Height Initiative, Coffee Measure Are Both Resoundingly Defeated

Wendy Lee of The Daily Californian staff contributed to this report.





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By three-to-one margins, Berkeley voters overwhelmingly rejected two controversial proposals that would have restricted the sale of nonorganic coffee in the city and the height of new buildings in Berkeley.

A wide range of bond measures and new taxes, from retrofitting Old City Hall to a property transfer tax for affordable housing, fell well short of the two-thirds margin required for victory. Measure I, a bond measure to construct a new animal shelter, appeared to be heading toward victory.

Voters dismissed Measure O by a lopsided 30-70 percent margin, with 97 percent of the precincts reporting. The proposal would have required that brewed coffee sold in Berkeley be organic, shade-grown and fair-trade certified. Violators would be punished by up to six months in jail or a $100 fine. Supporters, who were outspent by opponents four-to-one, were disappointed by the wide margin of rejection but said the proposal wasn't a complete failure.

"I think that it certainly has raised people's awareness about the coffee issues. It has raised people's awareness in general about the consequences of their purchases," said Rick Young, the UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law alumnus who authored Measure O.

Measure P, which would have put restrictions on the heights of newly constructed buildings in Berkeley, was defeated by an even greater margin-80 percent voted against the measure.

"I feel very gratified that all the work helped vote down the measure in a town that reads and educates itself before it votes," said Berkeley City Councilmember Linda Maio, an ardent opponent of Measure P, who was also re-elected by a wide margin last night.

"I'm happy Measure P is going down in flames," said Councilmember Miriam Hawley.

The proposal would have prevented new buildings from being taller than two to three stories along several major avenues. Supporters said tall buildings were threatening neighborhoods' characteristics.

Howie Muir, who co-sponsored the initiative, said the measure brought up concerns about growing residential density that are not going away.

"The population density, how Berkeley will grow-all those issues, they'll be there waiting even though election day is over," Muir said. "I just hope the city engages positively on the issues rather than trying to ignore them."

Measure I, a $7.2 million bond measure to construct a new animal shelter, appeared to have garnered the necessary two-thirds vote to pass, bringing in 68 percent of the vote, with 97 percent of the precincts reporting.

But that was the only bond measure to pass. Voters resoundingly rejected the three other bond measures on the ballot, including Measure J, a $21.5 million bond to retrofit Old City Hall. The other two bond measures fell well short of the two-thirds majority to pass: Measure L, which would have a special tax on land improvements to fund pedestrian safety improvement projects, and Measure M, a property transfer tax that would fund affordable housing projects.

Berkeley voters approved Measure K, which increases salaries of Berkeley Board of Education members from $875 to $1,500 per month, the first salary increase since 1988.

Voters also approved Measure N, a proposal that would give the Berkeley City Council authority to alter policy-controlling development of the waterfront property.

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