BERKELEY -- City voters appeared divided over banning people from siting on sidewalks or allowing developers to construct tall buildings in West Berkeley but they were certain they did not want to pay to improve public pools, according to election results on 10 ballot measures.
The most controversial measure, Measure S, which would prohibit sitting on sidewalks in commercial zones from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., appeared headed toward failure as 51 percent of voters were against it, according to results from a majority of precincts.
It was proposed because merchants believe the youths who sit on sidewalks and panhandle drive their customers away. Advocates for the homeless said the law would criminalize being homeless and contended that the city already has laws on the books that can address the problem.
If it passed the measure carries exceptions for medical emergencies, people sitting in wheelchairs or other "mobility devices" and people sitting at bus stops and on benches or planters.
The law, if passed would not go into effect until July 1, 2013, and requires police to first issue a warning. After the warning is given a citation equal to an infraction would be issued. Subsequent violations could escalate to the level of a misdemeanor.
Another controversial question on the Berkeley ballot is Measure T, also appeared to barely lose with 50 percent of voters against it. Measure T rewrites the zoning rules for areas west of San Pablo
Proponents of the measure say it will create jobs and allow property owners to develop unused lots, with the increased property tax revenue and developer givebacks going to the community.
Opponents argue that big new buildings will create an eyesore in the area and force up rents, making it less affordable for artists who currently work in the area.
Yet, voters were certain they did not want to pay more to maintain or improve public pools.
Measures N and O ask for higher taxes in return for new pools and funds to maintain them.
Measure N allows the city to raise $19.4 million to build a warm therapeutic pool and to rebuild Willard pool. Although Measure N had a majority of support, 62 percent, according to returns from a majority of precincts, it had not gathered the 2/3 of the vote necessary to pass. It also pays for the renovation of locker rooms at the West Campus pool. Property taxes would be $7 a year for each $100,000 in home valuation.
Measure O, seeks to raise about $600,000 a year to maintain the warm water and Willard pools. Measure O also does not have 2/3 of the vote needed for passing, returns from a majority of precincts showed. The measure had 59 percent support. It's yearly cost on a 1,900-square-foot home would be about $23.
Measure M asked voters to approve a plan to allow the city to borrow $30 million for street paving and improvements to the water system. Early returns showed it was headed toward approval winning 73 percent of the vote. Homeowners would have to pay for the borrowed money. Those with homes valued at $330,500 would pay $38 a year, a home valued at $700,000 would garner an increased tax bill of $81 a year and those at $1 million would pay $116 a year.
Measure P does not raise taxes but simply allows the city to spend tax money from previous taxes for park maintenance, libraries, emergency medical services, services for severely physically disabled people, fire protection and emergency responses. It was winning with more than 88 percent of the vote.
Measure Q reauthorizes a 7.5 percent tax on telephone service that funds police, fire and other "essential" city services. The measure won with 84 percent of the vote. It has an exemption for nonprofits, hospitals and low-income residents. A new part of the law requires the city to produce a yearly report on services it funds and how much money it collects.
Measure R, if approved, allows the City Council to redraw its districts. The measure was winning with 65 percent of the vote. The measure allows the City Council to take into consideration "cohesiveness" and "community interest" of areas when making boundaries. That provision could result in a new district that includes most of the areas where UC Berkeley students live.
Measure U is an open government law that would increase access to public records and add a commission with lawsuit powers to oversee it.
Measure U affects the Rent Control Board and all 36 City Council advisory commissions. It includes earlier agenda deadlines, longer speaking times for public comments, enables the public to add items to the City Council agenda, expands disclosure about behind-the-scenes conversations on city business, increases access to public records and requires council members to conduct a public revote after returning from a closed session. The measure was losing, with 76 percent of the vote against, according to results from a majority of precincts.
Measure V requires the city to publish every two years a report of its fiscal obligations going out 20 years, including its debt of over a half-billion dollars to fund city employee pensions. The measure says that if the city fails to publish the report that is certified by the city manager or other "independent professional," the city will not be able to borrow money or assess property related fees or taxes. Results from a majority of precincts showed it losing with 61 percent of the vote against it.