Sophie Hahn, Candidate for Berkeley City Council District 5
Sophie Hahn is a community activist and a member of the Board of Zoning Adjustments. Learn more about her at www.sophiehahn.com
1 – What specific regulations do you support the City of Berkeley adopting regarding the minimum wage and paid leave?
I am strongly in favor of raising the minimum wage to a living wage in Berkeley. Specifically, I supported passing the SEIU’s Minimum Wage proposal, and am frustrated that Berkeley has dragged its feet on this critically important legislation. I was also disappointed that the Council majority placed a competing proposal on the ballot that includes a “poison pill” requiring a 2/3 vote to increase the minimum wage and sick leave pay in the future – a supermajority requirement that is unprecedented in Berkeley, and evidences a singular hostility to worker’s benefits and rights. Placing this measure on the ballot seemed destined to doom both measures. Regarding the newly approved “compromise” minimum wage ordinance passed by Council, I am glad that the wage has been raised but call into question the method by which the Council majority pushed approval beyond the n” hour. By the time all Councilmembers showed up to approve the compromise, the two measures could not be removed from the ballot, and there is a risk that one or both will still be passed by the voters. While the Council majority, who obstructed the passage of a robust minimum wage ordinance for many years, may have made a “deal” with the SEIU, who spearhead efforts to raise the wage, there is no “deal” to be made with the voters, or with any of the deep pocketed interests who might chose to push for passage of the poorly written “Council Majority” measure (BB). There are no limits on the amount of money that can be spent to support or oppose a measure, a nd no restrictions on who can step in to fund campaigns. The minimum wage issue appears to have been settled via a compromise between the authors of the two competing measures. It remains to be seen if the voters “respect” the compromise.
2 – Do you support “sit-lie” laws like the one Berkeley tried to introduce in 2012?
I strongly opposed the 2012 Sit ordinance put on the ballot in Berkeley by the Council Majority, and oppose all efforts to further criminalize homelessness. It is a violation of the most basic human rights to repeatedly fine and jail individuals who have no alternatives other than to exist on our streets. More broadly, we must de-emphasize policies and approaches that rely on emergency response personnel and police to address a crisis in housing and mental health. When a significant portion of calls to police and other emergency personnel are to respond to situations involving homeless individuals, it represents an inefficient use of resources – and no long term solution is offered. The only way to end homelessness is to provide housing, services and a path to stability and employment. Nothing else will ever work. We need to invest in outreach, services and facilities to get the homeless into housing and appropriate services – not cycle them in and out of jail and hospitals, at great expense, or leave them to suffer – and die – on our streets.
3 – What policies do you support implementing on the use of surveillance technology (surveillance cameras on streets, license plate readers, drones, etc.) by local law enforcement in Berkeley?
As technology changes, we need our privacy protections to keep pace. While there may be some legitimate public safety applications for new technologies, they must be carefully regulated to ensure only legitimate, narrow and targeted use. Searches and other intrusions on privacy are already regulated – requiring a reasonable suspicion for stop and frisk (a standard that has been routinely abused, especially with regard to people of color), probable cause, and a warrant for other searches. The standards currently in place are already in need of revision, to better protect the vast majority of innocent members of the community. New technologies such as cameras, drones, and social media surveillance tools must be regulated in similar ways, before they are deployed.
The fact that many of the new technologies are offered to law enforcement by private, for profit companies is also extremely problematic. The huge amount of data being gathered, without any reasonable suspicion or probable cause, is alarming, and threatens the privacy of everyone. These massive fishing expeditions, casting nets that capture everyone who drives a car or uses social media, represent dangerous intrusions on the privacy of citizens.
We must establish clear policies governing how surveillance gear is acquired and used in Berkeley – potentially through a city-wide surveillance equipment ordinance. I support policies to limit or prohibit intrusive surveillance technology. San Jose has implemented a policy which limits the use of high-level surveillance techniques to Special Investigations assignments. I would also like to explore the creation of a Privacy Commission for Berkley, based on Oakland’s model, to regulate the use of surveillance technologies and ensure public input and oversight.
It is crucial that local law enforcement not use tools like ALPRs or social media monitoring without carefully crafted policies in place. Excessive, unwarranted, unregulated surveillance has a chilling effect on public discourse and protest, and infringes on core privacies that define our democracy. Technology is developing rapidly. Our policies need to catch up.
4 – What will you do to address problems related to police brutality and misconduct in Berkeley?
