Measure L (November 2022)
In November 2022, Berkeley voters will decide on Measure L, which would authorize $650 million in General Obligation bonds for infrastructure, street safety, and affordable housing. You can the full text of the measure here.
Measure L would fund the following priorities:
- $300 million for street safety improvements, including pedestrian crossings, bicycle facilities, and street paving;
- $200 million for affordable housing;
- $150 million for public parks, facilities, pools, utility undergrounding along fire evacuation routes, and climate resiliency.
With the many projects this bond measure would fund, Berkeley can advance major policy commitments including:
- 30-year long-term planning for sustainable infrastructure under the Vision 2050 Framework
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a major goal identified in our Climate Action Plan
- Ending traffic fatalities, as envisioned in our Vision Zero Action Plan
- Improving bicycle safety and route connectivity, as planned in our Bicycle Plan
- Improving pedestrian safety, as described in our Pedestrian Plan
- Ending homelessness, fulfilling our 1000 Person Plan to Address Homelessness
Measure L requires the City Council to: appoint an Affordable Housing and Infrastructure Bond Oversight Committee which will provide oversight by reporting to the City Council on an annual basis regarding projects funded by the Bonds (as determined by the City Council) and whether those bond expenditures are consistent with the purposes of the Bonds set forth in this Measure.
Additionally, Berkeley’s Housing Advisory Commission, Public Works Commission, and Parks Commission would make recommendations on bond funding allocations for capital projects to the City Council.
The measure requires an annual report by the City Manager and an annual independent financial audit to ensure bond funds are allocated in accordance with its intent.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín launched Vision 2050 to begin long-term planning for climate resilience and environmental justice in our infrastructure, with the Vision 2050 Task Force forming in the spring of 2018. Berkeley voters supported Vision 2050 with the passage of Measure R in the November 2018 election, which asked: Shall the measure, advising the Mayor to engage citizens and experts in the development of Vision 2050, a 30-year plan to identify and guide implementation of climate-smart, technologically-advanced, integrated and efficient infrastructure to support a safe, vibrant and resilient future for Berkeley, be adopted?
Berkeley is blessed to be a central node of public scholarship and private sector innovation within the Bay Area’s dynamic regional economy. As home to the world’s top public university, along with thriving life sciences and renewable energy industries, our community can be a global leader in environmental justice and economic mobility. Vision 2050 calls for long-range investment in capital improvements to provide the sustainable infrastructure that our growing, diverse community’s needs, and manage our public resources on a “cradle-to-grave” timeline. The Vision 2050 Framework aligns funding needs with long-term plans under four core values:
- Equity: ensuring that the benefits of improved infrastructure are fairly distributed, prioritizing the most disadvantaged in our community and redressing the injustices of environmental racism while improving quality of life for all.
- Strong Local Economy: enabling local residents to enjoy greater employment opportunities, develop skills, and contribute to the needs of our community.
- Public Health and Safety: providing access to green spaces, recreation, social support networks, health services, safe streets and clean air so that all bodies in Berkeley can thrive.
- Resilience and Sustainability: maintaining core services that can respond effectively to natural disasters and mitigate the harms of climate change.
In November of 2018, voters approved $135 million in General Obligation bonds for affordable housing under Measure O, and a real estate transfer tax for shelter services under Measure P. The City is funding nine affordable housing projects with $111,379,307 in Measure O funds. These projects will create over 500 new units for low- and middle-income individuals, families, seniors, teachers, veterans, formerly unhoused people, and people with disabilities. Affordable housing projects funded by Measure O are providing housing for low- and middle-income members of the Berkeley community. Four projects are complete or substantially complete, creating 221 new units of affordable housing through the Housing Trust Fund, including Jordan Court and Berkeley Way. The City plans to fund additional projects by issuing a third round of Measure O bonds, up to $17 million.
Using Measure P funds, the City of Berkeley rehoused 16 individuals with permanent housing subsidies, operates multiple shelter programs, and staffs a Homeless Outreach Team. Measure P also provides funding for the Small Sites program, which preserves affordable housing by enabling land trust and nonprofit acquisitions. The City will also be providing another 43 units through the Golden Bear and 39 units through 1367 University Ave.
To sustain this progress, Berkeley needs to make greater short-term investments in affordable housing production and preservation to meet the needs of our community. Both locally and regionally, new housing construction has not kept pace with demand, as the Bay Area added over 4 jobs for every new home built since 2011.
Under the state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), Berkeley will need to build a minimum of 9,025 new homes in the next 8 years, with nearly 4,000 being affordable to low- and very low-income households. As of 2020, Berkeley’s progress on meeting its RHNA goals remained insufficient: 23% of its moderate-income goals, 21% of its goals for Very-Low Income households, and a mere 4% for Low-Income households. To purchase a home in Berkeley, the September 2022 median home price of $1.6 million would require an income over three times as high as Berkeley’s 2018 median household income of $80,000.
$200 million for affordable housing in Measure L would be critical for meeting these goals. It is important to remember that while Berkeley pursues reforms to streamline affordable housing permits and reduce construction timelines, affordable housing projects in California have been built with just 10-20% of their funds coming from local governments, and private for-profit developers are still required to provide on-site affordable housing or payments to Berkeley’s Housing Trust Fund for market-rate projects. With matching state and federal funds in addition to private development, $150 million in local bond funding would put Berkeley within reach of meeting its affordable housing goals.
