City Council: General Information

Guidelines for Public Comment, Written Communications, 
and Council Meeting Order


Introduction

The following information is provided as a guide to assist you in understanding the placement of items on the Council agenda and to assist you in following the order of the meeting.

Copies of agendas are available on the table outside the Council Chamber. A Public Viewing Binder, which includes the agenda and all agenda reports, is available for review by the public in the City Clerk Department at least twelve days prior to the meeting and at all City Libraries. This Binder is also located at the Press Table during the meeting. Reports that were provided to Council at a previous meeting, mainly those related to appeals, will not be reproduced for subsequent meetings. Reports that are not reproduced will state so on the agenda and reference the meeting at which the report was presented to Council. Please note that corrections and supplemental information can continue to be submitted on an existing item up to the night of the meeting, this material is made availalbe in the public viewing binder. Materials submitted at the meeting will be available the next business day in the event that copies of those materials are not provided by the individual.

If you are unable to stay until the Council acts on your item of interest, you may review the summary, the cable rebroadcast of the meeting, or the archived video stream, to find out the action taken. See below for information on accessing the television rebroadcast and web summary and video stream. Typically, the summary and video stream are available on the City's website by the Thursday after the meeting.

The City Clerk Department posts Council agendas and annotated agendas on the City’s website (http://www.CityofBerkeley.info/CityCouncil). New information is generally posted each Thursday.

The Council meetings are broadcast live on KPFB Radio 89.3 and on Cable B-TV, Channel 33. B-TV also replays the meetings the following morning (Wednesday) at 9:00 a.m. and the following Sunday at 9:00 a.m. Live and archived video streams of meetings are available on the Internet at http://www.CityofBerkeley.info/video.

While you are in the Council Chambers please do not conduct conversations, make comments on the proceedings or otherwise disturb the proceedings while the Council is in session. Please speak quietly outside the Chambers while the Council is in session so as not to disrupt proceedings inside the Chambers. Please enter and exit the Chambers quietly, preferably through the doors at the back, while the Council is in session. Finally, please turn all cellular phones, pagers, and other electronic devices to "silent" or "meeting" mode.

If you have questions regarding conduct at meetings in general, or questions specific to an item on the agenda, please contact the City Clerk at 981-6900 or speak with City Clerk staff at the meeting. The following information further explains what you can expect to happen during the meeting and how you can participate:

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CEREMONIAL MATTERS

Ceremonial matters may include proclamations and awards from the Mayor and City Council. Persons receiving recognition from the Council will generally be given a brief opportunity to speak at this time.

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PUBLIC COMMENT

The following procedures apply to matters other than public hearings. Persons who wish to speak on matters scheduled for a public hearing must make their comments at the time set aside for the public hearing on the matter.  For public hearings, please review the Public Hearings section of this document.

1. Public Comment on Consent Calendar or Information Items.
The Council will first determine whether to move items on the agenda for action or “Information” to the “Consent Calendar”, or move “Consent Calendar” items to action.  Items that remain on the “Consent Calendar” are voted on in one motion as a group.  “Information” items are not discussed or acted upon at the Council meeting unless they are moved to “Action” or “Consent”.

The Council will then take public comment on any items that are either on the amended Consent Calendar or the Information Calendar.  Up to three speakers will be entitled to two minutes each to speak in opposition to or support of a Consent Calendar Item.  The Presiding Officer will ask additional persons in the audience to stand to demonstrate their respective opposition to or support of the item.

In the event that there are more than three persons wishing to speak either in opposition to or support of a “Consent” item, the Presiding Officer will move the item to the Action Calendar.  Prior to moving the item, the Presiding Officer will fully inform those persons in the audience of this process.

After hearing from public speakers regarding items remaining on the Consent Calendar, any Council Member may move any Information or Consent item to “Action”, however no additional items can be moved onto the Consent Calendar at that point.  Following this, the Council will vote on the items remaining on the Consent Calendar in one motion.

For items removed from the Consent Calendar to the Action Calendar for additional public comment, at the time the matter is taken up during the Action Calendar, public comment will be limited to persons who have not previously addressed that item during the Consent Calendar related public comment period.

2. Public Comment on Action Items.
After the initial ten minutes of public comment on non-agenda items and public comment and action on consent items, the public may comment on each remaining item listed on the agenda for action as the item is taken up.  Where an item was moved from the Consent Calendar to Action no speaker who has already spoken on that item would be entitled to speak to that item again.

The Presiding Officer will request that persons wishing to speak line up at the podium to determine the number of persons interested in speaking at that time.

