The l975-l976 City Council – the Legislative and Legal Battles Continue
When the new Council took office on May 6, l975, BCA had three votes, Loni, Ying, and John, one-third of the Council. Four years earlier, the progressive community thought it had at least three votes, only to receive a series of bitter shocks from Widener, Bailey and Simmons. Like the white queen in Through the Looking Glass, it had taken us four years of hard running to stay in the same place.
With John Denton, Shirley Dean, and Carole Davis replacing Ira Simmons, Ed Kallgren, and the Sweeney vacancy, the Council had its first ever female majority (Hancock, Hone, Kelley, Davis, and Dean). Gender proved to be irrelevant. The number of black Councilmembers dropped from 5 to 4 (Widener, Ramsey, Rumford, and Davis), all of them now part of the Council majority. That did not look politically appropriate for BCA. Meanwhile, John Denton inherited Kallgren’s slot as the Council’s only white male. Race and gender aside, it was a 6-3 political split in favor of the Conservative Coalition.
Councilman John Denton
John Denton brought 35 years of experience to the Berkeley City Council as an attorney, author, professor, appraiser, economist, and all-around land use and housing expert. He had represented Indian tribes in Arizona, fought to preserve Bay Area neighborhoods from freeways, and been Executive Director of Governor Pat Brown’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Fair Housing. John also played a lot of tennis. In l975 John opened a law office at 6555 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland which also served as his Council office.
In many ways John Denton was a perfect addition to the BCA team. As a World War II conscientious objector, he was just as morally principled as Loni and Ying, perhaps even more stubborn. John was used to the hard fight for unpopular causes against great odds. He did not merely move to the beat of a different drummer; John Denton is the different drummer.
With his tremendous experience, John was also extremely self-confident, lacking in patience with others, and had a tendency to be unpredictable. Unlike Loni and Ying, John did not feel a need for staff assistance. He enjoyed being his own staff, a self-contained expert on nearly everything. John’s hard-to-please, taciturn manner, made him a much more difficult person to work with than Loni or Ying. Many people, myself included, lasted only a few months as staff for John Denton. Julie Chapman set the record, working as John’s Council staff for a couple of years during his first term. Ultimately, John concluded that he was better off not having any staff, except perhaps a part-time typist.
With Loni and Ying as his colleagues, and our Council staff/community outreach network intact, John’s idiosyncracies didn’t matter. Loni and John had worked together for years. Thus, teamwork prevailed, as packet meetings insured communication and coordination with the public and among our three separate Council offices. Under these favorable conditions, John Denton became a very effective member of the Council minority.
Rent Control – Testing the Political and Legal Waters
The BCA Councilmembers wasted no time in forcing a vote on rent control. To our predominantly tenant constituency, this remained the dominant economic issue. In the two years since Judge Bostick had invalidated the l972 Charter Amendment, while the Birkenfeld case crawled through the appellate courts, lack of rent control meant that more and more low and moderate income people were being driven out of Berkeley.
So on May 6, l975, Loni moved a temporary rent freeze ordinance. It lost 3-5-l, with only the three BCA votes, a strong indication that nothing had changed. (Dean abstained on the grounds she needed more information.) The Council majority was still representing the landlord interests we had defeated in the June l972 election.
On June 27, l975, the Court of Appeals, First District, Division 3, issued its very confused decision in the Birkenfeld case (49 Cal.App.3d 46l, l22 Cal Rptr 89l). Each of the three justices wrote a separate opinion, resulting in a 2-l split decision full of partial concurrences and dissents. Justice Harold Brown (an appointee and relative of Governor Pat Brown) would have upheld the entire Rent Control Charter Amendment, except for the eviction section which all the Justices felt was pre-empted by state law. He was the dissenter.
The other two justices, Scott and Divine, agreed with Judge Bostick that Berkeley’s rent control law was totally unconstitutional, but they went in different directions as to the reasons why. Justice Scott stood squarely with Bostick in concluding that lack of a “serious public emergency” in rental housing invalidated the entire law. Justice Divine disagreed, accepting the existence of a housing emergency as declared in the Berkeley law. Except he found the measure unconstitutional due to “the lack of method of termination of rent controls, or put in another way, the lack of a gauge by which to adjudge the continuance of emergency conditions.”
Scott’s opinion also included Divine’s rationale, so rent control had lost again. One bright spot was the unanimous rejection by all three justices of Judge Bostick’s ruling that passage of rent control by initiative unconstitutionally denied landlords notice and a hearing. At least the initiative process had been legally vindicated.
This horribly mangled split decision by the Court of Appeals virtually forced the California Supreme Court to take the case, which it did on October 23, l975. There was to be another delay and no rent control for the time being, followed by a California Supreme Court decision that would decide the final fate of Berkeley’s l972 Charter Amendment and establish the ground rules for rent control in California as a whole.
Showdown at the West Berkeley Industrial Park
Beginning in the l950’s, the Berkeley business community prodded the City Council into taking specific actions to expand the existing industrial zone (primarily from the Bay to 4th Street) eastward into residential areas. Industrial planners wanted to expand all the way east to San Pablo Avenue, gobbling up some 70 square blocks of housing, but they had to accept much less. A compromise was struck creating a Special Industrial Zone, a north-south strip between 4th Street, 6th Street, Camelia, and Dwight Way. This mixed-use area, heavily residential, with many historic buildings, was officially designated as a site for future industrial expansion.
Residents of the Special Industrial Zone fought to save their neighborhood from the new anti-residential zoning, petitioning the City Council and speaking at public hearings. They lost that battle as the City Council unanimously established the Special Industrial Zone in the Berkeley Master Plan (April l2, l955) and by amendment of the Zoning Ordinance (August 2l, l956). Not surprisingly, a neighborhood in which the Master Plan said “residential areas should not be maintained” began to deteriorate.
In the l960’s came the next logical step, a redevelopment project under which the houses in an eight square block portion of the Special Industrial Zone (between University Avenue, 4th Street, Cedar Street, and 6th Street) would be bulldozed by an arm of the city, the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency (BRA), and sold to industry at subsidized, below-market prices. Berkeley could thus compete with other East Bay industrial parks that were felt to be luring away needed tax and job-generating companies. The project boundaries also contained l2 square blocks of existing industrial land, but the focus was on expansion into the primarily residential area.
The West Berkeley Industrial Park (WBIP) was first proposed in l963 by Republican Mayor Wallace Johnson and the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. In spite of continuous neighborhood opposition, the WBIP was embraced by the Democratic Caucus council majority. The loss of 66 dwelling units within the project’s boundaries, housing 229 people in l965 (primarily low-income, non-white tenants), appeared not to matter. Thus, final City Council approval of the West Berkeley Industrial Park came on June l3, l967 by a unanimous vote that included Councilman Ron Dellums. The adopted plan prohibited all residential uses within the industrial park’s boundaries.
