BERKELEY -- In a rematch she lost closely four years ago, City Council candidate Sophie Hahn says incumbent Laurie Capitelli is making decisions without consulting residents.

Hahn, a retired lawyer, lost the last race against Capitelli by just 401 votes out of 8,212 cast.

Capitelli, a real estate broker, is seeking his third term and says this time around he is committed to knocking on the doors of all 4,500 houses in his district by the time election day rolls around. Last week, he said he was about three quarters of the way there.

Hahn said if she wins on Nov. 6, she will include residents and their associations in all her decision-making.

"There's been a lack of consultation with the established neighborhood organizations and with neighborhoods," Hahn said.

An example is a recent road and sidewalk reconfiguration at Solano and Colusa avenues she said was made with "no community consultation." Residents already are complaining about more traffic on surrounding streets, she said.

Capitelli said the project was sent through the city's commissions and its transportation department.

"It's only been a month so I don't see how she can say there is more traffic," Capitelli said.

Capitelli said he has listened to what residents want and delivered. Street trees and benches on Solano Avenue and sidewalk "bulb outs," that make it easier for pedestrians and drivers to see each other at street crossings on Solano are a good example, he said. That process involved a survey in which 1,300 people responded, he added.


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"The two things people said they wanted the most were sidewalk seating and trees," Capitelli said. "And now we're delivering on those requests."

Capitelli said other improvements to the area he made after listening to constituents over the past four years include children's play equipment at the King Park playground, "that went through a neighborhood committee," and Solano Avenue zoning improvements that streamlined the permit process for businesses that went through "all the commissions and two neighborhood meetings and was supported by the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association."

Hahn said she will be more inclusive of neighborhood groups and individual residents on area issues. She pointed to her recent success in getting the City Council to pass, with no debate, an item allowing backyard gardeners to sell their produce without obtaining a permit, something that previously would have cost a gardener $3,000 and a year's wait.

"We got people together, wrote the new code, then we brought in several organizations, and for a year, we had a consultative process and got input and addressed concerns," Hahn said. "Then we revised it. We took it to the planning commission and it passed unanimously and it went to City Council and it was passed on consent. So we didn't have a whole lot of folks show up at council saying they hadn't been consulted."

Hahn said if she is elected to City Council she would like to explore ways the city could refrain from "aggressive" ticketing in metered spaces on Solano Avenue. She said she'd also like to consult with residents and shoppers about what they want on Solano Avenue to make it "more of a community gathering place."

Capitelli said if he is elected to four more years he would like to move forward with allowing businesses to use the parking space in front of their establishment for outdoor seating and dining. He said he'd also like to streamline the building permit process for very small projects like installing an automatic earthquake gas shut-off valve. He'd like it to be cheap, fast and available on the Internet.

"If you want to do that now, the permit is over $100 and you have to go downtown," Capitelli said. "There are many people installing these shut-off valves without permits because of the bureaucracy involved."

Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.

Berkeley City Council District 5

Laurie Capitelli
Age: 66
Party: Democrat
Occupation: City Councilman; residential real estate broker
Professional Background: Current member of Alameda County Transportation Commission; former chair of Berkeley planning commission and zoning adjustments board
Personal: Married, 2 children, 4 grandchildren
Education: Bachelor's degree in political science from UC Berkeley 1968
Website: www.laurie4council.com

Sophie Hahn
Age: 51
Party: Democrat
Occupation: Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board member
Professional: retired attorney; former owner of stationary company; former chair of the Berkeley Commission on the Status of Women
Personal: Married, three children 14, 16 and 18
Education: Bachelor's degree in American history from UC Berkeley 1983; law degree from Stanford Law School
Website: www.sophiehahn.com