The Real Facts about Kate Harrison's Record
By Mayor Jesse Arreguin
As a resident of Berkeley District 4 my mailbox has been flooded with mailers from various candidates. I have noticed an increasingly negative tone in mailers from Ben Gould and now Greg Magofna.
Whenever a candidate runs against an incumbent it is always expected that you will compare yourself against their record. However, that does not necessarily give liberty to outright misrepresent.
Berkeley politics has historically been very divisive. During my time as the District 4 Councilmember, I was increasingly frustrated with the polarized nature of the Council, with the lack of decorum by some Councilmembers, and the combativeness between the Mayor and the public. It made it hard for the public's business to get done and it made Council meetings unpleasant. I decided to change that. When I took office as Mayor in 2016, I made restoring civility and promoting collaboration a priority. We are all passionate about our city, and have different ideas on how to make it better. That does not mean we should demonize each other.
It was surprising and disturbing to see such negative messaging in recent mailers by Ben Gould and Greg Magofna. Mr. Gould has also taken his attacks to the campaign trail at candidate forums.
While I shrugged off these statements as election politics, enough is enough. I am disappointed in the flat out distortions of Councilmember Harrison's record and have to set the record straight.
Having sat with Kate in many City Council meetings over the past year, I can attest to her intelligence, compassion and integrity. She has one of the most effective track records on the Council.
Here is my rebuttal to some of these claims:
Claim: "The doubling [of affordable housing requirements] occurred in 2016, a year before the incumbent took office"
Answer: As the principal author of our Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee and someone who has championed increasing affordability requirements, I can say this is not true.
While Council did double the number of affordable units in new market rate developments in 2016, the way the percentage of affordable housing was calculated was based on just the market rate units, not the entire project. For projects which take a density bonus, this often resulted in less than 20% affordable housing.
In May, 2017, Kate closed a loophole that allowed developers to provide only half of the promised affordable housing. Under the old Council, the percentage of units set to be affordable was 20% but there was an enormous loophole: the % only applied to market rate units in the base project. Most projects receive a 35% state density bonus for providing affordable units and those density units weren’t included when calculating the 20%. Neither were the affordable units themselves included.
Claim: Kate "advocated to remove streamlining provision from legislation authored by Councilmember Droste".
Answer: Kate in fact proposed and Council adopted legislation in September 2017 to expedite the permit processing of affordable housing projects.
A review of the minutes from the December 5, 2017 meeting shows that Kate did in fact vote for the Droste streamlining proposal.
Claim: She "Proposed adding barriers to in-law units, such as requiring property owners to plant and maintain additional trees when adding units or doing renovations."
Answer: Councilmember Harrison has been one of the most vocal advocates for removing barriers to creating Accessory Dwelling Units. She opposed efforts to add view and parking requirements to new ADUs which would have added more cost and obstacles, and led efforts to put Measure Q on the November ballot to incentivize the production of new ADUs throughout Berkeley.
The tree item was proposed by Councilmember Cheryl Davila and was removed from the agenda by the author, and never voted on.
Claim: Kate "Voted and advocated for a Tent City"
Answer: On February 13, 2018 the Council voted to refer back to the Homeless Commission to do a comprehensive review of what would be involved in creating a sanctioned encampment.
The Homeless Commission asked the Council to give one group of homeless people a piece of land to run their own encampment. Nearly everyone on the Council, including Kate, opposed this, because of the discriminatory nature of it, and also a sanctioned encampment on city property makes our city liable. A self appointed group of people can't run an encampment, especially without proper supervision and services. Past examples of self-run encampments have created health and safety problems. The proposal lacked any legal or operational analysis, and would have put the city in a position of liability.
What Council did, was ask the Homeless Commission to do its homework before it proposed creating a sanctioned encampment.
Referring the item back does not mean that the City will create a sanctioned encampment, it just asks for more study.
Kate has spoken out about the growth of illegal encampments throughout Berkeley, including in District 4 and has asked city staff to act when they create serious health and safety impacts for the unhoused and for the neighboring residents and businesses. She advocated for the removal of encampments in front of Old City Hall because of the impacts they created on the surrounding residential neighborhood. She has advocated for expanding shelter, navigation centers, and housing subsidies as the best approach to get people off the street.
While we are working on coordinating housing and service programs with the County and neighboring cities, we need resources locally to address the current homeless crisis.
Claim: Kate "Voted to allow homeless people in RV and cars to park indefinitely at the Berkeley Marina".
Answer: This is also not true. In the spring and summer of 2018, a group of families and homeless individuals parked their vehicles and RVs at the Berkeley Marina. Some of these families included children in the Berkeley Unified School District.
The RVs and cars moved to the Hs Lordships parking lot and remained there after Hs Lordships closed at the end of June. Given that the property was empty and these people were living in their vehicles due to the lack of permanent housing, I proposed that we allow them to camp there for 1 month, while we look for a permanent and legal place for RV camping. The number of vehicles would have been capped at 50 RVs or cars, and would be limited to the Hs Lordships parking lot. It would not have permitted camping throughout the entire Marina.
The Council did not adopt this proposal and the RVs were moved. Now we have seen a proliferation of RVs in residential neighborhoods, some of whom were parked at Hs Lordships.
Councilmember Harrison supports creating a safe and legal location for vehicle parking for homeless individuals. This has been done in cities throughout the west coast, and is currently being explored in San Francisco and San Jose.