Implementation of the project was left to the BRA with its independent board of directors appointed by the Mayor and its Executive Director, Thomas Cook.
The independent BRA was one technique for the Council to insulate itself from the kind of vehement, anti-redevelopment sentiment that had killed the proposed South Campus Urban Renewal Project in l966. The Council established the BRA on September l, l966, less than a month after the demise of South Campus Redevelopment. For many years, carrying out the WBIP plan and protecting the City Council from political fallout were the sole tasks of the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency.
The City Council immediately applied for a seven million dollar loan from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fund the WBIP. Ironically, the money to demolish houses was to come from an appropriation under the l949 Housing Act that established “the goal of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family.” (42 USC l44l). But housing demolition was acceptable local, state, and national policy because Berkeley was eliminating a “blighted” neighborhood.
From the beginning, the WBIP was beset by delays. The first impediment, lasting two and one-half years, came from HUD itself, which did not approve the initial one million dollars funding for the project until February l0, l970. By June l970, the BRA actively began acquiring land, resettling the residents, and boarding up the houses.
The City Council’s political consensus under which the WBIP had been launched evaporated fairly quickly once implementation started. With the help of Peoples Architecture, a Berkeley advocacy-planning group, residents from the area inside and adjacent to the industrial park’s boundaries formed the Ocean View Committee (OVC) on August 2, l970. They revived the historic name of what had been l9th century Berkeley’s original neighborhood. Their slogan was “Save our homes in Ocean View.”
The Ocean View Committee never opposed the creation of a city-sponsored industrial park, provided it was limited to existing industrial lands west of 4th Street. But unlike previous neighborhood opponents of creeping industrialization, the Ocean View Committee was tenacious and politically skilled in developing allies and drawing attention to its cause.
The Ocean View Committee first confronted the BRA Board on August ll, l970, and after a six hour debate (some BRA members felt they were being held captive), the agency voted for a 90 day moratorium on further project activities. At the urging of Executive Director Thomas Cook, who claimed that the Ocean View Committee was illegitimate and that compromise was impossible, the BRA Board rescinded the moratorium a month later and voted to continue the project. A similar stop and go pattern would be repeated for the rest of the decade.
In response to an OVC request, the City Council held a December 22, l970 public hearing on the WBIP at which the issues were thoroughly debated for the first time in three and one half years. Councilmembers Widener and DeBonis, representing the left and maverick right, then voted to halt acquisition and demolition of residential properties. Their anti-WBIP position was now shared by the absent Congressman-elect Ron Dellums, but even adding his vote, the motion still failed. As long as there were not five votes against it, Mayor Johnson’s pet project survived without change. Lack of Council action was, as always, a green light for the industrial park to continue.
The BRA demolished its first five Ocean View houses in February l97l, right in the middle of the City Council campaign. The bulldozers were met by dozens of OVC protesters, three of whom were arrested for trespassing, among other charges. One man had to be dragged out of a house before it could be leveled. The demolitions received major press attention and were extremely unpopular, fueling anti-industrial park sentiment to the April Coalition’s benefit. Berkeley juries would not convict Linda Willard and Bob Fabian for their acts of civil disobedience against the bulldozers. On hung juries, both went free.
The Ocean View Committee, led over the years by Bill Walker, Lee Coe, Hildur Kehoe, Stephanie and Curt Manning, among others, sought and received support from all over the city. People in many neighborhoods saw the WBIP fight as symbolic of the city’s land use choices for the future. If one older, politically weak neighborhood could be destroyed by City Hall, was any neighborhood safe from the insatiable appetite of developers? Therefore, the city-wide neighborhood preservation line had to be drawn in Ocean View.
The April Coalition and later BCA formed a strong alliance with the Ocean View Committee, while the Chamber of Commerce constituency demanded that the City Council fully carry out its commitment to the industrial park.
The WBIP became one of the most polarized issues in the entire city. After the l97l election, the Council’s classic 4-4 splits were certain to occur on nearly any industrial park motion. Attempts by the left to financially strangle the BRA were unsuccessful, but not for lack of trying.
Following her appointment to the Council, Sue Hone made a major attempt to find a compromise, assisted by Widener. Six months of confused negotiations resulted in the May l972 Payne-Maxie Report by independent consultants. The report tried to steer a middle course, recommending some new housing in the contested area. The Payne-Maxie Report was denounced by both the BRA and the OVC. The Council majority voted down motions to even discuss the report, preferring to continue the industrial park without change. On June 6, l972, the Council majority (including Hone) voted 5-3 to request another year’s funding for the project from HUD. Widener was absent. Hone thus abandoned all thoughts of conciliation and became another solid vote in the pro-WBIP Council majority that later included Widener as its leader.
The Heritage of a 20 Year Struggle
Thus, together with rent control, a person’s position on the West Berkeley Industrial Park came to define which side you were on in Berkeley politics. (Warren Widener’s betrayal of the progressive community was symbolized by his reversal of positions on these two issues.) Rent control and the WBIP were also linked because of Berkeley’s notorious housing shortage, the legal and political basis for rent control. The Council had declared that lack of available housing constituted a serious public emergency (resolution passed June 5, l973), yet the Council majority persisted in a project to destroy several square blocks of housing. The progressive community and its Council representatives always felt compelled to save Berkeley’s housing stock.
By l975, twenty years after creation of the Special Industrial Zone, the West Berkeley Industrial Park fight had taken on all the attributes of a local Vietnam War. The area was a land use battlefield, and combat raged house by house, lot by lot. Industrial park supporters talked of a two-decade long commitment to expanding the manufacturing zone, the investment of millions of dollars, the jobs and taxes industry would bring, the incompatibility of housing and industrial uses, the decrepit, dangerous condition of the existing houses, and the city’s responsibility to HUD to finish the job. (Strangely enough, although the WBIP was one of the few affirmative projects supported by the Council majority, it was always very difficult to find one of their candidates who actually campaigned in favor of the industrial park.)
Opponents insisted that the WBIP plan was unnecessary and wrong from the start. Ocean View was a pleasant, primarily residential neighborhood, until the city started trying to destroy it. Given the large amount of vacant industrial land in the existing manufacturing zone, there was absolutely no need to sacrifice another house to this useless, wasteful, boondoggle. There won’t even be enough industrial buyers for the land, because cheaper, more desirable sites are available elsewhere. Existing houses should be rehabilitated and new housing built for low and moderate income people.
The Ocean View Committee members fought the BRA board and staff at meeting after meeting. The two sides passionately despised each other, and their bitterness was reflected on the City Council.
The rival strategies were simple. Industrial park supporters dominated the BRA Board and its staff. They wanted City Council involvement only when legally mandated, opposing all public hearings, except those required by law, and insisting that the BRA be allowed to get on with the job.
