Sometimes the desires of the residents of District 5 — many of Berkeley’s most affluent residents — are at odds with the desires of the city’s overall population. It’s in places such as District 5 where sidewalk ordinances that criminalize homelessness gain support, and unlike in District 6, there’s not even a large student contingent to balance things out.
In many ways, the race for District 5 is emblematic of Berkeley city politics. A more progressive voice, Sophie Hahn, faces off against a more moderate voice, Stephen Murphy. But at the end of the day, everybody is far to the left of the national average.
Still, of the two City Council candidates, Hahn is best suited to bridge the divide between well-off residents and the rest of Berkeley.
As chair of the Zoning Adjustments Board, Hahn repeatedly fought hard to increase affordable units and get the most out of large-scale developers. That’s the kind of leadership we need on City Council.
But it’s not absent in Murphy. He emphasizes the need to use in-lieu fees more aggressively to incentivize building affordable housing. And as a member of the Planning Commission, he, like Hahn, has the experience needed to drive affordable development in Berkeley.
But Hahn’s ZAB experience shows a glowing precedent for how she’ll treat housing issues, and her insistence on the creation of housing for all income levels is one of the more comprehensive housing plans we’ve seen in this election.
In setting herself apart from her opponent, perhaps Hahn’s greatest strength is her desire to create a better business atmosphere in Berkeley — and this is an area where the entire city’s needs match up with wealthy District 5’s needs.
Part of this commitment manifests in Hahn’s drive to improve the city’s infrastructural failures. As Hahn said, we shouldn’t expect businesses to invest in Berkeley when Berkeley doesn’t invest in itself. And creating more walkable Downtown spaces that also boast increased parking spots would certainly help businesses.
When it comes to Berkeley’s archaic permit system, both candidates understand the need for an easier process and aim to use city services to help businesses navigate the thicket. But in all aspects, Hahn goes above and beyond, laying out in-depth, detailed and nuanced proposals for everything from homelessness to police accountability.
So while Stephen Murphy would be a solid member of our City Council, he simply can’t keep up with his opponent. It has to be Hahn.