Rigel Robinson is proud to be serving his second term on the Berkeley City Council, where he has been fighting for a more affordable, sustainable, and safe future for Berkeley.
During his tenure at Berkeley City Hall, Rigel has tackled the issues that matter most, introducing measures to fight the housing crisis and the climate crisis. Rigel has developed a reputation as a leader who listens, and as a forward-thinking voice who can unify our city around the work ahead of us.
Rigel grew up as the oldest of four. His dad was an engineer and taught Rigel to be curious, ask questions, and fix broken things. His mom was a full-time parent and showed him the meaning of public service as she sought to create a more welcoming environment for other immigrant parents at the schools he attended.
Rigel came to know Berkeley growing up through visits to see family over the holidays. A century ago, his great-grandmother attended UC Berkeley, at a time when very few women were students at Cal. His grandparents followed in her footsteps, and years later, Rigel moved here for college and began his life in Berkeley.
As a student leader at Cal, Rigel was elected to serve as the vice president of the ASUC, the campus student government. Rigel led efforts to support development of more affordable housing and student housing near campus, secure additional state funding for higher education, and improve safety around campus.
In 2018, community leaders called on Rigel to run for city council. He became the youngest city councilmember ever elected in the city’s history and was resoundingly re-elected in 2022.
On the city council, Rigel has spearheaded some of Berkeley’s bravest and boldest initiatives, while also acting as a pragmatic bridge-builder among various factions in our City’s politics. Soon after being elected to the council, Rigel and his colleagues led the charge to end exclusionary zoning in Berkeley. As the Chair of the Land Use, Housing, and Economic Development committee, Rigel has been a consistent and vocal advocate on the council for affordable housing to tackle our cost-of-living crisis and make it easier for residents to afford to raise a family here.
Rigel believes that the solution to homelessness is housing. He also recognizes that there is a shortage of housing at all levels in Berkeley. Rigel has been instrumental in moving forward the desperately needed student housing at the site of People’s Park. He has spoken out against the weaponization of environmental laws to block housing, while at the same time championing efforts to secure interim and eventually permanent housing for the unhoused residents of People’s Park.
Rigel has worked tirelessly to bring about renewed investments in our aging infrastructure and to repave our broken streets. He has fought to make it easier and safer for everyone to get around town, including pedestrians and cyclists. Rigel led the push to design a new pedestrian plaza along Telegraph Avenue and helped secure funding for transportation projects such as the proposed ferry terminal at the Berkeley Marina and the San Pablo safety improvements project.
Public safety is a paramount priority for Rigel. He has been a leading voice for preventing crime while also embracing innovative public safety strategies, and received national attention for his proposal to redesign the city’s approach to traffic enforcement. Rigel has pressured the city to stay true to the commitments made in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, while ensuring that our first responders have the resources and staffing they need to address public safety threats such as wildfire risk and violent crime.
Rigel has been a voice for fiscal responsibility, ensuring that tax dollars are invested in ways that will meaningfully make a difference in the lives of Berkeley residents. Rigel is committed to expanding our tax base and creating new jobs in Berkeley, such as the research and development jobs that will be generated by implementation of his “Keep Innovation in Berkeley” referral.
And when the COVID-19 pandemic began, Rigel stepped up to protect our neighbors from the virus, support vulnerable tenants in need, and lift up our merchants and small businesses. Rigel co-authored the COVID-19 eviction moratorium to protect struggling tenants who had lost their income as well as the creation of a fund to provide grants to small businesses during the pandemic.
Rigel grew up and attended public schools in St. Louis, Missouri. He holds a BA from UC Berkeley, and earned his master’s degree from UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy while serving on the city council. As a graduate student, Rigel wrote for the Yale Law & Policy Review and his master's thesis focused on gun violence reduction strategies.
Rigel is proud to serve as the president of the Berkeley Symphony, supporting the organization’s mission of bringing unique and accessible musical experiences to the Berkeley community and especially Berkeley’s youth. During his first term on the city council, Rigel worked as a barista at the Peet’s Coffee on 4th street.
Rigel and his fiancée, Taylor, are renters in Berkeley. Taylor is a researcher at a Bay Area biotech startup that was founded in Berkeley. On weekends, Rigel can be found windsurfing or offering sailing lessons at the south cove of the Berkeley Marina, where he and Taylor met as members of the Cal Sailing Club.