Industrial park opponents tried to halt the project any way they could. Faced with a BRA Board on which only one member out of seven (Bob Nisbet, a convert) was sympathetic to their cause, the Ocean View Committee always attempted to get the City Council to hold public hearings and take responsibility for changing the project.
As an independent body, the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency had the legal power to keep implementing the industrial park plan even without continuous City Council support. But after the era of 4-4 Council votes was followed by emergence of a new pro-industrial park majority, it appeared that the BRA would be able to move forward. The Ocean View Committee turned to the courts. The WBIP fight became dominated by a series of legal roadblocks that were successfully used to stall the project, one after another.
In January l972, Public Advocates filed a Federal lawsuit against San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Redevelopment Project and the WBIP. Ocean View Committee Chairman Bill Walker, a resident of the project area, was one of the plaintiffs. The decision in San Francisco Tomorrow v. Romney (l973) 452 F.2d l02l was a victory for the Ocean View Committee, requiring preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before the WBIP could proceed. Only when the industrial park’s EIS had been completed in l974 was the BRA free to renew its labors.
But remembering the negative publicity from housing demolitions during the l97l campaign, the BRA maintained a low profile until the April l975 balloting was over. After the April l975 election, the BRA and its supporters anticipated that they now had six safe City Council votes and could finally proceed with industrial park business as usual. That was an incorrect assumption.
The Victory that Got Away
Anxious to begin housing demolitions after the long layoff, the BRA faced a new obstacle: the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance (NPO) passed by the voters in l973. Its provisions required a public hearing before the Board of Adjustments on all residential demolition permits. The BRA was accustomed to receiving its demolition permits without the inconvenience of a public hearing. Even worse, under section 5(b) of the NPO, the demolition permit applications could be denied unless, in the BRA’s case, the Board of Adjustments determined:
That the demolition would not be materially detrimental to the housing needs and public interest of the affected neighborhood and the City of Berkeley, and
That the demolition will remove a hazardous, unusable or unrepairable structure.
Under no circumstances did the BRA wish to have its demolitions contingent upon an affirmative finding under the NPO’s standards. Thus, in seeking to demolish l5 houses immediately after the l975 election, the BRA clearly desired the City of Berkeley to disregard the NPO and simply issue the demolition permits administratively. The BRA had a certain advantage here because its attorney and the City Attorney were the same person, Don McCullum, and his legal opinion was that the NPO did not apply to the industrial park. This was another call to battle over whether the city would comply with a progressive initiative passed by the voters.
At the May l3, l975 meeting, John Denton moved that the City Council declare itself to be the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency, abolishing the independent BRA Board appointed by the Mayor. (A similar Bailey motion had been defeated with only three affirmative votes on January 30, l973.)
This was a decisive proposal, because City Council acceptance of full responsibility for the WBIP greatly increased the likelihood of eventual changes and compromises. The project had survived for 8 years only because the appointed BRA Board was immune to public opinion and acted as a political shield for the City Council. Now to everyone’s complete surprise, John Denton’s motion passed 5-3 with Shirley Dean and Billy Rumford crossing party lines to cast the decisive “Yes” votes.
Loni Hancock then made a follow-up motion directing City Manager John Taylor not to issue any demolition permits to the BRA unless the Housing Advisory and Appeals Board (HAAB) found specific houses to be “sub-standard”. That motion also passed by the same 5-3 vote.
Loni’s proposal that the BRA’s demolition permit requests be brought before the HAAB, rather than the Board of Adjustments, was an attempted compromise. The HAAB was an obscure commission that enforced housing codes by ordering unsafe structures repaired or demolished. It was presumed to have more expertise in the area of dilapidated buildings than the Board of Adjustments. A HAAB finding of “substandard” was equivalent to the NPO’s “hazardous, unusable or unrepairable” determination.
The HAAB’s proper role was to advise the Board of Adjustments in such cases since the Board of Adjustments had NPO jurisdiction. However the Housing Advisory and Appeals Board’s Chairman, Pat Devaney, a Dean appointee, was an aggressive, pro-neighborhood independent who had the confidence of WBIP opponents. Devaney wanted jurisdiction over the BRA’s houses to put himself and his board on the political map. So instead of requiring compliance with the NPO, Loni proposed a compromise to let Pat Devaney’s HAAB hold the hearings and make the demolition permit determinations.
The Shirley Dean and Billy Rumford votes in favor of the two anti-BRA motions amounted to a rebellion against the conservative business interests which had just played a vital role in electing them. For Dean, these were courageous acts in keeping with her l975 campaign image. Unfortunately, they did not reflect her general voting pattern. For Rumford, who was supposed to be the Council’s most conservative member, even greater bravery was required for him to cast these two votes. The Chamber of Commerce, Berkeley-Albany Industries Association, and other pro-industrial park lobbyists descended upon Rumford and Dean, demanding that they change their votes and return to the right wing fold. The pressure must have been unbearable, especially for Rumford.
By the May 27, l975 Council meeting, the industrial park’s supporters had won the lobbying battle. Rumford switched his position and the Council voted 5-4 to rescind the previous motion instructing the City Manager not to issue demolition permits for the l5 houses unless they were found substandard by the HAAB. The second reading of John Denton’s ordinance substituting the City Council for the BRA now failed to pass 4-5 as Rumford voted “No”. Our legislative victory had been snatched away.
City Manager John Taylor on the Hot Seat
The City Council had now returned to its traditional WBIP posture of refusing to accept responsibility. This left City Manager John Taylor without official direction as to how the BRA’s formal request for l5 demolition permits, dated June 9, l975, should be handled. All the lobbying pressure from industrial park supporters and opponents was transferred to the City Manager. The BRA wanted its permits to be granted automatically. Having voted to appoint Taylor, Loni made it quite clear to him that she expected public hearings on whether the houses were in such bad shape that demolition was necessary.
Over a year after his appointment, we would now find out which side John Taylor was on. In a report to the Council dated June 24, l975, entitled “Demolition Process”, Taylor chose a middle course, similar to Loni’s original motion. He formally sent the l5 applications to the Housing Advisory and Appeals Board for review. Houses found “substandard” by the HAAB would be summarily demolished. Houses determined to be standard or merely “deficient” (repairable) would be sent to the Board of Adjustments for NPO review.
Taylor’s decision was a tremendous victory for all WBIP opponents, especially Loni, and for governmental due process in general. In the absence of clear Council direction, the City Manager was standing up for his principles. Taylor’s June 24, l975 report ended on a personal note of integrity:
“I am not at all happy with persons, especially Redevelopment Agency officials, who imply the City administration is now slowing the project because it has not yet issued demolition permits. The project has been in existence for many, many years. Delays have been caused by lawsuits and by inaction in various places. … It seems to me that if the Redevelopment Agency can take years (although the delay was not all its fault) to acquire the property and issue a demolition contract, the City administration can take a few weeks to insure that the letter and spirit of the City Council’s adopted West Berkeley Industrial Park Plan, the NPO, and other laws and ordinances are followed in order to protect the BRA and the City from court suits which would slow down the project.”