While Berkeley’s police department has not been subject to the recent scandals that have plagued departments in neighboring communities, there is clear evidence that the BPD disproportionately stops people of color without cause. A recent PRC report showed that the majority of complaints filed against the BPD were made by African Americans, and that African Americans make up over 30% of all police stops in 2015, even though they make up just 8% of the city’s total population. This creates an oppressive and deeply damaging environment for people of color in Berkeley; it is unacceptable, and must be stopped. Unfortunately, the situation in Berkeley reflects nationwide realities, and is not unique. Racial bias is present throughout our society – in our schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, healthcare system, government, courts and more. Police departments both reflect and perpetuate these biases, and with the amount of power they have to damage – and end -lives, the biases can have particularly egregious impacts. Berkeley should be leading the way in addressing these issues openly and effectively, and model best practices for other communities. I will advocate for better policies, more training and better accountability for the BPD.
I am in support of citizen-led efforts to increase police accountability and transparency, and believe that input from organizations such as the Police Review Commission is crucial to ensure the safety of both our police officers and the citizens they work to protect. I encourage the frank exchange of ideas between the BPD and these organizations. The BPD reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2014 was disappointing to both the BPD and Berkeley citizens, and I support the PRC recommendations to improve BPD handling of large-scale situations. These recommendations include the development of better strategies for de-escalation and a focus on crowd management rather than crowd control; improved accountability in use of lessthan-lethal munitions (such as tear gas); and establishing and enforcing better policies to avoid limitations on media access and safety.
I am also in support of recommendations to end racial profiling and decriminalize mental illness – in Berkeley, and in every community in the United States. It is crucial that the BPD continue to use and improve de-escalation tactics that they have instituted already, and I would support the implementation of a full 38-hour CIT training program for the BPD, in place of their current expedited course. I support “Know Your Rights” trainings so that citizens can be well informed about interactions with the police. Finally, I believe that one of the most important things we can do to reduce tensions between the police and citizens in Berkeley is to provide alternatives to police intervention for mental health crises. No amount of training of police officers will replace the crucial resource of properly trained mental health first responders. This must be a priority for Berkeley.
I understand that both the police and the public are at risk of harm from dangerous highcapacity weapons. I value the security and well-being of citizens and of our police, and consider officer safety to be of utmost importance. I believe that one way we can achieve this is to be at the forefront of developing alternatives so that the community and the police are able to function without the use of violence.
5 – What is your specific position regarding development in Berkeley?
During my many years as an environmental activist and member of Zoning Adjustments Board, I have pushed for responsible, green, and affordable development in Berkeley. Development without displacement, affordable housing, economic opportunity and housing for the homeless are my top priorities. I look in particular to a very thorough report put out by Causa Justa/Just Cause titled Development Without Displacement, which I recommend every policymaker read.
As a member of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board, I have approved over 2,500 units of housing. On the City Council, I will seek to put affordable housing at the center of Berkeley’s housing and development policies. In addition to focusing on affordable housing in all development and housing policy considerations, I support all of the following measures, and more, to increase affordable housing and housing for the homeless in Berkeley:
- I strongly support the Alameda County housing bond
- I would support a future Berkeley-based housing bond
- I have long supported adopting the highest Affordable Housing mitigation fee recommended by a current Nexus Study, and believe Nexus studies should be redone, and fees reconsidered, on a regular basis, so that the City does not miss out on any feasible fees.
- I support requiring at least 20% affordable housing in all large developments in Berkeley, as
an alternative to payment of the Mitigation Fee. The “Green Pathway” permitting scheme requires 30%, but no developer has elected to permit under this scheme.
- I support the Landlord Windfall profits tax as proposed by the Community/City Council (U1), that will result in maximum increased funds flowing into our Affordable Housing fund
- I will consider adoption of an alternative local Density Bonus scheme, similar to legislation adopted in Emeryville, to further incentivize the production of affordable housing.
- Other features of our Zoning Code may tend to facilitate or hinder the building of affordable projects. Working with Affordable housing builders, we may need to refine our zoning code to better support the building of affordable housing.
- I will seek to create a regional commercial linkage fee that results in a pool of affordable housing monies available to all cities
Not all housing is “created equal,” and for many years the conversation around development in Berkeley has failed to distinguish between market rate and affordable, “conventional” and green, housing for families or for students and singles, quality or substandard living spaces, construction and design, access for the disabled, and other important distinctions. We need to consult the many affordable and not-for-profit housing developers in the Bay Area and ensure that our zoning, incentives and other aspects of development policy are supportive of their cost structures and building paradigms. We also need to protect our existing affordable housing and rent-controlled housing stock. Transit justice is also extremely important under current regional pressures. Those least able to afford owning and driving cars are being forced to the far reaches of the region. Reliable transit is critical to their ability to access good jobs. Building affordable housing near transit is a priority for me, rather than primarily allocating the social good of public transit to those who can afford market rents. These Social Equity goals have always been central my work.
