Require vacancy fees on unleased, unrented properties. Wilmington, Delaware puts it this way: The program holds the owners of vacant properties accountable for the physical condition of their properties and to the overall well-being of the communities and neighborhoods in which the vacant properties are located. It is intended to encourage owners of vacant properties to immediately rehabilitate the property or to sell the property to an individual or an agency that will make the property attractive for sale or rental.
Berkeley used to have a thriving downtown before the current custom of leaving properties empty unless prospective renters or leasers pay prohibitive prices. The city can play a role here as others cities have. It's true that the city council won't get as much largesse from large property holders as they do now, but we'll be able to shop for goods and services again without paying an arm and a leg.
Demand a more representative DBA board. The Downtown Berkeley Association pretends to represent community interests, but just conducted the most expensive campaign in Berkeley's electoral history against the poor. The ridiculously expensive and deceptive anti-sitting campaign, which its own director admitted included electoral fraud, would never have survived a more diverse board of directors.
The City Council could mandate the inclusion of representatives from the Homeless Action Center and various commissions to make sure this unelected group has more diversity. That way when the DBA honestly wants to make positive contributions to the crisis in housing and poverty they'll have people with expertise at the table there for guidance.
Rehabilitate the fake art spaces into real ones. Part of the nonsense developers waive in front of planners and commissioners are art spaces designed to grease a project's approval, but which don't honestly accommodate real art and theater needs. Lots of our new buildings have these theater spaces without prop rooms, without green rooms, designed by people with no interest or experience in art and theater to get an extra floor past the planning commission. Most of these spaces sit empty, and could also be made for available for community use, the intended use, through vacancy fees. There is no shortage of art, music, and dance in this town.
Enforce the smokefree law. It happened again this past December: a crafts vendor lamenting the poor attendance at a street fair with a cigarette in his hand, nonchalantly exposing everyone who had the misfortune to walk by. People won't bring their families to smoke-filled events in Berkeley when there are so many healthy alternatives. You don't need a gun to create a deadly setting let's step up smokefree enforcement for our own and our families' health, and bring back the people whose common sense instructs them to avoid smoke-filled events and commercial districts.
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