The Housing Advisory and Appeals Board’s Decision
Housing Advisory and Appeals Board Chairman Pat Devaney now had a chance to impress everyone with his thoroughness and objectivity in determining which houses were substandard. The HAAB began with a public inspection tour of the l5 houses, including actual entry. Some of the houses had severe fire damage and were in terrible shape. It was always to the BRA’s advantage to let the houses deteriorate and be vandalized, because the image of decrepit, burnt-out shacks standing in the way of a tax-generating industrial park undercut the preservation movement. However, among the l5 houses were many that appeared to be in relatively good shape. They were definitely worth saving, and people would want to buy them, if given the chance.
On July l, l975, the HAAB reviewed lists of housing code violations for each structure, heard public testimony, and took its official votes. Pat Devaney and the board majority found 8 of the houses to be “deficient”, the other 7 “substandard”. While WBIP opponents did not agree with the HAAB in every case, the board’s decision was reasonable in that the 8 “deficient” houses were certainly in better condition than the 7 labeled “substandard”. We were willing to accept the immediate demolition of the substandard houses as stated in the City Manager’s June 24, l975 report, even though this constituted a violation of the NPO. As the City Manager had promised, we anticipated that the 8 deficient houses would next go before the Board of Adjustments, and we were confident that the NPO would protect these repairable structures. On balance, it was all a very fair compromise, considering the powerful forces involved.
Extortion and Betrayal
We did not fully appreciate the extent to which Mayor Widener was willing to go in order to demolish all l5 houses and prove to his pro-WBIP backers that he could deliver for them. According to reporter Mark Trautwein’s extremely reliable story in the July 3, l975 Berkeley Gazette, the Mayor responded to the HAAB decision by applying “coercive pressure” on City Manager John Taylor. The Gazette stated that:
“Widener refused to sign for a $3.5 million bank loan necessary to meet city operating expenses unless the city manager authorized all l5 demolitions.”
What the Gazette described resembled the actual crime of extortion. This was a new level of malevolence on the part of our political opponents.
John Taylor could have been a hero had he stuck to his principles, issued only 7 demolition permits, and publicly exposed Widener’s power-play. Instead, City Manager John Taylor capitulated and became a mere pawn of Widener’s Council majority.
On July 2, l975, Taylor sent each Councilmember a letter which stated that he had reversed his position and issued all l5 demolition permits. We had been betrayed.
Kehoe vs. the City of Berkeley
I volunteered to take legal responsibility for trying to block these demolitions, with John Denton as co-counsel in the early stages. On the night of July 2, l975, I hurriedly prepared a complaint for injunctive relief to prevent any demolitions in violation of the NPO, hoping that a judge’s order could beat the bulldozers. Our plaintiffs included Hildur Kehoe and Lee Coe of the Ocean View Committee, Councilmembers Denton, Hancock and Kelley, plus Pat Devaney and Russ Ellis of the HAAB. The case of Kehoe vs. the City of Berkeley was my major baptism in litigation.
Camping out on Judge Avakian’s doorstep in late evening, waiting for him to come home, seemed a good place to start in quest of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to halt the bulldozers. But instead, he directed me to show up in Superior Court in the morning and to notify the city of the impending TRO request.
As court opened on July 3, l975, Judge Avakian requested that the matter be assigned to him. After hearing arguments from me and from Deputy City Attorney Michael Lawson (who privately insisted that he had played no role in the City Manager’s actions), Judge Avakian signed the temporary restraining order, preventing the l5 houses from being demolished unless the NPO provisions were followed. Warren Widener and the bulldozers were beaten, at least for the time being.
The next several weeks were an unbelievable legal rollercoaster, far more nerve wracking than any election campaign or City Council meeting I had ever experienced. Before Judge Barber (a Pat Brown appointee), it was John Denton and I vs. City Attorney/BRA Attorney Don McCullum in oral argument over issuance of a preliminary injunction. On July 24, l975, Judge Barber decided in favor of the preliminary injunction. Demolitions remained barred unless conducted pursuant to the NPO.
City Attorney McCullum then persuaded Superior Court Judge George Phillips (also a Pat Brown appointee) to dissolve the preliminary injunction and dismiss our lawsuit (demurrer sustained for failure to state a cause of action, order dated September 8, l975). McCullum convinced Judge Phillips that state redevelopment law rendered the NPO void in the industrial park area. We appealed, and before Judge Phillips’ order dissolving the preliminary injunction took effect, I managed to get it temporarily stayed by the Court of Appeals (Petition for a Writ of Supersedeas). When the First District Court of Appeals, Division 2, dissolved its stay, I desperately prepared a Petition for a Hearing to the California Supreme Court. I was beginning to feel like defense counsel in the civil equivalent of a capital punishment case, running from one court to another trying to prevent the execution of my clients, the l5 houses.
On October 3, l975, the California Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of Judge Phillips’ order, thus reinstating the preliminary injunction. Then on November l2, l975 came the payoff: the California Supreme Court granted full relief, ordering that the preliminary injunction remain in effect during the entire, lengthy appellate process. The l5 houses could not be demolished in the foreseeable future unless the NPO was followed.
In phrasing the Kehoe complaint for consistency, I decided that all l5 houses, rather than just the top 8, should be entitled to NPO procedures. The strongest alternative would have been to seek NPO coverage for every house in the WBIP, not just the endangered l5. But I thought it would be over-reaching to seek injunctive relief to protect houses not immediately threatened with demolition. I felt a narrower case, limited to the l5 houses, stood a better chance of success. Besides, once any court (especially the California Supreme Court) placed the l5 houses under the NPO’s protective umbrella, the city woudn’t dare to risk judicial wrath by demolishing other WBIP houses in violation of the NPO.
This time I had completely failed to appreciate the ruthlessness of my adversaries. At approximately 9:l5 a.m. on the morning of November 20, l975, the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency demolished two WBIP houses that were not on the list of l5. The City of Berkeley secretly and summarily issued the demolition permits that very morning in violation of recent assurances that I would receive at least two days advance notice of any such action. The bulldozers surprise attack on Ocean View was designed to destroy the houses before I could obtain a court order to mandate compliance with the NPO. It succeeded.
Now I had to madly throw legal papers together and rush into court to try and block whatever additional demolitions the Widener/BRA/John Taylor combine had in mind. This time I asked for a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent demolition of any house in the WBIP area unless the NPO’s requirements were followed. Otherwise, the second case was identical to the first, with both called Kehoe v. the City of Berkeley (Kehoe I and Kehoe II).
