BERKELEY -- A sharply divided electorate has struck down the city's most controversial measures, including a contentious "sit-lie" ban, after a two-week count that had both sides holding their breaths.
The matter was at last brought to a close Friday when the Alameda County Registrar of Voters finished tallying votes.
Measure S, which would have banned sitting and lying on commercial sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., failed with a 4 percentage-point margin.
Measure T, which sought to promote development in West Berkeley through flexible zoning, ran the closest race, with nearly 50 percent of voters on each side. The measure was defeated by a mere 500 votes. The results are expected to be certified this week.
This year's election turned out 74 percent of the registered voters in Alameda County, a slight decline from the 78 percent of the 2008 presidential election.
Despite defeat at the polls, proponents of both measures are maintaining that the results were a success for their campaigns.
Narrow margins show that the public recognizes a problem, said John Caner, a lead organizer of Yes on S and the CEO of Berkeley's downtown business association.
"We're pleased ... that we ran a really productive and constructive campaign and educated people about the issues facing merchants, and the need to address the problems with people living on the streets," Caner said.
Some opponents of Measure S weren't ready to concede that the discussion had been a positive one, however.
"It was ugly and unfortunate from the beginning," said Osha Neumann, head of the Committee against Measure S. Advocates of Measure S, he said, "wanted to criminalize an innocuous behavior that hurts no one, and which they used as an excuse for scare stories."
The economic difficulties facing the city's merchants have nothing to do with the presence of homeless people, Neumann said.
The debate around Measure T was no less heated in the months leading up to election day.
Mayor Tom Bates, who supported the measure, called the campaign one of the worst he had seen in Berkeley. "There was total distortion and lies on every side," he said.
Still, many are hoping the discussion generated by the defeated measure will evolve into future efforts to promote development in West Berkeley.
"We've had very little growth over the years," said Councilman Daryll Moore, whose district encompasses West Berkeley. "I'm still interested in bringing greater flexibility to zoning."
Even Councilman Jesse Arreguín, who campaigned against the measure, called the election results an opportunity.
"We need to go back to the drawing board," Arreguín said. "We need to do it involving the community."
Neither advocates for Measure S nor Measure T were ready to consider future legislation, however.
"It's too early to say," Caner said. "We all need to let the dust settle."