Berkeley Ballot Measures O, P, Q, R – Pros & Cons November 2018

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General Obligation Bond for Affordable Housing
2/3 vote required

The way it is now

The City estimates that almost 1% of the City’s population, about 1,000 people, is homeless on any night. The City Council has adopted a goal of achieving at least 10% reserved affordable housing by 2030. Much of the housing in Berkeley is too expensive for people of average or low income to rent or buy.

The way things would be if Measure O passes

The City would issue $135 million in general obligation bonds to create, acquire, and preserve affordable housing for very-low-income and low-income households, working families and individuals, teachers, veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, and people without homes. The resolution recognizes that housing stability and security can improve health, education, and employment outcomes.

An estimated tax of $23.27 to $32.81 per $100,000 of assessed value will be levied on all properties to fund affordable housing initiatives over the life of the bond. An oversight committee and independent auditors will monitor this fund.

Fiscal impact

The City’s best estimate of the total cost of the bonds, including principal plus interest, is $270 million.

People for Measure O say

  •  Many people pay more than half of their income for housing and cannot afford basic necessities like groceries, medicine, child care, and transportation.
  •  The Bay Area is building less than half of the affordable homes we need and Measure O will jump-start creation of permanently affordable housing.
  •  If passed, this measure will allow Berkeley to get matching funds from local, state, and federal agencies.

People against Measure O say​

  •  The ballot resolution is vague, making accountability impossible.
  •  The planning for this ballot measure did not result in achievable goals and specific purposes,making the result more taxes and bureaucracy instead of a series of well-conceived steps.
  •  Bonds are a bad solution for a long-range affordable housing problem, as half of the funds raised by assessment are paid to bankers as finance fees.


Transfer Tax Increase to Support Homeless Housing Services
50% plus 1 needed to pass

The way it is now

The City has a homeless crisis , between 2015 and 2017 the people without houses increased by 20%. Almost 1% of the City’s population—about 1,000 people—is homeless on any night, including about 700 people without shelter. The City Council serves large numbers of people living in public spaces not designed for human habitation; this requires increasing expenditures from the General Fund. In April 2017, the City Council unanimously passed the Pathways Project, a comprehensive plan to address homelessness. More funds are needed to pay for increasing these services, such as the Pathways Project navigation centers, mental health services, and housing the homeless, including seniors and young people. Currently the City raises some general funds by taxing the sale/transfer of houses at 1.5%; it proposes to increase this tax.

What Measure P would do if it passes

For 10 years, the housing transfer tax would be raised from 1.5% to 2.5% on sales of houses valued in the top one-third of all housing sales in Alameda County. Property sales of less expensive houses would still be taxed a 1.5% transfer tax. For example, if the top one-third of properties sold for more than $1.5 million, the transfer tax for properties selling above $1.5 million would be 2.5%. A nine-person panel of experts would make recommendations to the City on which programs to prevent or reduce homelessness should be funded by the increased income from the transfer tax

Fiscal Effect

The authors of Measure P estimate that it would raise $6 million to $8 million annually.

People for Measure P say

  •  Local funds are needed for additional housing and health services, and to offset the impacts of homelessness on streets, parks, and emergency responders.
  •  This is a progressive measure as the increased transfer tax is paid only once, when a high-value property is purchased or transferred.

People against Measure P say

  •  The measure does not guarantee that the money from this tax will be directed to homelessness. The money goes to the General Fund.
  •  Already the cost of living and doing business in Berkeley is high. Passage of this measure will result in less socioeconomic diversity in Berkeley.


Amends and Expands the Rent Stabilization Ordinance
50% + 1 needed to pass

The way it is now
Because Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization [ ie Control] Ordinance was originally passed in 1980 by initiative, it can be amended only by a vote of the people in a general election. The ordinance, which has been amended six times, regulates rent pricing and eviction procedures in most rental units and provides for an elected board that approves the annual rent ceiling, issues regulations, and hears disputes, among other duties. Currently the ordinance exempts duplexes that were owner-occupied on December 31, 1979, and units that received a certificate of occupancy after June 30, 1980.

