Charter Committee

About the Committee

The Charter Committee was established November 7, 2017. The Committee consists of two members of the City Council, a member of the Financial Advisory Board, an active participant in the El Cerrito real estate community, a representative of local labor groups, and two members of the public.

The El Cerrito City Council is in the process of exploring becoming a Charter City. Currently, El Cerrito is what is known as a General Law city. A General Law City has the authority to act locally but its acts must be consistent with the California Constitution, state statutes, and state administrative regulations. A Charter City adopts a Charter, which is a document that outlines how a city is governed. A Charter City has the additional authority to adopt laws regarding "municipal affairs" that are different from state statutes, while still being consistent with the US and California Constitutions. Municipal affairs may include the form of city government, elections, some aspects of zoning and land use, the process of contracting for public works, and the scope of authority related to taxes and assessments. A city may only become a Charter City with voter approval. In our area, local charter cities include Albany, Emeryville, Berkeley, Richmond, Oakland, Alameda, Piedmont, San Francisco, San Leandro and San Rafael.

A Charter City allows for more options for funding local operations or capital projects. Potentially, the biggest impact for El Cerrito would be the revenue associated with the implementation of a Real Property Transfer Tax (RPTT). A RPTT is a tax that is only paid upon the sale of property, and is traditionally split between the buyer and seller. Charter cities may adopt—with voter approval—a Real Property Transfer Tax at any rate, unlike a General Law city which may only split a “Documentary Transfer Tax” with the county (each receives 55¢ for each $500 of the purchase price of real property).

Neighboring charter cities maintain a Real Property Transfer Tax with a median rate of $12 per $1,000 of the purchase price. If implemented in El Cerrito at the same rate, a RPTT would generate approximately $2.7 million annually. The revenue could be used for emergency reserves, affordable housing, City facilities such as the Public Safety building or Senior Center, or City operations. A portion could be rebated for seismic and conservation upgrades.

The Charter Review Committee will work with City staff to help develop a Charter that would include language that would give the City the power to adopt local rules in all matters of municipal affairs, require the City to follow California law regarding the payment of prevailing wages for public works projects and collective bargaining with represented employee groups, authorize the City Council to consider the use of all available tools for generating revenue, including but not limited to a Real Property Transfer Tax, and that does not alter the current City Municipal Code. The Committee will recommend the draft Charter to the City Council in April. The City Council would then hold public hearings on the Charter, and would then consider putting the Charter on the ballot in November 2018.

Enabling legislation

The City Council created the Charter Committee on November 7, 2017.
Agenda Bill    Resolution 2017-74


Melissa Eizenberg, Vice Chair
Paul Fadelli
Joe Gagne
Marlene Keller
Greg Lyman
Letitia Moore
Dick Patterson, Chair

Staff Liaison

Scott Hanin, City Manager


Monday, February 12th – 7:00 p.m.
Monday, February 26th – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 10th – 9:00 a.m.
Thursday, March 22nd – 7:00 p.m.
Monday, April 2nd – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 7th – 10:00 a.m. (tentative)

City Hall
10890 San Pablo Ave.
El Cerrito, CA


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