6 – How do you propose Berkeley address the causes and effects of climate change? Do you have specific policy recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Berkeley? How do you propose it prepare for sea level rises?
I am proud to be endorsed by the Sierra Club and Green Party, in recognition of the leadership I have shown on environmental issues in Berkeley, and beyond. The environmental imperatives we face require bold and courageous action on the part of individuals, communities, cities, states, the federal government and international organizations. Surprisingly, Berkeley’s City Council has very few members who take the initiative to introduce measures to meet environmental challenges. As a result, while Berkeley has an excellent Climate Action Plan “on the books,” very little of the plan has been realized, to date. On the Council, I will lead on a variety of environmental issues and put Berkeley back in the forefront of environmental action – creating model legislation and programs for other communities to follow.
Making Berkeley into a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly city is one of my top priorities, and will help reduce in-city GHG Emissions. I support expanded bus service and shuttles to bring people to and from transit centers and BART, and to link residents to key areas for shopping and entertainment. Reducing motor vehicle travel in Berkeley will require a wide variety of options and initiatives to fit the city’s diverse needs. With varied topography, varied access to
public transit, varied ages, life-stages and physical abilities and varied personal and work lifepatterns, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Our approach to reducing greenhouse gases must also include options for carpooling and telecommuting. With the advent of excellent apps for carpooling, I hope to pilot a program aimed at commuters who pass through District 5’s main traffic corridors at peak commuting hours, with the goal of matching and connecting people with similar points of origin, destination and work schedules, to encourage permanent carpooling.
Creating a Community Choice agency to offer greener electricity to all Berkeley energy consumers, coupled with a reduction in and hopeful elimination of the use of gas and a switch to electric powered vehicles, will have a huge impact on reducing GHG emissions. I will work to incentivize/require a shift away from gas to clean electricity, and to shift from gas powered vehicles to electric. I will also be advocating for the rapid build-out of solar and wind in Alameda County. Brownfields and warehouse roofs in urbanized areas are good candidates for solar, while wind and land in the County’s more rural areas can also be developed to generate clean energy for the County.
Pushing for the greenest possible building standards will also contribute to GHG reductions, especially if we can find ways to use electricity more efficiently. I have pushed for green building and transit in my position on the Zoning Adjustments Board. I routinely ask developers to provide EV charging, or at a minimum to wire for EV, something that is not currently required by Berkeley’s zoning or building codes. The ultimate goal is for Berkeley’s structures and vehicles to be powered by 100% clean electricity.
I co-authored a Berkeley Deep Green Building that will make a huge positive impact on Berkeley’s GHG emissions, over time. It is incentive-based and voluntary in its first stages, and anticipates some features becoming mandatory over time, while still allowing for the possibility of new green technologies to be added to the incentive-based entry level program. The code applies to residential buildings first and would be extended to non-residential structures at a later stage, conforming with the State of California’s Long Term Energy Efficiency Plan. It also ties into existing local and state programs including Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan and Building Energy Saving Ordinance (BESO), Title 24, Energy Upgrade California and the California Advanced Home Program. Our hope is that the code will be serve as a model for other communities in the Bay Area, and beyond.
Throughout the Bay Area, one of our greatest challenge is to significantly improve public transit, and to increase the amount of housing available for all economic groups, life circumstances and life stages – near transit. Situating affordable housing near transit is of supreme importance, as lower income individuals are currently forced to the perimeter of the Bay Area, dependent on expensive and environmentally impactful cars for commuting, and losing huge amounts oftime that should be allocated to parenting, families, health, recreation, leisure and sleep.
Sea Level: I am in full support of the work that Berkeley has already begun in formulating a Berkeley Resilience Strategy to address rising sea level rise, in addition to other environmental challenges. As the first city in the Bay Area to develop a comprehensive strategy, Berkeley has already taken the lead. Rising sea levels are especially challenging for West Berkeley’s Aquatic Park. Berkeley has been draining storm water into the Aquatic Park Lagoon for decades, and the diversion pipe that was built ostensibly to end draining into the lagoon has resulted in even more storm water entering the lagoon, especially during heavy storms and high tides.
It is also crucial that we create regional response to the inevitable sea-level rise. I supported Measure AA and will support other measures like it that generate revenue for habitat restoration, pollution reduction, and flood protection around the Bay Area. We also need to anticipate the regulatory barriers that arise when collaborating across federal, State, county, and city agencies. All cities in the Bay Area have struggled to make significant strides past the planning stages, in large part due to inevitable difficulty coordinating between so many different organizations and stakeholders. It’s important to take bold action on these plans soon, and I will use my position on the City Council to push forward past plans and take action.
7 – How do you propose Berkeley should respond to formerly incarcerated citizens re-entering the community? What will you do to support communitybased support services for formerly incarcerated citizens?
