Berkeley City Council
Jesse Arreguín (incumbent): Arreguín, who has served as Berkeley’s mayor since 2016, supports a Green New Deal for Berkeley and takes a generational approach to climate change. He has approved militarized training for the Berkeley Police Department (BPD), and he states he is looking to reduce the city’s police budget, but offered a smaller counter proposal to councilmember Cheryl Davila’s bill that would have defunded the police department by 50%. His other priorities include creating affordable housing in Berkeley and keeping tenants housed; he helped lead the effort to create an eviction moratorium during the Covid crisis among other accomplishments. He is endorsed by many California Democratic Party leaders, as well as the Sierra Club, the Berkeley Progressive Alliance and the California Democratic Renters Council and others. Arreguín is also backed by large real estate development interests.
Wayne Hsiung: Lawyer and animal rights activist Hsiung has more progressive proposals than Arreguín as he wants to make Berkeley carbon neutral by 2025, starting with a decarbonized downtown “district” and expanding outward. He supports the Green New Deal. He also wants the city to buy existing commercial properties and convert them to housing, and supports taxing the wealthy, defunding the police and ending military training for police officers, as well as providing housing and mental services to Berkeley’s unhoused population. He has, however, been criticized for potentially simply wanting to use public office to further the goals of Direct Action Everywhere, the animal liberation/rights group he founded and led.
Aidan Hill: Hill is a political science student at UC Berkeley, the vice-chair of the the Berkeley Homeless Commission and an openly nonbinary candidate. They are a grassroots organizer who has fought diligently to gain unhoused residents access to restrooms, food and medical and mental health services. Although they do not explicitly support the Green New Deal, they encourage using city funds to invest in green technology and pure water systems. They also want to establish tuition-free education for all and make education more equitable.
Naomi D. Pete: Though lacking a campaign website and extensive campaign materials, Pete is running on a platform to ensure senior citizens in Berkeley feel safe and respected and has said she will focus on mental health services for unhoused individuals.
Cheryl Davila (incumbent): During her first term, Davila created the Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force, which brought together stakeholders to address the climate crisis. In 2018, her office spearheaded the Berkeley Climate Emergency Declaration, as well as a Fossil Free Resolution that attempted to commit Berkeley to being carbon negative by 2030. She believes in addressing climate change in tandem with racism and emergency preparedness, and she supports a Green New Deal. Her future plans include creating beautiful green spaces without gentrification. Davila is endorsed by Bay Rising, Berkeley Progressive Alliance, 350 Bay Area and many other organizations, elected officials and community leaders.
Terry Taplin: Taplin is a self-described “poet, community organizer, and social democrat” who supports a global and Berkeley Green New Deal. He wants to enact a green stimulus to create jobs and boost infrastructure, and to protect Berkeley’s ecosystems. He supports the reallocation of police funding to mental health and crisis first responders and community-based violence prevention programs. He has pledged not to take donations over $200 from fossil fuel executives. Taplin is endorsed by the Sierra Club, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, East Bay Young Democrats, and many others.
Alex Sharenko: Sharenko is a solar scientist who has dedicated his career to developing solar energy. He has also served on Berkeley’s Zero Waste Commission, Housing Advisory Commission and Commission on Labor. He lists the environment as a top priority, and supports eliminating single-use plastics, ensuring new housing is built to environmental standards, and prioritizing transportation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Timothy Carter: Carter doesn’t have a robust climate plan outlined on his website, but he does note it as a priority and wants to partner with UC Berkeley climate scientists. Other priorities include addressing the housing crisis, in part by increasing pathways to home ownership, and reducing the police budget while also creating more mechanisms for police accountability.
Ben Bartlett (incumbent): Bartlett supports a variety of policy initiatives that would reduce carbon emissions. He supports banning natural gas, single-use plastics, and toxic paper receipts, and has requested that the Berkley commission a report investigating wind turbines as a useful energy alternative for Berkeley residents. He also drafted a five-year plan for expanded disaster preparedness, which focuses on conducting yearly exercises, granting renters more control over their buildings, and guaranteeing rent-control survives disaster recovery. Other notable proposals are his plans to reallocate police funding to community healthcare workers, move traffic enforcement away from police, set up a microbond finance system, invest in and create an African American Holistic Resource Center, and divest from ICE and any companies financing or building the Border Wall. Bartlett is endorsed by the Sierra Club and Bay Area Rising among many others.
