Berkeley City Council candidates for Southside and Claremont/Elmwood joined a virtual forum to discuss climate, housing and transportation Thursday.
Berkeley Neighbors for Housing and Climate Action, or BNHCH, hosted the forum along with Cal Berkeley Democrats, Telegraph for People and Walk Bike Berkeley. Candidates in attendance were Rigel Robinson – running for District 7 – and Mark Humbert – running for District 8.
Humbert is a 20-year resident of District 8 who has served as president of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association and as a commissioner on the city’s Transportation, Public Works and Fair Campaign Practices Commissions, according to his website.
Humbert is running to fill in the open seat left by Councilmember Lori Droste who has chosen not to run for reelection but has endorsed Humbert. Robinson is a current city council member who is running unopposed. Both Robinson and Humbert endorse each other’s candidacy.
“I first ran for the city council in 2018 as a first-time candidate and in some ways as an unconventional candidate for the role,” Robinson said at the forum. “Our all-student campaign team made history when we elected the youngest City Council member in the city’s history.”
Robinson said that running unopposed creates a “special opportunity” for him to focus on his work and support progressive candidates in the East Bay.
Humbert began the forum by recalling a moment shortly after moving to the Elmwood neighborhood, where a disabled woman in a wheelchair – Sharon Spencer – was killed by a car on the intersection of Ashby and Piedmont Avenues. Following this incident he said that he began to lobby for improvements in traffic regulations and safety.
Responding to a question about how below-market homes should be paid for, Humbert said that the city should fund affordable housing by taxing market-rate housing. However, he said the city should not discourage market-rate housing.
Both candidates expressed support for both market-rate and below market-rate housing and the improvement of transportation infrastructure.
When asked if they support a car-free Telegraph Avenue from Bancroft Way to Haste Street, both Robinson and Humbert voiced their support. Robinson explained that back in 2019, when he introduced this project to the city council and told the Mercury News that he wanted to “ban cars on Telegraph,” it was like “screaming into the void.”
However, due to the student-led movement for this project, the conversation has “totally changed.” It will still take a lot of political will to ensure that the city council funds the complete version of a pedestrianized Telegraph Avenue, Robinson said.
“I’m in total support,” Humbert said at the forum. “I’ve seen just how wonderful they are in Boulder, Colorado … It’s great for the merchants; it provides a much safer environment for cyclists and pedestrians to transit and hang out.”
The forum for city council candidates from District 1 and 4 will take place next Thursday.