Up to ten (10) speakers may speak for two minutes.  If there are more than ten persons interested in speaking, the Presiding Officer may limit the public comment for all speakers to one minute per speaker. Speakers are permitted to yield their time to one other speaker, however no one speaker shall have more than four minutes.  The Presiding Officer may, with the consent of persons representing both sides of an issue, allocate a block of time to each side to present their issue. 

3. Appeals Appearing on Action Calendar.
Appeals from decisions of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Planning Commission and other City commissions appear on the “Action” section of the Council Agenda.  Council determines whether to affirm the action of the commission, set a public hearing, or remand the matter to the commission.  (For appeals from decisions of the Zoning Adjustments Board, please see the section on Public Hearings below.)  Appeals of proposed special assessment liens shall also appear on the "Action" section of the Council Agenda.

Time shall be provided for public comment for persons representing both sides of the action/appeal and each side will be allocated seven minutes to present their comments on the appeal.  Where the appellant is not the applicant, the appellants collectively shall have seven minutes to comment and the applicant shall have seven minutes to comment.  Where the appellant is the applicant, the applicant/appellant shall have seven minutes to comment and the persons supporting the action of the board or commission on appeal shall have seven minutes to comment.  In the case of an appeal of proposed special assessment lien, the appellant shall have seven minutes to comment.  After the conclusion of the seven-minute comment periods, members of the public may comment on the appeal.

Comments from members of the public regarding appeals shall be limited to one minute per speaker.  Any person that addressed the Council during one of the seven-minute periods may not speak again during the public comment period on the appeal. Speakers may yield their time to one other speaker, however, no speaker shall have more than two minutes.

4. Public Comment on Non Agenda Matters.
Immediately following Ceremonial Matters and the City Manager Comments and prior to the Consent Calendar, five persons selected by lottery, will have two minutes each to address matters not on the Council agenda.  Persons wishing to address the Council on matters not on the Council agenda during the initial ten-minute period for such comment, must submit a speaker card to the City Clerk in person at the meeting location and prior to commencement of that meeting.

Five cards will be drawn by the City Clerk to determine the speakers who will be allowed to comment during the first round of public comment on non-agenda matters.  The remainder of the speakers wishing to address the Council on non-agenda items will be heard at the end of the agenda. Speaker cards are not required for this second round of public comment on non-agenda matters.

For the second round of public comment on non-agenda matters, the Presiding Officer retains the authority to limit the number of speakers by subject. The Presiding Officer will generally request that persons wishing to speak, line up at the podium to be recognized to determine the number of persons interested in speaking at that time. Each speaker will be entitled to speak for two minutes each unless the Presiding Officer determines that one-minute is appropriate given the number of speakers.

According to the current Rules and Procedures, no Council meeting shall continue past 11:00 p.m. unless a two-thirds majority of the Council votes to extend the meeting to discuss specified items.  If any agendized business remains unfinished at 11:00 p.m. or the expiration of any extension after 11:00 p.m., it  will be moved to the next Council meeting.  In that event, the meeting shall be automatically extended for up to fifteen (15) minutes for public comment on non-agenda items.

5. Presentations During Public Comment Relating to Items on the Agenda
Power Point presentations relating to items on the meeting agenda of the City Council must be provided to the City Clerk Department no later than seven days before the meeting, or five days before for items carried over from a meeting that occurred the week immediately prior.

Power Point presentations should be in either “ppt” or “.pptx” format and may be emailed directly to the City Clerk Department at Clerk@cityofberkeley.info.  Please indicate the agenda item to which the presentation relates in the body of the email.  Presentations will be projected during the individual’s public comment period.  Please note that presentations from the public shall comply with the time limits set forth in the City Council Rules of Procedure.

6. Ralph M. Brown Act Pertaining to Public Comments.
The “Brown Act” prohibits the Council from discussing or taking action on an issue raised during Public Comment, unless it is specifically listed on the agenda.  However, the Council may refer a matter to the City Manager.

 

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CONSENT CALENDAR

A Consent Calendar item recommends specific Council action that is routine, non-controversial, easily explained and can be expected to receive Council approval without need for discussion.

Prior to voting on the Consent Calendar, each Councilmember has an opportunity to remove items from the Consent Calendar for discussion and/or add items from the Action Calendar to the Consent Calendar. The Council may also add Information Reports to the Action Calendar and refer specific Communications to the City Manager. All items remaining or added to the Consent Calendar are then approved in one motion by one vote.

The Presiding Officer has the authority to reschedule the removed "Consent" item to either the beginning or the end of the Action Calendar. If you are unsure about the status of a particular item, you may ask the City Clerk.

