By Doug Oakley
Two Berkeley ballot questions that would allow the expansion and taxation of the city’s medical marijuana industry won by large margins Tuesday evening as did a third measure offering a new development plan for downtown.
In addition, incumbent City Council candidates in three districts held on to their seats.
A fourth City Council race will be decided by the end of the day Friday in a new ranked choice voting scenario. In that District 7 race, Kriss Worthington got 1301 votes or 49.79 percent just shy of the 50 percent needed to be an instant winner.
In marijuana voting, Measure T was approved with 17,271 votes or 64 percent. There were 9,550 no votes. Measure T allows six medical marijuana growing facilities in Berkeley of 30,000 square-feet on the west side of town; allows a fourth medical marijuana dispensary; creates a 600-foot buffer zone between new dispensaries and public and private schools; and allows medical marijuana collectives to grow up to 200 square-feet of pot in homes citywide.
A second marijuana question on the Berkeley ballot, Measure S was approved with 22,455 votes or 82 percent. No votes got 4,810. Measure S raises taxes on medical marijuana sales from 0.12 percent to 2.5 percent. The city’s take on the approximately $18 million worth of medical marijuana sold each year from the three current dispensaries would be about $450,000 a year.
Measure S taxes nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries differently from for-profit operations. Nonprofits would pay $25 per square-foot for the first 3,000 square-feet of their retail sales operation and $10 per square-foot for anything more than 3,000 square-feet.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said he is glad both marijuana measures passed.
"The trend is to tax medical marijuana, so we might as well get some revenue from this kind of activity," Bates said. "And what people don't realize about Measure T is that it actually restricts what the City Council can do. We could have had 10 dispensaries and growing facilities all over town. Now we have no more than four dispensaries and growing in only one part of town."
On the downtown development question, Measure R was approved with 17,790 votes or 64 percent. No votes were 9,916. Measure R includes height limits on new downtown buildings, a streamlined permit process for builders who follow green guidelines and incentives for residents who don’t own cars.
The policies include a maximum building height of 60 feet except for two new residential buildings and one hotel to be built with a maximum height of 180 feet, and two smaller office or residential buildings up to 120 feet.
Bates said the Measure R victory is an "overwhelming mandate" to move forward with development that will help fight climate change by putting housing near transit and jobs.
"It's a wonderful statement that people in Berkeley are interested in doing something about climate change," Bates said. "The 64 percent vote was beyond my wildest dreams. You hear from the critics all the time and you start to think they represent the voice of the overall population. But they don't."
In City Council District 1, 18-year incumbent Linda Maio won 2,589 votes or 65 percent. Her nearest challenger, Jasper Kingeter got 894 votes or 22 percent. The district includes the flatlands north of University Avenue to the Albany border and west of Grant Street to the San Francisco Bay. Other candidates running included Merrilie Mitchell, a community activist; and Anthony Di Donato, a property manager.
In District 4, incumbent Jesse Arreguin won with 1,717 voters or 53 percent over nearest challenger Jim Novosel who got 1,036 votes or 32 percent. The district includes downtown and Shattuck Avenue north of University Avenue. A third candidate, Bernt Wahl, got 336 votes or 10 percent.
In the District 7 race, 14-year incumbent Kriss Worthington who got 49 percent of the vote, goes to an instant runoff election with George Beier who got 930 votes or 35 percent. A third candidate, Cecilia Rosales got 381 votes or 14 percent. District 7 includes Telegraph Avenue from Woolsey Street to the UC Berkeley campus and a couple of blocks on the north side of campus near Hearst Street.
In District 8, incumbent Gordon Wozniak won with 1,827 votes or 60 percent. He was up against 27-year-old teacher Stewart Jones who got 573 votes or almost 19 percent. Interior designer Jacquelyn McCormick got 617 votes. District 8 includes much of the Berkeley hills east of College Avenue and Piedmont Avenue.