Berkeley’s average street pavement condition is currently rated “at-risk” and would cost more to repave in the future without near-term investments in our deferred maintenance needs. In 2019, the deferred maintenance needs of Berkeley’s streets exceeded $251 million. Berkeley’s City Auditor reported that the city’s Pavement Condition Index (PCI) rating had fallen to 59 out of 100 in 2018, and would reach an estimated low of 52 by 2023 without significant increases in funding. Further, the Auditor’s report recommended increased funding as soon as possible, estimating that the level of funding in 2020 risked increasing deferred maintenance costs to $328 million by 2023.
Why is it so important to fix and maintain our roads?
Measure L funds would be reserved for capital improvement projects. Because debt financing is generally considered a riskier source of funding for operating costs, bond proceeds would not be available for regular maintenance. Even though the City Council roughly doubled the annual operating budget for street paving earlier this year, making our streets more resilient will continue to be a Sisyphean challenge for our infrastructure without a major capital investment to bring paving quality back to adequate condition. Otherwise, it is likely that the operating costs of maintaining our streets would continue to grow beyond Berkeley’s short-term fiscal capacity. . As the Auditor’s report illustrates, these investments are critical for making regular maintenance more fiscally sustainable.
While everyone stands to benefit from better street paving in the short term, we also recognize that a sustainable future necessitates a major modal shift away from private automobiles to cycling, walking, and public transit. According to a 2018 Progress Report on greenhouse gas emissions by the California Air Resources Board (CARB): “California cannot meet its climate goals without curbing growth in single-occupancy vehicle activity. Even if the share of new car sales that are [electric vehicles] grows nearly 10-fold from , California would still need to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled per capita 25 percent to achieve the necessary reductions for 2030.” Yet anyone who has biked or walked around Berkeley lately knows we need safer streets with reliable pavement conditions to encourage car-free living.
This has major implications for racial equity, particularly in the midst of a nationwide traffic violence crisis that is disproportionately killing Black and Indigenous pedestrians, and pedestrians in lower-income neighborhoods. In California alone, we lost 4,258 lives to vehicle crashes in 2021, which the US Department of Transportation estimated to be a 10.7% annual increase in traffic fatalities. Nationally, last year was the deadliest year on our roads since 2005.
By investing in sustainable street repair projects, Berkeley can lead the way in decarbonization and environmental justice. While 60% of our emissions come from transportation, Berkeley also has the second-highest share of bicycle commuters in the nation. Reducing auto dependence is thus critical for our decarbonization efforts, but to enable this modal shift, we need significant investments in road safety identified in our Bicycle Plan and Pedestrian Plan. The Vision 2050 Draft Program Plan recommends a “Dig Once” strategy to ensure that utility work, street repair, safety improvements, and other infrastructure projects are aligned and integrated efficiently.
Infrastructure and Facilities
In 2016, Berkeley voters approved $100 million in bonds under Measure T1 to provide improvements to city parks, facilities, street paving and sidewalk repair.
During the first phase of T1 projects, from 2017-2022, the City spent $42.7 million on 40 different projects. Combined with funding from grants and special funds, the City was able to invest $65.7 million in infrastructure improvements. Highlights include:
- Facility improvements: Frances Albrier Community Center planning & design for upgrades; Strawberry Creek Park restroom replacement; seismic safety and accessibility improvements to Live Oak Community Center, North Berkeley Senior Center.
- Park improvements: tennis courts and slide at San Pablo Park; play structures at George Florence Park; cleaning Aquatic Park tide tubes; Tom Bates Fields turf replacement.
- Green infrastructure: Bioswales and stormwater infrastructure
- Street paving: Ward St, University Ave, Marina Blvd.
During the second phase of T1 projects, from 2021-2026, the City plans to spend $60 million on 30 different projects. Highlights include:
- Facility improvements: upgrades to African American Holistic Resource Center, Martin Luther King Youth Services Center, Willard Clubhouse, and the South Berkeley Senior Center; energy efficiency improvements at Firehouses 2, 6.
- Park improvements: repairs for King Pool, John Hinkle Playground and Amphitheater; new restrooms planned for Ohlone Park, Marina, Cesar Chavez Park; dock repairs at Marina.
- Green infrastructure: conversion of bollards to planters and landscaping.
- 9 new public restrooms across the city.
Our community needs significant investments to continue the important work begun under Measure T1. Berkeley’s Marina and waterfront have an estimated $100 million in deferred capital maintenance needs, and just as with street paving, continuing to defer this maintenance will only increase costs and put fiscal sustainability further out of reach for our treasured public facilities. While citywide infrastructure needs are estimated at $1 billion, Measure L funds would not go to the ferry terminal project being planned by the City and WETA, but rather for improvements to waterfront to make it resilient against sea level rise.
Measure L would fund important community resources that previous measures have not covered, including a planned pool at San Pablo Park, safety upgrades at Frances Albrier, revitalizing Civic Center Park, and utility undergrounding along evacuation routes.
More info coming soon!