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PUBLIC HEARINGS

Public Hearings will commence immediately following approval of the Consent Calendar. Some public hearings are subject to special rules imposed by state law or a particular ordinance. Those requirements are too numerous to describe here but will typically be described in the Council report concerning the item.

After hearing public testimony, the Council may decide to continue or close the Public Hearing. In either case, Council discussion and action may take place at that time or at the next Council meeting.

1. Public Hearings for Land Use, Zoning, and Public Nuisance Determination Matters. In hearings which involve land use matters such as appeals, zoning and landmarks permits, subdivisions, code enforcement and nuisance abatement, one representative of the applicant and appellant will be invited to speak first and will be entitled to speak for up to five minutes each. In the case of a public nuisance determination, the representative(s) of the subject property shall have five minutes to present.  All other speakers may speak for a maximum of two minutes. The Mayor in consultation with the City Attorney and the parties may establish procedures in advance of the hearing to ensure an orderly presentation of the matter. These procedures may include the allocation of a total amount of time per side, the order of speakers or the right of rebuttal. All hearings will be governed by the Council’s Fair Hearing procedure resolution (PDF, 417KB). Under this procedure the Council is required to disclose all contacts any Councilmember has had with the public outside the hearing. These reports of “ex parte” contacts are available for public review in the City Clerk’s office prior to the meeting and at the City Council meeting in a file maintained by the City Clerk. The Council shall also orally disclose the contacts at the beginning of the Council meeting concerning the matter.

2. Other hearings. Speakers at other hearings will be entitled to speak for up to two minutes each.

Please see the section on Written Communications below for information on submitting written comments to the City Council.

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ACTION CALENDAR

The Action Calendar includes reports that may be characterized as controversial, likely to elicit Council questions or require a lengthy discussion. The Action Calendar also includes those items that were removed from a Consent Calendar either at the current meeting or a previous meeting by a Councilmember for discussion.

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REPORTS FOR INFORMATION

Reports for information will be considered received and filed unless a Councilmember moves the item to the Action Calendar for discussion during consideration of the Consent Calendar.

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WRITTEN COMMUNICATIONS

Written communications addressed to the City Council and submitted to the City Clerk Department by 5:00 p.m. fifteen days before the Council meeting are placed on the next available Council agenda.

Letters from the public will not appear on the Council agenda as individual matters for discussion but will be distributed as part of the Council agenda packet with a cover sheet identifying the author and subject matter and will be listed under "Communications."

Written communications pertaining to an item on the agenda which are received after the deadline for inclusion in the agenda packet will be accepted and distributed according to the following timeline: 

 

Submission Deadline

Distributed

Packet

Seven days before the meeting, by 5:00 p.m. (Tuesday)

Five days before the meeting (Thursday)

Supplemental 1

Day of the meeting by 12:00 p.m. (Tuesday)

At the Council meeting

Supplemental 2

After 12:00 p.m. the day of the Council meeting, individuals must provide 15 copies of written communications regarding items on the agenda to the City Clerk at City Hall at 2180 Milvia Street or in Council Chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way at the time of the meeting.  Communications received after 12:00 p.m. that pertain to an item on the agenda will be distributed to Council in Chambers at the meeting and will be collated and included in a post-Council Supplemental Communications Packet 3 that is compiled the day after the Council meeting.

Unless referred to the City Manager at the meeting, communications are deemed noted and filed.

 

Communications to the City Council are public record and will become part of the City’s electronic records, which are accessible through the City’s website. Please note: e-mail addresses, names, addresses, and other contact information are not required, but if included in any communication to the City Council, will become part of the public record. If you do not want your e-mail address or any other contact information to be made public, you may deliver communications via U.S. Postal Service or in person to the City Clerk Department at 2180 Milvia Street. If you do not want your contact information included in the public record, please do not include that information in your communication. Please contact the City Clerk Department for further information.

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NOTICE CONCERNING YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS 

If you object to a decision by the City Council to approve or deny a use permit or variance for a project the following requirements and restrictions apply: 1) No lawsuit challenging a City decision to deny (Code Civ. Proc. 1094.6(b)) or approve (Gov. Code 65009(c)(5)) a use permit or variance may be filed more than 90 days after the date the Notice of Decision of the action of the City Council is mailed. Any lawsuit not filed within that 90-day period will be barred. 2) In any lawsuit that may be filed against a City Council decision to approve or deny a use permit or variance, the issues and evidence will be limited to those raised by you or someone else, orally or in writing, at a public hearing or prior to the close of the last public hearing on the project.

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