William Faulkner famously wrote “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past.” That’s especially true in Berkeley, where civic issues can persist for years after they have apparently been resolved.
Berkeley residents may see and hear a low-flying helicopter overhead on Wednesday as part of a federal program focused on measuring radiation levels.
This is a tale of why and how the citizens of Berkeley got scammed by voting for the 2010 Measure R, and then scammed again when they voted against the 2014 Measure R. Let’s start with “why”. Why is the 2010 Measure R really a high-rise, luxury condo development plan that won’t help Berkeley’s housing problems or the environment? The answer is found in the global condo market driven by speculators parking some of their $30 trillion in liquidity (see Jack Rasmus’ “Epic Recession”) in luxury housing. These mostly foreign speculators are inflating a bubble identical to the mortgage backed securities bubble that popped in 2008. Developers are not building housing that will relieve the housing crisis for moderate and low income workers in the bay area. Instead they are catering to high-end demand from both speculators and techies.
I am thrilled that we voted 3 to 1 to defeat Measure R, and that the building of new housing in downtown Berkeley will continue. Let’s build on this momentum, and get serious about addressing the massive housing shortage in our community that is hitting working families hard. Downtown is great, but we have to do an order of magnitude more to bring supply and demand into balance.
Last March after Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan received a prestigious national American Planning Association award, I wrote the following for the “Cal Planner” newsletter:
The Green Downtown Initiative is the latest chapter in the land use battle between big developers and the rest of us.
Berkeley has an international reputation as a free-thinking, expressive, welcoming and experimental city. The current battle over the city’s downtown and November’s Measure R contradicts this image of ourselves, and in the worst possible way.
Most of us want a new downtown; why are we asked over and over to keep the old one? Why do we have to fight another misleading initiative — Measure R?
Conceived with no public input and bewildering in detail, Berkeley’s Measure R sets a new low for proposals fostering bad government.
Henry Siegel is the founding principal at local architecture firm Siegel & Strain. His firm was involved in the construction of the LEED-Platinum Brower Center in downtown Berkeley and he has worked on the development of the LEED standards themselves.
In 2010, Berkeley voters overwhelmingly ratified a different Measure R, which gave city council the go-ahead to adopt the Downtown Area Plan, a plan created through an open and transparent process with wide community participation. It became law in 2012. The people who opposed the Downtown Area Plan in 2010 are now proposing a new measure, also Measure R, a complex bill that proposes to “fix” a wide range of supposed shortcomings in the Plan. These “fixes” will undo the plan, not fix it.
Recently, Berkeleyside has published two op-ed pieces in its Opinionator section on Measure R, the ballot initiative supporters say will put more “green” in local development, but which opponents argue will stop new projects that are contributing to a downtown renaissance and are bringing critical amenities to the city.