Berkeley voters choose direction for downtown

Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved a new downtown plan Tuesday, paving the way for construction of five new tall buildings and a denser, transit-oriented community.

Voters passed the controversial Measure R with 64% of the vote.

“I was floored that 64% of the people voted the way they did,” Mayor Tom Bates said Wednesday. “It said to me that people understand global warming. If we want to reduce it we have to have people living downtown, near transit.”

But opponents of Measure R downplayed the significance of the advisory measure and said that if the council eventually adopts a downtown plan that is too controversial, they will take it back to voters.


“It’s a meaningless measure now just like it was when it was proposed,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who opposed the measure along with Councilman Jesse Arreguin. “It doesn’t actively adopt any policies. If the City Council adopts controversial things in their downtown plan, what’s to stop the public from referendum-ing it again?”

Measure R was only advisory, and Bates said it will probably take the Planning Commission a number of months to come back to the council with a detailed plan. There are numerous issues to be worked out, including the fees involved in the fast track “Green Pathways” part of the plan, the open space fee, as well as the fee to opt out of building affordable housing and instead pay into a fund, among other issues, said Julie Sinai, Bates’ chief of staff.

The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on various parts of the plan as it goes through the approval process.

For more details on Measure R, look here.