Presiding Judge George Phillips, whose adverse Kehoe I decision forced me into the higher courts, now deferred to the California Supreme Court’s judgment and promptly issued the blanket Kehoe II Temporary Restraining Order protecting all the houses. The December l, l975 preliminary injunction hearing for Kehoe II would be a mere formality, providing Judge Phillips kept the case himself. Instead he assigned it to Judge Gordon Minder, the Reagan appointee who had already shown overwhelming hostility to Berkeley’s initiative ordinances in the PG&E case. By now I understood that being a successful lawyer meant knowing how to shop for the right judge. Phillips would rule in conformity with the California Supreme Court’s order, while Minder was certain to do the opposite.
I managed to get Judge Phillips to request the case back from Minder on the grounds that he was more familiar with the issues, but Minder would not give it up. After John Denton and I argued in front of Minder, there was no need to wait for a ruling. I drafted the necessary papers to retrace my Kehoe I steps at the Court of Appeals. Judge Minder’s December 5, l975 decision denied the Kehoe II preliminary injunction and dissolved Judge Phillips’ temporary restraining order. He did allow us time to seek appellate relief. A totally absurd replay of Kehoe I followed with the Court of Appeals again granting a temporary stay, only to dissolve it later.
Back I went to the California Supreme Court, obtaining identical orders as in Kehoe I. The Kehoe II result, by virtue of a unanimous California Supreme Court order dated January 28, l976, was that Judge Phillips’ temporary restraining order would stay in effect during the entire course of my appeal from Judge Minder’s decision.
In summary, I obtained nine separate judicial orders preventing demolitions in violation of the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance, 3 from the Alameda County Superior Court, 2 from the Court of Appeals, and 4 from the California Supreme Court. I was appealing one adverse decision by Judge Phillips and relying on his subsequent favorable decision, a dissolved temporary restraining order that ended up with the same effect as an injunction. At least there would be no more illegal demolitions in the WBIP for a long time to come. The defense had held. BRA activity was primarily limited to the sale of already cleared land.
The Berkeley Redevelopment Agency and the City of Berkeley declined to apply for any demolition permits under the NPO during the twenty month period between the beginning and end of the Kehoe case. All the houses, including those whose condition was alleged by the city and the BRA to be such a threat to public safety as to compel immediate demolition, simply sat where they were. To our adversaries, violation of the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance was obviously a higher priority than the demolitions themselves.
On October l4, November 4, and November 25, l975, the Council majority defeated motions calling for amendment of the industrial park plan to preserve existing houses and the withdrawal of demolition permits issued in disregard of the NPO. On a 5-4 vote (October 28, l975) with Dean opposed, the majority continued to implement the industrial park plan by closing Delaware Street between 2nd and 6th Streets. This action created a larger parcel of land for eventual sale to industry, but did not involve demolition. (The block of Delaware Street between 5th and 6th Streets was still the subject of controversy nearly a decade later.)
The Ocean View Committee on the Attack – Measures P & Q
With the industrial park stalled once again, the Ocean View Committee took the offensive. A pair of initiative ordinances were prepared for the June l976 ballot so that this 20 year land war could finally be decided by a vote of the people. It was a real gamble, because a loss at the polls would have essentially deprived OVC of any claim to legitimacy. Electoral victory guaranteed nothing because of the Council majority’s contempt for successful initiatives and the uncertainties of the courts. Still the Ocean View Committee felt it had to try the initiative route. Attorney Denny Keating was the primary drafter, but the policies were those the Ocean View Committee had advocated since l970.
The Redevelopment Accountability Ordinance, Measure P
The first measure replaced the independent BRA board with the City Council. This was the John Denton ordinance that failed on second reading in May l975 when Rumford switched his vote. Measures P and Q each established a citizens group (Project Area Committee) to advise the City Council. In the past, the Ocean View Committee’s request for a Project Area Committee had always been rejected on the grounds that, since residential uses were prohibited in the industrial park, the views of area residents were legally irrelevant.
The Ocean View Neighborhood Preservation and Residential Planning Ordinance, Measure Q
This was the bottom line: amendment of the West Berkeley Industrial Park Plan to protect and expand residential uses in a six square block area that had been primarily residential to begin with. Measure Q reversed City Council motions of 20 years earlier and re-zoned the six square blocks from Special Industrial back to residential. Two additional blocks, which the OVC had originally hoped to preserve for housing, were abandoned as beyond saving and as a demonstration of a willingness to compromise.
Lee Coe helped lead a spirited Ocean View Committee petition drive for the two initiatives. Sufficient signatures were collected to qualify them both. I was relieved when at the March 23, l976 Council meeting no legal objection was raised to placement of the measures on the June l976 ballot. Now everyone would have a chance to decide the future of six square blocks in Ocean View.
The Council Majority vs. Berkeley’s Architectural Heritage
In l974 the City Council adopted a Landmarks Preservation Ordinance to help preserve Berkeley’s historic buildings, commercial, industrial, and residential. This became a bi-partisan effort, resulting from years of hard work and compromise by the members of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA). The final votes were 6-l on April l6, l974 and 7-l on May 7, l974, with Sweeney as the lone dissenter. An earlier attempt had been defeated 3-3 on November 28, l972. The adopted ordinance was very modest. It established a Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate official city landmarks, which then received limited protections against alteration or demolition. For example, an official landmark could not be demolished for a year while efforts were made to save it.
The BAHA activists had a very serious commitment to historic preservation. They entered the Berkeley political scene as classic centrists and neophytes. Socio-economically they belonged with the Council majority.
Shirley Dean campaigned in l975 as a BAHA member and came into office as the group’s unofficial representative. It was to be in the area of landmark preservation that many people learned the differences between image and reality in Berkeley politics.
The two most visible BAHA members were Lesley Emmington, a Shirley Dean endorser in l975, and Jo Ann Price (Mrs. P. Buford Price), BAHA’s President, a Republican. The first issue they jumped into was the West Berkeley Industrial Park. Emmington and Price allied themselves with the Ocean View Committee on the grounds that many of the buildings should be preserved because of their historic and architectural value. This approach was a brand new political argument for opposing the industrial park and it helped lead Ocean View Committee members, especially Stephanie Manning, into the previously untapped area of Ocean View historic research. In the Kehoe case, I submitted a BAHA letter, signed by Jo Ann Price as evidence that the houses were worth saving, even if they did look shabby.
The BAHA-OVC alliance was a remarkable leap across class boundaries. The Ocean View Committee was nearly entirely working class, while BAHA people tended to be upper middle class residents of the hills and Claremont. BAHA organized historic tours of the Ocean View neighborhood, and their involvement brought more respectability to OVC’s cause than it had ever known before.
