Tag Archives: Berkeley affordable housing

Op-ed: Berkeley must insist that developers build more affordable housing than currently required

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It appears that the Mayor and City Council of Berkeley, which has had the reputation of being one of the most progressive cities on the west coast, have been practicing embarrassingly stingy NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”) with regards to affordable housing in the city.  They are in the process of approving a number of new residence high-rise buildings in downtown Berkeley that will be so high that they will require zoning changes to allow for the taller buildings and greater density.  Yet they are requiring too little in return from the developers!

In sharp contrast to this is Mayor de Blasio of New York City, who was in town recently and held a conversation with Robert Reich at the Freight & Salvage on May 14. He responded to questions afterward, the first two of which concerned affordable housing.  He stated that it is the policy in NYC to have “mandatory inclusionary zoning, which would require developers to include affordable units in new buildings in return for zoning changes to allow for taller buildings and greater density.”  And, if the developers refused to include a mandatory minimum of affordable housing, the city could find a different developer.  Period.  No exceptions.  And the percentage of affordable housing units per building is really high – 20 or 30%. … Continue reading »

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Neighbors outline demands for Adeline Corridor grant

About 100 South Berkeley residents gathered Saturday to discuss community demands for a plan to revitalize the area. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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About 100 neighbors gathered Saturday morning at the South Berkeley Community Church to work on a document outlining their hopes for the city’s revitalization of the Adeline Corridor.

It was the second meeting of Friends of Adeline, a community group created after the city was awarded a $750,000 planning grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission last year. At a public information session hosted by the city in January, many residents said they were concerned the project would threaten the diversity and history of the neighborhood.

With the encouragement of Councilman Max Anderson, neighbors convened for the first time in April to begin to draft a “manifesto” to present to the city and MIG, the Berkeley-based project consultant that will oversee the grant.

“We are a resident-led group here,” said Chris Schildt, who facilitated Saturday’s meeting with planning commissioner and Berkeley native Ben Bartlett. “I think it’s important to recognize that, while the city is creating this process for us, we need to make sure that we know, and as a collective voice can say, what neighbors want.” … Continue reading »

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City may boost affordable housing with density bonus

This proposed four-story, 23-unit project on San Pablo Avenue is partially funded by Berkeley’s Housing Trust Fund. Image: HKIT Architects
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The city of Berkeley is looking at how to build up its affordable housing stock by giving developers an alternative to a state law that grants them extra density in exchange for including affordable units on site.

Under the proposal, from Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli, developers of rental housing seeking a density bonus would not have to include below-market-rate units in their projects. They would instead pay new fees that could potentially bring millions into the city’s Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing, Bates said.

The state density bonus allows developers who include 11% below-market-rate units meeting very-low-income standards to add 35% more units to the project. Council previously created a $20,000-per-unit fee for developers who prefer not to include affordable units on site and do not seek the density bonus. But most projects that have come before the city have elected to take the bonus — to get the extra units — which has meant that little money has come into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: How to get more affordable housing in Berkeley

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One of the most contentious issues facing Berkeley is how to require developers to help provide affordable housing. We are proposing a new approach.

Everyone agrees we face a critical shortage of affordable housing, but what’s the best way to increase it?

Under current City law, developers of market-rate rental housing projects are required to pay an “affordable housing mitigation fee” into the Housing Trust Fund, which funds affordable housing in Berkeley. There was considerable debate when we voted with … Continue reading »

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Urban planning

Op-ed: Let’s build the housing that Berkeley needs

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Berkeley is in urgent need of affordable housing. We do NOT need more market-rate and upscale rentals and condos; that need has been more than adequately served. We need housing for families and low-income people who are being pushed out of Berkeley.

The adult children of middle class families cannot find affordable housing in their hometown. If Berkeley is to retain its valued character based on economic, racial, and cultural diversity, we must slow the rapidly rising rents that encourage … Continue reading »

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At B-Side: Implications of downtown Berkeley initiative

At the first B-Side forum co-sponsored by The Hub and Berkeleyside, participants debated the merits of this fall's downtown initiative. From left, Lance Knobel of Berkeleyside, Jesse Arreguín and Eric Panzer. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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About 50 people gathered at Berkeley’s David Brower Center last week for a discussion about 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.

Berkeley Councilman Jesse Arreguín faced off against Eric Panzer, chair of Livable Berkeley and the treasurer of the group opposing the initiative. They joined Berkeleyside co-founder Lance Knobel at Impact Hub Berkeley last Tuesday evening in the first of a series of informal discussions about Berkeley issues — co-sponsored by Berkeleyside and the Hub — called The B-Side.Continue reading »

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New affordable housing project headed for Berkeley

This proposed four-story building on San Pablo Avenue, to include 23 units, would be built with money from Berkeley's Housing Trust Fund. Image: HKIT Architects
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A vacant lot in West Berkeley is slated to become an affordable housing complex aimed mostly at people with disabilities after a unanimous vote by the city zoning board last week.

Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA), a Berkeley-based non-profit housing developer, sought permission from the board July 10 to modify a use permit originally granted to a different property owner in 2007.

SAHA representative Jonathan Astmann told the Zoning Adjustments Board that the project at 2748 San Pablo Ave. (at Grayson Street) would provide 17 rentals for people with disabilities, including three for families with a member who has HIV/AIDS. The project had been approved previously as condominiums.

Read more local real estate and development coverage on Berkeleyside.

The four-story project would have 23 units, unchanged in number from the earlier permit, but requested a reduction in parking spaces — from 27 to 13 — to fit the needs of residents. Astmann said SAHA property residents tend to own fewer vehicles. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Why oppose building new homes for the homeless?