Deborah Matthews: A real estate broker and community engagement consultant, Matthews is focused on resolving historical inequality by creating a special provision for those who have been displaced by gentrification. She wants to create a community land trust and an equity housing cooperative, and create opportunities for affordable homeownership if elected. She also wants to ensure education is made more equitable, especially given the increased disparities that accompanied COVID-19. Her website does not mention her policies, and her interviews do not mention climate change. Matthews is endorsed by Berkeley Neighbors for Housing and Climate Action, East Bay for Everyone, former Black Panther leader Elaine Brown and others.
Orlando Martinez: Martinez cites homelessness and public safety as a concern on his website, but does not elaborate on his plans and does not mention climate change.
Sophie Hahn(incumbent): Hahn is responsible for drafting the first-in-the-nation legislation to end the use of single-use plastics, co-sponsored an ordinance to transition Berkeley away from natural gas, and helped author the Pathways Project — a plan to reduce homelessness. Hahn’s endorsements include the Sierra Club, East Bay Working Families, Berkeley Progressive Alliance, and many state and local elected officials.
Todd Andrew: Andrew is a real estate consultant who does list climate change as a main priority of his, but his website is not yet accessible, and thus, we can’t be certain of his climate agenda. His other priorities include addressing homelessness and affordable housing, and he is endorsed by East Bay for Everyone and the Berkeley Democratic Club.
Paul Darwin Picklesimer: An animal rights activist with Direct Action Everywhere, Picklesimer supports urgent climate action, housing for all and reparations.
Richard Ilgen: Ilgen is a social justice attorney prioritizing fire and emergency preparedness, infrastructure, homelessness, and small businesses. His plan for fire and emergency preparedness involves reducing flammable vegetation, keeping Alta Bates Medical Center open (it’s scheduled to close in 2030) and improving our ability to escape fire danger. His homelessness plan is to partner with nonprofits to treat mental health and substance abuse issues while offering more housing and job training. He does not list climate as a specific policy priority, but he does have experience litigating environmental justice issues. Ilgen is endorsed by Bay Rising Action, Cal Berkeley Democrats, the Green Party of Alameda County and many others.
Susan Wengraf (incumbent): Wengraf has secured more than $1 million for vegetation management and is working to create a regional wildfire safety board, to protect fire insurance in high hazard areas, and to stop Alta Bates Summit Medical Center from closing. She also approved thousands of housing plans on transit corridors, supported the Pathways Program focused on housing the houseless, and supported the HUB — a coordinated system of services resulting in people being enrolled in more comprehensive care. Wengraf is endorsed by the Sierra Club, the East Bay Young Democrats and many others.
Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board
Individuals can vote for five candidates.
There are two slates of candidates; the Right to Housing Slate and the Home Owners for Berkeley Rent Board Slate.
The Home Owners Slate believes rent is too high and that taxes and regulations increase rent prices and current housing prices are making it more difficult to build new housing. The candidates on this slate are listed below:
Dan McDunn: A construction and real estate worker for 20 years, McDunn wants to advocate for both tenant and landlord interests.
Pawel Moldenhawer: Moldenhawer is a contractor who believes in “rational decision-making based on basic humane principles that we should take care of our people in the community,” according to an interview with The Daily Cal.
Wendy Saenz Hood Neufeld: Neufeld is a longtime resident who hopes to improve transparency by using databases on evictions, market rates, and occupancy rates.
Soulmaz Panahi: Panahi is a real estate agent at Red Oak Realty who aims to bring “unconditional balance.”
Bianca Zahrai: A lawyer and UC Berkeley graduate, Zahrai has been both a renter and homeowner and hopes to amplify the voices of property owners.
The Right to Housing Slate is running on a platform of increasing housing accessibility for renters, making housing a human right, implementing people-centered processes and protecting Berkeley renters’ health and the environment. This platform more closely aligns with Sunrise’s principles and goals, though we did not vote on an endorsement in this race. The candidates on this slate are listed below:
Xavier Johnson: Johnson is a legal fellow at Centro Legal de la Raza, which provides legal services in the areas of immigrant, worker and tenant rights. He is also a leader of the local Sierra Club chapter, which has helped low-income residents contend over $1 million in illegal rent increases, and hopes to bring a progressive lens to the board.