In my opinion, BAHA’s intervention on the side of the industrial park’s opponents was a major factor in causing it to lose the good will of the Council majority. Suddenly, on issues of historic preservation, the Council majority began treating the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association as if they were the Ocean View Committee. Landmark preservation lost its “motherhood” status in a hurry.
On June l0, l975, the entire Council majority (Dean included) voted 6-2-l to approve a Herrick Hospital expansion program that threatened the historic Barker House, a pioneer Berkeley building that was pictured on the BAHA calendar. (The building was no longer a house, Herrick having converted it to offices a decade before. Thus the NPO did not apply. Moreover, the pre-Fair Representation Ordinance Landmarks Preservation Commission rendered an informal opinion that the hospital’s extensive alterations disqualified the Barker House from landmark status.) Objections to Herrick’s plan voiced by neighborhood residents and by BAHA were trampled under by a host of passionate hospital supporters, including some black patients who accused Herrick’s opponents of racism.
BAHA and its allies then tried to negotiate with Herrick in an effort to save the Barker House by moving it or perhaps re-designing the hospital’s project. Herrick was intransigent and demolition seemed imminent.
On January l9, l976, the BAHA people took what for them was the ultimate step, a formal application that the Barker House be designated a city landmark under the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. (The Landmarks Commission now had new members under the Fair Representation Ordinance.)
Herrick immediately applied for a demolition permit which the city granted without waiting for any action on the landmark application. The Barker House was hastily demolished on January 29, l976, while Leslie Emmington made a futile effort to get me to file a lawsuit in time to save it. Leslie felt the city’s issuance of a demolition permit was a clear violation of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. She was right from a strict legal point of view, although there was some ambiguity. But in granting the demolition permit, city staff was merely doing exactly what the Council majority had voted for. The parallel to Ocean View was obvious.
After the fact, we had the Council pass an amendment to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance explicitly prohibiting the city from issuing a demolition permit for a proposed landmark during the period the application is under review. The second reading of the amendment was adopted on July 6, l976 by a vote of 5-l-2. Dean and Rumford cast the deciding “Yes” votes in partial atonement for having earlier sided with Herrick.
Meanwhile, BAHA had already lost a similar battle to preserve the Wilson House, another historic structure standing in the way of development. This time it was the Graduate Theological Union that needed the land for a new library. Neighbors joined BAHA in opposition and the Board of Adjustments turned the library down. But on May 25, l976, the Council voted 5-4 to overrule the Board of Adjustments and approve the library. Councilwoman Dean cast the deciding vote to doom the Wilson House, while Rumford voted “No” along with Loni, Ying, and John.
BAHA tried a series of last ditch maneuvers to save the Wilson House, including an unsuccessful lawsuit by attorney Brennan Newsom challenging the adequacy of the environmental impact report. The Wilson House was razed.
By now the BAHA activists were no longer political newcomers. They understood how dutifully the Council majority represented development interests rather than historic preservationists. Among Shirley Dean’s greatest detractors were now many of her former endorsers from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.
The annual city budget continued to be a tightly-held creature of the Council majority. Widener would still systematically devise most key elements of the final version, often in tandem with Vice Mayor Hone, unveiling the pre-set list of proposals for nearly automatic approval. Then, with limited exceptions, motions by the Council minority to change the budget would be routinely defeated.
This general process was followed on October 8 & l0, l975 and July l9, l976, although Loni, Ying, and John did get some of their motions passed. Still, only members of the Council majority voted for the budgets, both of which favored the city bureaucracy over community agencies.
Our major attempts to open up the budget process were motions by John Denton and Loni Hancock on May 27 and November 25, l975 to create a Community Budget Committee to review the City Manger’s proposed budget and make recommendations to the Council. The Council majority twice rejected the Community Budget Committee. The majority’s extreme rigidity in the budget area was later shown by their defeat of Ying’s April l3, l976 motion that board and commission members automatically receive copies of the proposed budget for the appropriate city department each commission reviews. None of the majority members would vote for this modest proposal to open up the budget process just a little. Their alternative was to have the commissions pay for the budget duplication costs out of their own available funds, if they had any.
Once again persistence was to be rewarded. A Denton-Hancock motion to establish a Citizens Budget Committee finally passed 5-3-l on March l3, l979, 4 years after it was first voted down. The 27 member Committee was to play an important part in procedural and substantive improvements for the budgets adopted in l979 and l980.
The City Manager Game: Exit Taylor, Enter Rogers
From the moment City Manager John Taylor betrayed them on the Ocean View demolition permits, Loni, Ying, and John politically washed their hands of him. Any illusions Loni had about the City Manager form of government working as the Charter intended were permanently shattered. The Council minority now accepted John Taylor as a mere instrument of Warren Widener’s majority.
However, Taylor was never Widener’s chosen instrument. That was the irony. Widener always opposed Taylor staying in office, in part because Taylor was the wrong color. For image purposes, the Mayor wanted a black City Manager. Taylor had thus abandoned his only potential color-blind allies (Loni, Ying, John; to a lesser extent Dean & Rumford), and delivered himself squarely into the hands of his Widener-led enemies. It was now only a matter of time before the Council majority dumped Taylor, knowing no one would complain.
Taylor had appointed Elijah Rogers as his Assistant City Manager, bringing Rogers out from Virginia. Rogers proved to be much more Widener’s type. Elijah, an experienced local administrator, was black, smart, and arrogant. In keeping with the Council majority’s preferences, he appeared especially hostile to citizen participation. Rogers’ influence kept growing as Taylor delegated more and more responsibility to him. Loni, Ying, and John came to fear that Elijah Rogers coming to total power was more of a threat to Berkeley than letting John Taylor stay on as City Manager.
Thus, the Council minority decided to neither make a motion that John Taylor be fired, nor support such a motion should it be introduced. If Taylor were to be ousted, the minority favored Paul Williamson as his replacement.
This left the John Taylor problem squarely in Mayor Widener’s hands. Taylor lingered on longer than anyone expected in spite of the fact that probably none of the Councilmembers retained any real confidence in him. But Rumford and Dean appeared squeamish about actually voting to fire the City Manager, and were even more doubtful about Elijah Rogers. Carole Davis’ position was also uncertain. Thus, Widener only had three reliable anti-Taylor votes, his own, plus stalwarts Ramsey and Hone. Carole Davis generally appeared to be the fourth vote, but that was still one short.
So John Taylor hung on, even after Berkeley Gazette reporter Mark Trautwein’s lead story of January 23, l976, accurately headlined: “Taylor loses council support. Eight of nine councilpersons have tried to ditch manager.”. Then the axe finally fell on July 7, l976, as Sue Hone’s motion to fire the City Manager passed 5-0. Rumford’s vote to dump Taylor was the decisive blow, joining Widener, Ramsey, Hone, and Davis.
I was gratified that Charter Amendment B from April l975 had been utilized, allowing 5 votes rather than 6 to remove the City Manager from office. City Managers should be discarded when the Council majority does not want them anymore.