Berkeley must embrace formerly incarcerated individuals and do everything possible to ease their transition to life outside of prison. 75% of former inmates come into contact with the criminal justice system within 5 years of their release, and nearly half return to prison in that time. Formerly incarcerated individuals are less likely to gainfully employed, and more likely to have mental health or substance abuse problems than people who have never been incarcerated. These factors all contribute to high incidences of recidivism. I support both community-based and institutional programs, and encourage collaboration to ensure that program participants are receiving tailored and comprehensive support.
I recently helped bring an innovative new program to Berkeley: The Reset Foundation. This organization helps young adults break out of the poverty to prison cycle, offering a family-like community, project-based academic programs, social-emotional supports, and employment training to ease participants’ transition back into the community. The Re-Entry Court program in Louisiana, San Quentin Prison’s “Prison University Project”, and the Ride Home Program in Los Angeles are additional projects that embody best practices. Community-based programs are the most effective way to ease transitions into post-prison life and decrease recidivism rates, and as a member of the City Council I would support their increased funding.
8 – Can you share an instance where you have shown moral courage? (i.e. standing up for your values in the face of opposition or other negative conseguences).
Early in my career, I left a high paying job in a law firm to pursue “mission driven” work at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region, advocating for family planning and women’s health throughout North and South America, and the Caribbean. It was extremely rewarding to work in communities across the region to promote health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, the organization, more like the United Nations than the US-based Planned Parenthood Federation of America, was a terrible place for women to work. The top executives were all men from other countries, and sexual harassment was rampant. A few months after starting my position as the chief Aide to the Executive Director of the organization, I learned that the #2 and #3 people in the organization (both men) had been harassing women for over 10 years. There was no way my boss didn’t know about this pattern and practice of severe and illegal harassment, but he had not taken any action. I organized a group of women employees and we spent a year interviewing current and former women employees of the organization. A shocking number had endured harassment and abuse, and one woman reported being raped by her boss on a business trip. All of this was done on our own time. With our own funds we hired a woman experienced in working with organizational change, put together a dossier documenting the abuses, and presented it to the Executive Director. To our dismay, he took no action against the men. Eventually, at further risk of losing my own job, I took the dossier to several members of the Board of Directors. We finally found a sympathetic Board member, who said she would “take care of things.” Soon thereafter, the two men were fired – and given handsome severance packages. My own boss, who clearly had knowledge of the situation for a long time and had done nothing, even in the face of the documentation our group provided, was retained. Having lost respect for him, and not willing to work for someone who condoned the harassment and rape of women by their superiors – in a “women’s organization” -I was forced to quit my job. Of course, I was not able to obtain positive recommendations from this employer, as I did not trust him to characterize my whistle blowing work as a positive attribute. The loss of this job was a blow to my career, but something I have never regretted. Fighting against these injustices was a given, and I would do it again without hesitation.
9 – How many individuals have contributed to your campaign? Do you or your campaign have a financial relationship with a member of the ACDCC? Who and in what capacity?
My campaign has well over 450 individual donations, and in the last reporting period l outraised my opponent by 200%. In that filing period I had over 300 donations of $50 or more, while he showed less than 100. I do not have financial relationships with any members of the ACDCC.
10 – Are you running as a Berniecrat?
I strongly support Bernie’s message and vision for America. I am proud to be endorsed by all of the progressive elected officials and organizations in Berkeley – and beyond, and look forward to restoring Berkeley to its progressive roots.
Raised on Santa Barbara Road and now raising my family on Shattuck, I am a hometown candidate, deeply appreciative of all that makes Berkeley such an amazing place. My life has been dedicated to advancing our shared values of equity, innovation, community, participation and change. Passionate about making good things happen for Berkeley, I am running to bring my energy, vision, and long record of service to the Council. For 20 years, I have made a difference serving on boards of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, The Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, Step One School, The Bancroft Library and The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life. I have served five years on Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board and chaired the City of Berkeley Commission on the Status of Women, the 15th Assembly District Environmental Task Force, King Middle School’s PTA and the Berkeley Edible Gardens Initiative. lied efforts to restore the North Branch Library and co-authored legislation that saved our historic Downtown Post Office. A progressive, community-supported candidate, I will revitalize our downtown, parks and streetscapes and ensure Berkeley remains diverse, affordable and safe. I am committed to helping Solano and North Shattuck thrive, saving Alta Bates Hospital and addressing climate change. A former small business owner and CAL and Stanford Law School graduate, I am endorsed by Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, The Sierra Club and the California Nurses Association. My office door will always be open. Together, let’s do great things for Berkeley! Sophie Hahn, www.sophiehahn.com. 510-682-5905.