individual have NO consequence in the public discourse.  

I love that some folks can still afford to buy homes in Berkeley… although that is debatable as prices escalate so far beyond most people’s incomes. We must look at means to address the profound systemic economic inequality that threatens to turn Berkeley into another entitled white suburb of Silicon Valley. I am NOT in favor of a dense high-rise downtown, with or without luxury condominiums or apartments. There's plenty of research that shows creating such living spaces only increases the desirability for those type of projects, putting enormous financial pressure on the surrounding, existing housing stock. I favor multi-income and multi-cultural residential projects that integrate families, students, the elderly, the impoverished, artists, and working professionals, in other words, a real neighborhood. Additionally I favor personal investment and ownership in these projects by those who live in there to the limit of their abilities, based on their on-going income and wealth qualifications. Specifically, I'm against the Harold Way project, which I think is a catastrophe. There are other areas of the city where development would improve our community rather than destroy our cultural, historical, and architectural heritage. 

Regarding low income housing, I favor limited-equity ownership projects like Savo Island, although I'm also quite happy to support non-profit housing as well, provided there IS NOT the opportunity for the non-profits to later sell these projects to speculators, as has happened in the past when the city decided to get out of the low-income housing business. A variety of residential projects in Berkeley currently (or at some point in the future) in bankruptcy or foreclosure are a perfect opportunity for the city to create exactly this sort of limited equity ownership almost instantly. 

I am eager to compel, through taxation, transfer fees, and mitigation fees, those who have benefited from Berkeley's windfall increase in real estate values. Additionally, I'm happy to compel on-going payments out of those same properties owners who have allowed our commercial district shops to flounder. If a commercial building in OUR commercial districts remains empty for an inordinate period of time, the rents are too high. If the owner paid too much for the building and can't lower the rents to meet the market, I don't feel it is the city or the citizen's responsibility to absolve them from their bad business decisions. It is imperative that retail spaces be occupied by jobs and producing the retail sales taxes that are so critical to our financial stability.  

In comparison, under Tom's regime we've been giving away development rights to out-of-town developers who focus entirely upon profits while ignoring/destroying the successful parts of our community that make us Berkeley. My plan would be to reel in the speculators (and their enablers among city staff) and get much, much better results which would benefit us all: Cash, real subsidized housing, support for public education, programs to get the homeless off the streets, jobs, and RETAIL TAX DOLLARS, firm, penciled out unbreakable commitments to preserving the services we have (see the Gaia Building, the Fine Arts Building, and now the Shattuck Cinemas for examples of where we gave away the store and got nothing in return). Berkeley's budget relies on retail tax revenues and transfer tax revenues but the city council is constantly undermining (especially) the retail revenue stream by allowing real estate agents and property owners to dictate polices that discourage or fail to support a diverse retail business environment. 

Regarding Green Development, the greenest, least carbon generating development is the reuse of the current building stock. It's not clear to me that anyone wins when a perfectly fine building is torn down and hauled off to the dump. Embedded carbon investments are precious and need to be treated that way. My own home is a perfect example. Neglected for 30 to 40 years it needed everything, and I gave it everything available when I remodeled, from R-19 insulation in the walls to double grazed, low-e windows, from grey water recycling and rain catchment, to 6.2 kilowatts of photovoltaic power. One of my friends and associates is Kevin Hyde, who was the engineering firm on the David Bower Center, which was designated LEED Platinum as I recall. Zero sum energy is not just an ideal, it should be a goal for all large and small construction in our community. This, too, needs to become an embedded cost for any new construction or extensive remodel.  

Regarding our damaged environment, it will take effort and new ways of looking at the interface between Berkeley and the surrounding watershed and park lands to move into new and more sustaining relationships with the world we inhabit. With more than 90,000 acres of EBRP and EBMUD reserves to our east and the SF Bay to our west, we live in a land of great beauty but we also have a critical responsibility to redefine how humans interact with the essential natural landscape, creating a sustainable relationship that improves our lot, and the world for those who will follow us. Phil Stevens, formerly of the Urban Creeks Council is advising me on how to best work with and improve our urban creeks. Kristen Van Dam, local ecologist and Master of Forestry is working with me to establish goals for our relationship with those wonderful wild lands that surround us.  

I think it's critical that the city adopt a strict contractual code of conduct regulating its employees that prohibits the revolving door that Mark Rhoades and Dan Marks exemplify... or the complete lawlessness that Ryan Lau (Darryl Moore's aide) and Nicole Drake (Linda Maio's former aide) exhibited when Mr. Lau (living with Ms. Drake) tore down his garage and rebuilt it, without any permits, without complying with zoning or fire regulations -- yet neither was held accountable. It is my understanding, that even to this day, there is no contractual code of conduct that city council members and their employees are required to sign and abide by. 

Homelessness is a problem that impacts us all in Berkeley and I've seen no substantial commitment from the city other than complaining about it, and attempting to pass unconstitutional laws that are not enforceable. More disruptive than the ever present homeless, what imperils our commercial districts is the frequently lawless nature of some of those people due to mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and the sort of desperation that leads to criminal behaviors. There are hundreds of social contract laws on the books that are simply not enforced (such as laws against threatening and intimidating behaviors, public intoxication, lewd behavior, public drug dealing on the streets, purchasing alcohol for minors, etc.). By enforcing the laws we do have, we can control much of the lawless behavior that negatively impacts our citizens and our merchants.