Although John Taylor was the first Berkeley City Manager within memory to be fired, his two and one-half year stay was not a total failure. Taylor proved very effective in dealing with the firefighters strike that began in late August l975 and lasted for several weeks. The Council was united at this time of crises. The well-paid firefighters demanded a far greater raise than any other city employees union, and no Councilmember supported them. Although some buildings burned, including a few in Ocean View, the strike failed, thanks in large part to the City Manager’s leadership.
(The firefighters strike contained one great irony, the role of three deputy fire chiefs. Loni had been trying to remove those three positions from the budget for years on the grounds that such top-heavy administration was unnecessary. During the strike, it was those deputy chiefs who stayed on the job night and day to fight the fires. Loni stopped trying to eliminate the deputy chiefs.)
However, in the face of Council divisions, Taylor permanently collapsed. He merited dismissal for his actions in Ocean View alone. He had been hired on a bi-partisan vote because of his perceived professionalism, independence, and integrity. Once he sacrificed these positive attributes by capitulating to Widener’s coercive tactics, there was no reason for him to stay. Taylor deserved to be replaced by someone more to the Mayor’s liking, someone who would naturally do what Widener wanted, without the necessity of any pressure. That someone was Elijah Rogers.
On July 20, l976, the Council majority took an unprecedented and fateful action. They voted 6-l-2 to approve a 2-year contract for Elijah Rogers to serve as City Manager. John Denton voted “No” while Loni Hancock and Ying Kelley abstained. To our knowledge, no Berkeley City Manager had ever been given a contract before. The Council minority formally protested in writing that a City Manager contract violated Article VII, Section 27 of the City Charter which specified that “the City Manager shall be appointed for an indefinite period,” and “The City Manager shall serve at the will of the Council”. This principled legal argument was ignored and the contract precedent set.
As could be anticipated, the next two City Managers who followed Elijah Rogers also demanded and received contracts, at the expense of the principled legal argument that such contracts are inherently a violation of the Charter.
In other aspects besides a contractual term of office, the City Manager’s power now exceeds the level set by the Charter. Over nine years after passage of the Charter Review Committee’s Measure E from l975, the Council has still not established a probationary period for the City Manager. Creation of such a probationary period would require a newly hired Manager to obtain a second Council vote of confidence after a specified period, or else be automatically terminated. Thus, the probationary period strengthens the Council’s control over the Manager and conflicts with a contract assuring the Manager a set term of office. Unwilling to infringe upon the Manager’s security, no Manager has proposed and no Council has implemented such a probationary period.
A one year probationary period under the Charter was established for department heads on October l2, l976. The Council has on occasion refused to confirm the appointment of department heads recommended by the City Manager, thus utilizing at least some of the new powers granted by Charter Amendment E.
The Council Minority’s Limited Successes
In l975 and l976, many of the proposals Loni Hancock had been advocating for years finally received Council approval, although usually in extremely watered down form. Among those ideas previously referred, deferred, and/or defeated, were the following:
The Bottle Ordinance.
Two student environmentalists, Jackie Rich and Eileen Allen, worked with Loni’s office and many other people developing a Berkeley law to encourage recycling by placing a refundable deposit on major categories of non-refillable beverage containers. The model was a popular Oregon deposit law that had reduced litter. Attempts to pass similar state-wide laws have been bitterly fought by the beverage container and supermarket industries for well over a decade. (A California bottle bill initiative, Proposition ll, was beaten by a massively funded negative campaign in November l982.)
In the early l970’s, Berkeley became a local forum for this national battle. The proposed city ordinance went through countless drafts before receiving final approval on October 28, l975, 6-l-l. Rumford voted “No” Davis abstained, and Ramsey was absent. Park and Shop Markets filed a lawsuit against the ordinance, which, although ultimately unsuccessful, helped delay implementation of the law for over six years. Implementation has since been stalled by a combination of political indifference, inertia, and lack of funds. The Bottle Ordinance remains a dead letter.
Forbidding Discrimination Against Families With Children.
This law was essentially part of a pro-family, feminist agenda. Families with children were finding it very difficult to rent houses and apartments in Berkeley. Discrimination against children by landlords was overt. Loni worked with women’s groups to prepare an ordinance to prohibit such housing discrimination.
The ordinance passed 7-0-2 on November l8, l975 (Rumford and Widener abstaining), but only after the Council majority voted 4-3-2 to defeat language making it a misdemeanor to violate the law. (Dean was the additional “Yes” vote.) Victims of discrimination would now have to enforce the law themselves by bringing a civil suit. Self-enforcement was the equivalent of non-enforcement in the eyes of Loni and the people who had worked for the legislation. Attempts to put some teeth into this ordinance continued for years as did the discrimination itself, undeterred by both the Berkeley law and a favorable California Supreme Court decision outlawing the refusal to rent to children.
Savo Island Housing.
The Berkeley Redevelopment Agency was always under some pressure from HUD to build replacement housing for the buildings it was destroying in the West Berkeley Industrial Park. The Savo Island site, below Adeline, south of Berkeley Iceland, presented a perfect opportunity. World War II temporary barracks-type housing had recently been demolished, leaving a large, vacant parcel of residential land.
Joel Rubenzahl, an April Coalition veteran from the Ideological Caucus who also served on the Charter Review Committee, led a group of neighborhood residents into a most unusual, but pragmatic alliance with the BRA. Joel’s group became the official Project Area Committee, with him as President, actually providing direction for a BRA housing construction project.
Under a contractual “double green light” approach, the Project Area Committee and the BRA both had to agree on decisions. Suddenly the BRA had a popular redevelopment project on its hands, one whose strongest support came from the BCA Councilmembers working closely with Joel. The Council majority soon climbed on the Savo Island bandwagon and everyone ultimately wanted to take credit. The Savo Island Redevelopment Plan was unanimously approved by the City Council on June l0, l975.
The state and Federal bureaucracies, plus occasional non-cooperation by the BRA staff, were the largest obstacles faced by Savo Island. But Joel Rubenzahl and his colleagues obtained financing and spent many years shepherding the project all the way to completion, building 56 units of cooperatively owned, “limited equity” housing for low and moderate income families. The innovative limited equity feature provided Savo Island’s residents with all the tax benefits of home ownership, except that the re-sale price of each unit was limited so as to preserve affordable housing for future generations of buyers.
Progressive, cooperative economic theories advocated by Ed Kirshner and his Community Ownership Organizing Project, among others, became reality at Savo Island, creating a national showcase. The project turned Joel Rubenzahl from a self-described revolutionary into a prominent housing consultant. Savo Island helped create a boom for limited equity co-ops, assisted at the state level with successful legislation by Assemblyman Bates and Lenny Goldberg.
The Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic.