In 1995, California passed the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which restricts a city’s power of rent control by allowing landlords to set the rent on vacant units at market rate (known as vacancy decontrol) and by exempting single-family homes and condos. Costa-Hawkins also prohibits rent caps on construction that received a certificate of occupancy after February 1995, except for existing rent control laws that set another date, which cannot be changed.

Proposition 10, a citizen initiative on the November 2018 state ballot, if passed, would repeal Costa-Hawkins and allow cities to adopt or modify those local rent control regulations that are currently prohibited by this state law.

What Measure Q would do if it passes

Placed on the ballot by the City Council, Measure Q amends Berkeley’s Rent Ordinance. Some amendments would apply only if state Proposition 10 passes. These changes would bring many more housing units under rent control immediately, set the base rent of those units as the most recent legal rent, exempt new construction for 20 years, and define new construction as the date of final inspection by the City rather than issuance of a certificate of occupancy. This is known as a “rolling” exemption because the 20 years rolls forward from the date of final inspection and is not set at a particular date.

Another amendment, which would apply whether or not Proposition 10 passes, exempts rental units on an owner-occupied property where a lawful accessory dwelling unit (ADU) has been built. Such ADUs are often called “mother-in-law units,” but the exact definition of a legal ADU is found in the current local ADU ordinance. The exemption applies to either the main or the accessory unit, as long as one is owner-occupied, but does not apply to tenancies created before November 7, 2018.

Fiscal impact

People for Measure Q Say

• If Proposition 10 passes, Q will establish a fair base rent for newly controlled units.
• A 20-year exemption from rent control is a long enough time for builders and investors to repay costs of construction.
• Exempting new ADU properties will encourage owners to build ADUs and provide needed additional housing to the City.

People against Measure Q Say

• A 20-year exemption limits the ability of builders and investors to repay costs of construction and ensure sufficient profit.
• Loss of current exemptions means that fewer housing units will be built.
• The ADU exemption should have been separated from measures that are contingent on the repeal of Costa-Hawkins.


Advisory Measure – Vision 2050
50%+1 to pass

The way it is Now

Berkeley has long worked to increase its resilience to earthquakes. But now, threats from climate change are visible and accelerating.In addition to earthquakes, we must face climate-related threats. Higher sea level (estimated from one to three meters by 2100) would bring increased storm flooding and cover portions of roadways and other infrastructure. The rise in temperature and changing weather systems will increase droughts and risk of wildfires—especially in the Berkeley hills. These risks will increase over time.

Much of Berkeley’s infrastructure is more than 70 years old and needs repair. Measure T1, passed in 2016, authorizes the City to sell $100 million of general obligation bonds to repair existing infrastructure. In planning for Measure T1 expenditure it became apparent that we also need to plan for climate-related changes. Technologies are rapidly changing to meet these climate challenges and need to be included in the plan for our future.

What Measure R would do If It Passes

Measure R was placed on the ballot by the Berkeley City Council. It directs the Mayor to lead a community process to develop Vision 2050, a 30-year infrastructure plan, with the goal of creating climate-smart, technologically advanced, integrated and efficient infrastructure that prepares Berkeley for the future. The Mayor and city staff have already begun a schedule of public informational meetings, working groups, and more.

Fiscal impact

Developing the plan would entail unknown staff costs. Mayor Jesse Arreguin has stated that his office will pay for any costs.

People for Measure R Say

  •  Simply restoring our infrastructure as-is in perpetuity will not prepare our city for the many changes to come.
  •  We need an integrated, comprehensive plan incorporating changing needs and rapidly changing technologies to meet the challenges ahead.

No arguments against R have been filed.

To read the full measure, go to​ ​​ and click on Nov., then “Measures” and then desired ballot measure.

© League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany Emeryville 2018