On Monday evening, two of the three candidates in the District 3 Berkeley City Council race discussed their platforms during a virtual town hall hosted by BridgeUSA at Berkeley and the ASUC Office of the External Affairs Vice President.
Candidates Deborah Matthews and incumbent Ben Bartlett answered questions that were generated by Berkeley residents and students regarding the issues of public safety, affordable living and housing. Candidate Orlando Martinez did not attend the event.
“The rising cost of housing, displacement, crime, traffic and inadequate leadership has really threatened our community,” Matthews said during the event. “Our neighborhood deserves leadership that puts South Berkeley first.”
The first section of the debate focused on public safety and police reform, with candidates disagreeing on how to ensure the safety of UC Berkeley students.
Bartlett said crime is centered on the lack of investment in mental health, emphasizing that the city budget should be reoriented to address the crisis of mental health in Berkeley. Matthews said the city needs to address crime against women.
“There are more than 250 women that have been killed at the hands of police, and to have them continue to be nameless in our city is unacceptable for me,” Matthews said during the event. “We need to address the needs of women by having safety in our street lighting and making sure vegetation is well-trimmed when they walk on streets.”
During the discussion on housing and affordable living, the candidates agreed that the city should create more “missing middle housing”— clustered or multiunit housing types — but had different ideas regarding the intended demographic for that housing.
Matthews said she is committed to providing mixed-income housing for both the homeless and middle-income families, while Bartlett said low-priced condominiums should be built in Berkeley.
“We can address the inability to buy starter homes for young people and people that aren’t rich,” Bartlett said during the event. “This would be great for city workers and young people who have a college degree to get their toehold in the economy.”
On the topic of housing and carbon emissions, both candidates supported the development of transit-oriented housing at BART stations.
Matthews said the city should build homes on transit corridors to encourage the use of public transportation and reduce carbon emissions, and she noted her work toward the development of housing at the Ashby BART station. Bartlett agreed but emphasized that the city needs to ensure that transit-oriented housing is affordable.
“If you’re building on top of transit, only rich people can afford it,” Bartlett said during the event. “Remember, you don’t want to swap a rich person’s gas mileage for a poor person’s gas mileage. Everyone has to be integrated in together.”