In May l975, the City of Berkeley opened its own municipal, low-cost spay and neuter clinic for dogs and cats. This was a triumph for Friends of Domestic Animals, a citizens group led by Diane Sukol (whose other issue was rent control), Martha Benedict, and later Joan Pulsiver. They spent years fighting veterinarians who didn’t want city sponsored competition. But with Loni’s consistent help, and bi-partisan Council support, the city was now in the business of preventing unwanted dog and cat pregnancies. This was perhaps the most straight forward aspect of the complicated, often bizarre, “dog issue”, the balance of which is best forgotten.
High on the list of frustrations was Loni’s multi-year effort to establish a program of job-sharing (job-restructuring), under which permanent half-time, part-time, and other non-traditional forms of employment, complete with benefits and seniority, would be a voluntary option for present and future city employees. This became another part of the feminist agenda, although I heard the idea first from Mike Fullerton, now permanent half-time editor of the Co-op News.
Regardless of who was City Manager, city staff and the Personnel Department always obstructed Loni’s attempts to establish job sharing. Their alternative was Flextime, flexible schedules for working the traditional 40 hour week. Flextime was implemented, but Loni still struggled for her more ambitious program. A public hearing brought an outpouring of community support, but neither city staff nor the Council majority seemed to care.
On February 24, l976, the Council finally adopted a job sharing program unanimously, but it had so many strings attached that very few city employees could possibly take advantage of it. Loni’s caustic comment was, “We have labored mightily and brought forth a mouse.” She lacked the votes to strengthen the program in the face of bureaucratic resistance. Loni never was able to establish a meaningful job sharing program.
Precisely the kind of approach Loni wanted was adopted by the State of California in l980. It is known as The Reduced Worktime Act, Government Code Sections l996.20-l996.29.
The Neighborhood Traffic Plan.
For many years Berkeleyans had been complaining about excessive traffic in their neighborhoods. South campus residents even blocked traffic to protest what they saw as dangerous, high speed auto use of Fulton and Ellsworth, a pair of one-way streets created as a legacy of the South Campus Redevelopment Project.
Since the early l970’s, a series of consultants had worked with neighborhood groups, the Planning Commission, and city staff to develop a traffic management program. There had been countless public hearings and drafts, plus some experiments in traffic diversion.
Finally a comprehensive plan was prepared to divert traffic from neighborhood streets onto main thoroughfares. This basic approach had been known for some time, although the exact details kept changing. The plan called for massive use of traffic diverters (barriers) to block streets, slow traffic, compel left or right turns at intersections, and generally force traffic into desired directions. Berkeley already had two neighborhoods with traffic diverters, but the new plan envisioned a quantum leap in their distribution. The Neighborhood Traffic Plan did several things at once:
- It totally destroyed existing traffic patterns, turning large segments of Berkeley into a maze.
- It brought relief from burdensome traffic to much of Berkeley, especially south campus, where Fulton and Ellsworth were turned back into quiet neighborhood streets between Ashby and Dwight Way.
- The plan pushed traffic into already clogged thoroughfares, making congestion much worse for the residents along these streets, for example, the Dwight Way-Derby-Belrose corridor, the major south-east route to and from the University.
- The plan brought joy to most of the neighborhood organizations and individuals who had participated in the lengthy process and who were satisfied with the placement of the diverters. Pedestrians, environmentalists, and all enemies of the automobile welcomed the new plan.
-The plan infuriated the following groups, among others:
- People who lived on the “thoroughfares” and were intentionally targeted for a traffic increase;
- The majority of hill residents, who lived in places where winding, narrow streets have always deterred traffic. Most hill dwellers neither needed, wanted, nor received traffic diverters, but their automobile travel would now be impeded by diverters in other parts of town.
- Car lovers who believed that streets were meant for automobiles to drive on in an unimpeded straight line.
- Visitors to Berkeley who suddenly could not reach their destinations easily and therefore felt the city must be crazy to block its own streets.
Loni lived on a block bordered by Fulton and Ellsworth, right in the heartland of neighborhood agitation for traffic control. She had helped get the traffic management process started and naturally supported the Neighborhood Traffic Plan, as did Ying and John. All of BCA’s l975 candidates supported the plan, with the exception of Vivian Gales. Diverters were not terribly popular in the black community, although west and southwest Berkeley had received their fair share of traffic management.
Among the Council majority members were several advocates for the plan, including Shirley Dean, who had helped develop it as a Planning Commissioner, and Sue Hone, whose tiny street in the Claremont was to have its own protective diverter. Thus the Neighborhood Traffic Plan was the major bi-partisan proposal of the mid l970’s.
Traffic management supporters were far more visible than opponents when the Council approved the Neighborhood Traffic Plan on July 8, l975. The vote was 6-0-l. Rumford abstained, while Ramsey and Widener were absent. Implementation proceeded promptly, initially on a trial basis. While the Council still tinkered with placement of particular diverters, the squat, white, concrete bollards now sat on streets all over town, stunning and dismaying countless drivers.
The actual appearance of traffic diverters in large numbers mobilized opponents of the traffic plan. Here was a new polarizing issue, one that fostered a grassroots revolt against City Hall from outside the normal two-party system. Anti-diverter forces initiated a decade-long war against the Berkeley Traffic Management Plan. They attacked the diverters with every imaginable weapon, including initiatives, lawsuits, vehicles, brute force, and vandalism.
A New Day at the Auditor’s Office.
Florence McDonald made good on her pledge to seek a salary reduction if elected Auditor.
She requested an $8,600 pay cut to make her salary the same as the next highest paid worker in the Auditor’s Office. Florence asked that the money be used for funding community agencies, and the Council unanimously accepted her proposal on July l5, l975. The favorable publicity Florence received brought her long lasting fame and popularity.
Florence also reorganized her office, trying to abolish Myrna Ashley’s bureaucratic rigidity. Florence brought new freedoms to the Auditor’s staff, including flexible work hours, a more relaxed, non-hierarchical atmosphere, the opportunity to initiative changes and improvements in the way work is performed, and the chance to assume greater responsibility for running the office.
Florence even tackled the issue of garnishment, the legal process in which the Auditor’s Office removes money from a city employee’s paycheck to pay that person’s debts. Florence provided city staff with information on how to prevent their wages from being garnished and she also changed the garnishment formula so that funds beyond those necessary to pay the debts were no longer deducted.
As a department head who saw things from the average employee’s point of view, Auditor McDonald was the perfect anti-bureaucrat. Her door was literally always open, both to her staff and anyone else that wanted to talk to her. In addition to the paid staff, Florence had her own group of volunteer advisers, just like the Councilmembers. Eve Bach helped her. So did another BCA veteran, Pat McClintock, who Florence hired on a temporary basis. After decades as a conservative bastion, the Auditor’s Office was now in the business of generating new ideas.