Andy Kelley: Kelley is an environmental and climate change advocate who was nominated to run by the Berkeley Tenants Convention and aims to “improve outreach, increase accessibility, and support affordable housing and programs to keep struggling residents housed,” according to the statement they gave Berkeleyside. Kelley already serves on the Alameda County Planning Commission and is vice-chair of the Alameda County Democratic Party.
Mari Mendonca (incumbent): A renter and Section 8 voucher holder, Mendonca considers herself an important voice for underrepresented voices. She has fought for the rights and dignity of low-income people in her work with the Friends of Adeline.
Leah Simon-Weisberg (incumbent): Simon-Weisberg, the current rent board vice-chair and a tenant attorney, is a strong advocate for rent control.
Dominique Walker: A housing justice organizer who organized with Moms 4 Housing, Walker wants to create policy initiatives that will provide mothers and children with housing and keep them housed.
There are also two independent candidates:
Bahman Ahmadi: Ahmadi is a first-generation immigrant and former engineer who believes that his years of working with PG&E can help to improve transparency within the board.
Carole Marasovic: Marasovic is a lifelong advocate for disabled and disadvantaged people and wants the rent board to better educate tenants about laws, regulations, and their rights.
Berkeley School Board
Individuals may vote for two candidates.
Laura Babbitt: Babbitt has sat on the BUSD Oversight Committee for the past decade and is a financial controller. She wants to make Berkeley schools more equitable, address sexual harassment and advocate on more funding for schools and pay teachers a living wage. She is endorsed by Mayor Jesse Arreguín.
Jose Luis Bedolla: Bedolla is the CEO of the Data Science for Social Good Foundation and wants to bring new technology to Berkeley schools, especially in light of the pandemic. He is also an advocate for public-private partnerships in Berkeley schools.
Mike Chang: Chang’s platform is similar to Babbitt’s — he also wants to address sexual harassment, make schools more equitable and pay teachers a living wage. Change is a lecturer at UC Berkeley and previously worked as a civil rights lawyer in the education field. He also advocates for BUSD to become the first carbon-free district.
Norma Harrison: Harrison is a member of the Peace and Freedom Party and advocates for interdisciplinary instruction rather than split subjects and believes the entire school system is broken and needs a complete overhaul.
Esfandiar Imani: Imandi wants to make Berkeley schools more academically rigorous and incorporate more technology to ensure BUSD schools are offering a globally competitive education.
Ana Vasudeo: Vasudeo’s campaign is also similar to Babbitt’s and Chang’s; she wants to increase funding for schools, increase school equity and address sexual harassment. Vasudeo works as a transit planner in San Francisco and wants to bring this experience to the board to ensure safe and efficient travel for students.
Measure FF — Fire, Emergency Services and Wildfire Prevention Tax
This measure would increase property taxes by $0.1047(per square foot of improvements) to create additional funding for firefighting and paramedic services ($8.5 million annually). The revenue will be used to prevent and respond to catastrophic wildfires, earthquakes and other emergencies made worse by climate change. It would also enhance the 911/emergency alert system, strengthen the safety net for populations made more vulnerable by these disasters. This property tax would not apply to property owned by those who qualify as “very low income.” The Sierra Club has recommended a YES vote.
Measure GG — Tax on Transportation Network Company Trips
Measure GG would enact a tax on rideshares and transportation network companies (ex. Uber, Lyft). This tax would apply to trips beginning in Berkeley and would amount to 50 cents per trip for private trips and 25 cents per trip on shared trips, regardless of the total number of passengers. Currently, rideshare users do not pay taxes or fees to Berkley for rides originating in the city. This tax is estimated to generate $910,000 annually, and is expected to encourage more pooled trips which will help reduce carbon emissions. It will not apply to trips paid for or reimbursed by a state or federal government healthcare payor, or trips in Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles. Berkeley Energy Commission & TransForm support this and sees it as an effort to lower single rider trips.
Measure HH — Utility Users Tax
Sunrise Bay Area endorses a YES vote on Measure HH!
