The Bay Area is suffering from an unprecedented housing crisis that needs immediate attention. Because there is not enough housing to meet the demand, many people either cannot find an affordable place to live or are being priced out of their homes due to skyrocketing rents. The rich diversity of our community - in all its aspects - is threatened when only wealthy people can afford to live here. We want a city where teachers can live within the communities they serve; a place where our workers can live close to their jobs so they won't have to spend hours in their cars commuting; a place where our children can afford to move back to raise their own families.
But we need to be smart: We need to be mindful of the impacts of new housing to our environment and to our infrastructure. We need to preserve our neighborhoods and reduce traffic. In accordance with Berkeley's award winning Climate Action Plan (that I wholeheartedly endorsed), I support making new green, energy-efficient housing in the Downtown and along major corridors - housing that is strategically linked to good transit and that is designed carefully to transition to existing neighborhoods.
We also need to recognize that our low wage earners can’t manage the steep rents on their own. I have enthusiastically supported the creation of hundreds of low income units by ensuring that people who profit from building housing pay their share to create housing for low income residents. They can include affordable units in their projects or by pay fees to subsidize affordable projects. In the past year alone I have been responsible for securing over $10 million for our Housing Trust Fund to build more deeply affordable units. And I have co-authored anti-displacement legislation to protect low-income residents from being squeezed out of their neighborhoods.
In addition to housing for low-income residents, we should seize opportunities to provide housing affordable to our middle-income wage earners. Teachers, firefighters, librarians and nurses who work here should have an opportunity to live here and to be full time members of our community.
Homelessness is a multifaceted issue that includes a variety of populations with complex needs. Homelessness is also an expansive regional issue, one in which we must partner with other Bay Area jurisdictions in order to maximize everyone’s resources.
On the regional level, we need to collaborate with other cities to implement a regional Housing First program - proven the most effective in reducing homelessness - to get our most vulnerable citizens into safe, supportive housing. Much of our homeless population is also saddled with severe mental health problems. Unlike my Council opponents, I supported urging our County Board of Supervisors to begin a pilot program - Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AB1421) - that allows our courts to direct persons who are seriously mentally ill to enter into community-based housing and wrap-around services.
Berkeley’s long-term approaches currently include a Homeless Coordinated Entry or “HUB”: a one-stop entry for mental health services, temporary financial support, substance abuse programs and job training. Because we need to create Supportive Housing in the Downtown, I wholeheartedly support the Berkeley Food and Housing proposal for downtown Berkeley that will both house the HUB and provide emergency beds and supportive housing.
In the short term, I initiated a program to provide storage lockers so people on the streets can have a secure and safe place for their belongings. This is modeled after a very successful program that I visited in San Diego. We also need to insure that people in the downtown have easy access to public restrooms. I have been partnering with Mayoral candidate Mike Lee on a Tiny Homes project. Supported by the building trades and the Berkeley Rotary, we will soon create a demonstration home to facilitate a community conversation about transitional housing.
We cannot solve this ourselves, but with our limited resources we can serve our residents through innovative programs that can be models to the rest of the Bay Area and the nation.
I want downtown Berkeley to be a fully-realized neighborhood that provides its diverse residents with a variety of shopping, dining, services, new arts and public spaces, and high-quality housing they can afford. I want downtown residents to have access to good transit so they can lead a car-free life if they so choose. I know that we can realize the full potential of the heart of our city, including the preservation and adaptive reuse of our historical treasures like the Main Berkeley Post Office and Old City Hall.
I am the only mayoral candidate that has consistently worked to achieve a realistic, forward-thinking vision for downtown Berkeley. I unequivocally championed our Downtown Plan that has created new market-rate and affordable housing and brought in millions of dollars to subsidize future affordable housing. Through my work on the Alameda County Transportation Commission, I secured resources for improved bike lanes to the University and LBNL, for the reconfiguration of the Shattuck/University intersection, and for the renovations of BART plaza. I am the only candidate that supports streamlined bus access into the Downtown.
Instead of creating obstacles to new housing, jobs, and transit as some of my opponents have done, I believe we should build on downtown Berkeley’s success. As mayor, I want to eliminate red tape in order to help sustain our locally-owned, small businesses and to keep new businesses and housing coming to downtown Berkeley. I want to see a variety of housing for all income levels and ages, so that the center of Berkeley can continue to be a place where everyone can live, work, and play.
Ensuring the safety of its citizens is one of the core responsibilities of a municipal government. To that end, the City spends almost two-thirds of its general fund on Police and Fire. We have an exemplary force of woman and men who are some of the finest officers and firefighters in the area.
Berkeley is a diverse city, with communities and neighborhoods with different needs and expectations. We as citizens and public servants must always be aware of our own implicit biases and how they impact our relationships and our ability to fulfill our responsibilities. This is especially true of our public safety officers and as mayor I will work to ensure that all Berkeley citizens are treated fairly and equitably; that police are encouraged to know and be known in all our communities; that we prioritize a culture of respect and trust within Berkeley.
We do need more officers on the streets and I commit to increasing the number of sworn officers. I also think we need to use our officers more efficiently and effectively by increasing the number of crisis workers available to take the lead in responding to mental health emergencies on our streets.
Our fire fighters play a huge role in both combating fires and in our emergency preparedness. I’m proud to say that I have supported measures to improve communications, add additional ambulances, and increase emergency coordination between responding agencies within the region. I will continue my work with the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission to increase resources for CERT classes and other disaster preparedness programs. I will also continue my policy of informing the public on a regular basis about public safety and fire and disaster safety.