Op-ed: An open letter to Lori Droste about mini-dorms

Dear Lori Droste,

The residents of District 8 have elected you to be their representative because you presented yourself as a family-oriented candidate who would work on behalf of the people of District 8, a largely residential district with continuing concerns about neighborhood preservation.

There is now no greater threat to the livability of Berkeley neighborhoods than the introduction by developers of “mini-dorms” to family oriented, low- and medium-density residential areas, particularly on the south side, but increasingly throughout Berkeley.

Because the nature of a mini-dorms is to convert most of a property’s common living space into densely occupied sleeping rooms, they create problem properties, not just with a density often far exceeding that called for in the General Plan, but with it all the consequent and associated problems of trash, noise, parking, high and constant turnover, questionable behavior and over use of fire and police services.


The result, other than profit for the developer, is what is all too obvious on the south side, a degradation of the very fabric of neighborhoods.

The history of mini-dorms in Berkeley has been so negative for the neighbors affected by them that no one, renter or buyer wishes to live near them resulting in the devaluation of adjacent properties, and sometimes whole streets.

I am quite sure that neither you, nor any family, especially a family with children, would choose live in proximity to such a property and deal with the daily negative consequences. Further, with the proliferation of mini-dorms, families wishing to live and raise their children in Berkeley have become at an increasing disadvantage being unable to compete financially with mini-dorm developers.

Granted the need in Berkeley, as in many Bay Area cities, is affordable and family housing, but not this kind of housing. Mini-dorms are neither affordable nor suitable for families. They are only a source of huge profits for their developers at a huge cost to the community.

We realize that you are probably under a great deal of pressure to dismiss the decision of the Zoning Adjustments Board on the 2610 Hillegass Ave. and 2204 Blake St. properties. We only ask that you be truly independent, as you have often stated is your goal, and stand up for the preservation of the family neighborhoods in District 8. [Editor’s note: The Berkeley City Council voted on Jan. 27 to uphold the decision of the Zoning Adjustments Board on 2610 Hillegass Avenue.]

Yes, Berkeley needs to build affordable and family housing and it can and will be done, but not housing developed at the expense of what draws people to want to live and bring up their children in Berkeley….it’s neighborhoods.

We are counting on your support.

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Joan Barnett is Co-President of the Dwight/Hillside Neighborhood Association and a long-time resident of Berkeley District 8.