Measure HH would eliminate the Utility User Tax on gas and electricity for low-income Berkley residents who enroll in California CARE or FERA programs, and increase the Utility User Taxes on gas and electricity from its current rate of 7.5% to 10% for other energy consumers. It would also grant the City Council the power to further increase the tax on gas by an additional 2.5%. (Note: PG&E has informed the council that it cannot currently collect taxes on gas and electricity at different rates, so a further increase would not happen until PG&E has this capability.) This would save low-income residents an estimated $160 and cost others an average of $53 per year. The tax would raise about $2.4 million annually, with an additional $730,000 coming from the separate 2.5% gas tax increase. This would allow the creation of the Climate Equity Action Fund, a panel of energy, equity, and climate experts to advise the council on how to make effective investments related to climate action. HH would speed up reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, reduce energy consumption by sparking a green economic recovery, and ensure that low-income families, renters, seniors, and small businesses hit hardest by the pandemic do not suffer more energy costs. This measure is an essential part of creating a greener economy for Berkeley residents. The League of Women Voters, the Ecology Center, Green the Church, the local 350 chapter, and Sunrise Movement Bay Area are all in favor of HH.
Measure II — Police Accountability Charter Amendment
This measure would create an independent Berkeley Police Accountability Board and appoint a director of police accountability. The board would be able to obtain access to records, investigate complaints, and recommend disciplinary action against employees if necessary. This new Police Accountability Board would replace the existing Police Review Commission. Currently, the Police Review Commission is composed of 9 commissioners that are appointed by the Mayor and City Council. The Board would create a separate process through which the public can submit a police misconduct complaint as well as an external board to recommend disciplinary action. If there is a disagreement between the board and the chief of police, the city manager will make the final decision. Other duties of the board would be to make recommendations on the police budget, engage in the hiring of the chief of police, and institute any rules needed to conduct its business as an external review board. People for Measure II support the measure because it establishes an independent board to ensure civilians take part in holding the Police Department accountable. It is estimated that the measure will cost the Police Department $300,000 per year. The Measure is supported by ACLU Berkeley, National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform, and Berkeley NAACP. The Anti Police-Terror Project has not released an official statement regarding Measure II.
Measure JJ — Charter Amendment: Mayor and Council Compensation
This measure would increase Berkeley Mayor’s salary 75%, from $61,000 to at least $107,000. This 75% salary increase would also extend to council members, raising their salaries from $38,000 to $67,000. This is an $280,000 expenditure out of the $450 million budget for Berkeley. Proponents argue that it is necessary to raise the mayor and council members’ wages to a liveable rate and account for current rent prices. Opponents argue that the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis is an inappropriate time to raise politicians’ salaries.
Measure KK — Charter Amendment: Administrative Provisions and City Attorney
This measure would implement a number of administrative changes. These include removing a restriction that requires Berkeley fire fighters to live within a 40-mile radius of the city and amending the charter to allow City Council members to appoint the city attorney, whose term would be indefinite but could be voted out by five members of the council. Previously, the city manager would appoint the city attorney. The city attorney would also get to choose their own salary. This measure would also allow non-citizens to take part in redistricting decision making, which could increase representation in redistricting. The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club supports a YES vote on Measure KK.
Measure LL — GANN Limit Spending Authority
If passed, this measure will increase the appropriations of funds for public services using money accumulated from previous taxes. This is not a bill trying to increase taxes, but would rather allow the city to dip into reserve funds to operate with a larger budget. Though it would increase funding for libraries, parks and schools, opponents are skeptical about dipping into the city’s reserves during an economic downturn. Berkeley Democratic Club and Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club support a YES vote on Measure KK.
Measure MM — Rent Stabilization Ordinance
This measure will prevent eviction of qualifying tenants for nonpayment during state or local emergencies, establish a Rent Stabilization Board, and control Accessory Dwelling Unit exemptions. While the City of Berkeley established an eviction moratorium during COVID-19, the measure would create legislation so that evictions would be minimized during future emergencies. The Rent Stabilization Board will manage registration fees for rented single-family homes, condos, and newly constructed units. The measure expands legislation surrounding Accessory Dwelling Units and would limit the City’s ADU exemption to owner-occupied properties that contain only a single family home and no more than one ADU. Proponents argue this measure is incredibly necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic because without more restrictions on evictions, many renters within Berkeley will be at risk of losing their homes. The Sierra Club endorses a YES vote on Measure MM.
This guide was written and edited by:
Charlotte O’Keefe Stralka