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Measure R is Bad Policy for Berkeley

By George Perezvelez

Measure R is a bad policy measure wrapped in the smoke and mirrors of misguided and wrongly interpreted progressive policies. According to an independent report, the possible growth loss in housing planned via the 2010 downtown plan would also affect the growth of local economics by hindering the growth of local business.

In addition it would derail the Climate Action Plan, which strives to build a concentrated downtown area, with community services within walking distance and easily accessible public transport. From a recent study of home sales in Berkeley, those amenities are the ones families and buyers are looking for when choosing to relocate to Berkeley.

The reality is that the threat has already stopped progress which undoubtedly was the intent of the writers of the measure. It seems that in the constant back and forth between factions in Berkeley, loosing the argument is not enough to come to terms with changes, but obstructionism then becomes the path to force a narrower view of a downtown plan.

The downtown hotel and the office project for the Bank of America as well as the planned 302-unit Berkeley Plaza have all been put on hold.

The 2014 Measure R was written by – Councilmember Jesse Arreguín, Zoning Adjustments Boardmember Sophie Hahn, a Councilmember Kriss Worthington appointee, and Arreguin’s appointment to the Landmark’s Commission, Austene Hall. There was no tangible public input or public process apart form what seems to be private conversations during the writing. This is in contrast to the over reaching results the measure would have in affecting the entire City.

The claim by the authors is that the 2014 Measure R would improve the Downtown Area Plan (also a Measure R) of 2010. It is important to note that the current downtown plan , which was generated over a six year public process, was approved by the voters by an overwhelming 64 percent in 2010.

Measure R proponents suggest that it would protect Berkeley’s Public Commons, that it guarantees fair wages for construction, hotel, maintenance and security workers, that it ensures jobs for Berkeley, that it promotes a Downtown that is accessible, affordable and diverse and that it ensures that corporate developers pay their fair share while touting itself as being a true grassroots movement.

Among its small and non city wide, county wide or state wide supporters the proponents list: Save the Berkeley Post Office, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 1021, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, Council of Neighborhood Associations, Berkeley Neighborhoods Council, North East Berkeley Association (NEBA), John George Democratic Club, Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) and the Green Party of Alameda County.

Opponents to Measure R say that the measure would undermine the green and vibrant Downtown while blocking transit-friendly housing near BART designed to reduce auto commuting and congestion, that it would drive up rents and make Berkeley more unaffordable by blocking new housing, that it would hinder the growth of the City and general fund growth and that it would shackle the city with rigid ballot-box planning with illegal provisions.

In contrast to the proponents of the measure, the opponents are supported by a varied and full spectrum coalition comprised of the Greenbelt Alliance, the Alameda County Labor Council, the Alameda County Democratic Part, the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, the Berkeley Police Association, the League of Conservation Voters of the East Bay, the Berkeley Democratic Club, the Downtown Berkeley Association, the Alameda County Building Trades Council, the East Bay Housing Organizations, the Berkeley Food & Housing Project, Livable Berkeley, the Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union No. 104 and leaders like Robert Reich, UC Professor; Former Secretary of Labor, Loni Hancock, State Senator and Nancy Skinner, State Assemblywoman.

The reality is that the passage of Measure R would adversely decrease revenue for City services and its public schools. The City’s financial impact study ranges the loss to the the City tax base to range between 1 to 2.3 million dollars. It is important to note that Berkeley, as many other national and state local cities, is seriously threatened by the ever growing deficits and cuts in services due to the inevitable rise in city employee pension costs and the escalating and in some instances defrayed repairs to crumbling infrastructure.

It is to put it mildly an overreach. It is a misguided attempt to overturn both an award-winning Downtown Area Plan and 2010 Measure R, the green Downtown Area Plan and silence the voice and votes of 64% of the Berkeley population. For a group of individuals that complain about alleged obfuscation, obstruction and lack of inclusiveness on a continuous basis at the Berkeley City Council, this draconian attempt to reinvent Measure R is both telling and disingenuous.

This article was originally published on November 3, 2014 on examiner.com.

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