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The homeless are the most marginalized and dispossessed people in the United States. To be homeless is to experience a wide spectrum of discrimination. In the past decade, legislation seeking to criminalize the homeless has gained popularity in cities that are fed up or exasperated with the “homeless problem”.

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty reported that between 30% and 50% of major American cities criminalize some form of homelessness, ranging from “aggressive” panhandling to simply sitting on the sidewalk.

Our own city … Continue reading »

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‘Innovative’ housing with rooftop farms set for Southside

Garden Village, 2201 Dwight, Berkeley. Image: Nautilus Group
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City zoning board members approved a 77-unit mixed-use housing development near downtown Berkeley late last week, expressing excitement about a “unique” design set to include more than a dozen working rooftop farm plots and a novel approach to parking.

“Garden Village,” at 2201 Dwight Way at Fulton Street, brings with it a number of innovative features, from its composition — it’s made up of 18 distinct but connected “volumes,” or towers, that range in height from 3 to 5 stories and are connected by open-air walkways; its more than 12,000 square feet of rooftop farming plots; and its small garage, which offers just enough space for a fleet of shared vehicles that will be rentable by tenants.

Without the car-sharing idea, the project would have required room for 71 vehicles. Instead, Berkeley-based developer Nautilus Group decided it would purchase a fleet of four to 10 automobiles and contract with a car-sharing operator called Getaround to run the “car-share pod” operation. (The city required Nautilus to pay for a parking demand study to bolster the justification for that approach.)

Zoning board Commissioner Shoshana O’Keefe described the concept as potentially “genius,” adding that the notion of projects that fold effective car-sharing programs into their plans “might be the magic solution” to the hairy issue of meeting parking demand efficiently in a densely-populated community. … Continue reading »

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‘The Aquatic’ wins easy approval from Berkeley officials

The Aquatic mixed-use development at 800 University Ave. in Berkeley could open by summer 2015. Image: Trachtenberg Architects
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A proposal for a new University Avenue mixed-use development, set to include 58 units, sailed through Berkeley zoning board review Thursday night, winning acclaim from commissioners for what they said was its beautiful design and sensitivity to the surrounding neighborhood.

The 45- to 55-foot-tall building will feature 1,175 square feet of office or retail space, and 60 parking spaces. Two structures currently on site — which have housed a construction company, a veterinary clinic (circa 1973) and, later, medical research labs — will be demolished to make way for the project, which is named “The Aquatic” and was designed by Berkeley-based Trachtenberg Architects. (See the project staff report here.)

The building project site, at 800 University Ave. on the south side of the street, straddles two different zoning designations; as a result, the north side of the property will reach five stories, and the southern portion will rise to just four. Parking will be provided in both a ground-floor garage and an open lot behind the building. Four units in the development will be available to very-low income residents, and the project will put $240,000 into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-Ed: Why Berkeley needs more affordable housing

Dan Sawislak on Sacramento - Cropped
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If you happened to come across a group of people on bikes criss-crossing their way through Berkeley last Sunday afternoon, you may have caught a glimpse of this year’s Berkeley Affordable Housing Bike Tour. The tour was one of the events held as part of the East Bay Housing Organization’s Affordable Housing Week.

A group of people on bikes gathered on Oxford outside the offices of Resources for Community Development (RCD), the non-profit that organized the tour. The group consisted of a variety of housing activists, community members, and representatives from other affordable housing developers, who set out to learn about over 15 affordable housing sites in Downtown, South and West Berkeley.

Dan Sawislak, Executive Director of RCD led the tour and offered a wealth of information about the history of affordable housing, how projects are funded and the benefits to residents. The tour included a wide variety of housing projects ranging from the five unit 9th Street Cooperative, to the Harriet Tubman Terrace with 90 units for  seniors on Adeline, to Harmon Gardens on Sacramento, a 16-unit building for youth transitioning out of the foster care system, and other small to large sites. Some projects housed the formerly homeless and others specialized in serving people with disabilities, low-income families with children and/or people with special needs. Some of the housing we visited also offered on-site supportive services, including medical clinics, counseling, resident activities, and classes. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley aims to bolster housing fund with fee discount

Six housing projects buffering the downtown area are in the pipeline that would be subject to the city's affordable housing requirements.
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Berkeley officials voted Tuesday night to reduce, temporarily, a fee required of developers in hopes of both replenishing a city fund for affordable housing and curtailing building heights in projects planned to buffer downtown.

The Berkeley City Council has, for quite some time, grappled with how to build up its affordable housing stock. Developers in Berkeley are required to provide a certain amount of affordable housing, either by paying into a city fund that’s used to build this housing elsewhere, or by including below-market-rate units in their projects.

If they elect to pay rather than build, the money goes into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. The fund was established in 1990 to pool available federal, state and local money for these projects. Some officials have said the city might be able to build more units, as compared to what private developers would produce, if developers pay into the public fund. … Continue reading »

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Council sets fee for affordable housing mitigation

Housing
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Developers of new residential rental properties in Berkeley can now choose to pay into a special city fund instead of including on-site affordable housing after an 8-1 vote Tuesday by the City Council. It’s the latest step by City Hall to create policies that will increase Berkeley’s affordable housing stock.

But whether developers will choose to pay the fee remains to be seen, and some members of the City Council caution that setting the fee too high could have unintended, unavoidable, consequences for future projects.

The city requires developers of new market-rate rental properties to make one of their units affordable — to households earning 50% or less of the region’s median family income — for every 10 market rate units. This means that the units would have to be affordable, for example, to a family of three in Berkeley making $42,100 or less. … Continue reading »

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