Tag Archives: Housing Trust Fund

Op-ed: Real progressives vote for housing

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Berkeley has a Downtown Plan. The path has not been smooth or simple, but thousands of hours, plus voter buy-in has solidly approved it.

It was a compromise – the outgrowth of hundreds of hours of public meetings that took place from 2005 to 2009 by a special Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission. This original plan, approved by City Council, was later overturned.

The 2010 ballot’s Measure R could only be advisory, but it gave Berkeley voters the opportunity … Continue reading »

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Real estate

New housing OK’d in Berkeley as ‘YIMBYs’ win the night

A rendering of the proposed view of 2902 Adeline, looking southwest from Adeline and Russell streets. Image: Trachtenberg Architects
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A 6-story building set to include 50 rental units and four live-work units was approved Thursday night by Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board, though neighborhood opposition will likely mean an appeal to City Council.

Nearly 300 people have signed a petition asking for changes to the project, at 2902 Adeline St. in South Berkeley, and many showed up Thursday to testify before the zoning board. Many neighbors asked the board to delay its vote until the Adeline Corridor community process is complete, or to approve a 4-story building instead.

The Adeline Corridor planning process has been underway since 2015, but it was paused while the city changed consultants to herald it through to completion, city leaders said recently. It is scheduled to end in 2017. The majority of the board, citing in part the housing crisis, did not indicate support for holding up development pending the completion of that process.

The project has drawn so much attention both because of its size and because the South Berkeley neighborhood has not seen the level of development happening in recent years around downtown, or along many of the city’s other large commercial avenues, such as University and San Pablo, in West Berkeley or in the Southside neighborhood near the UC Berkeley campus.

Supporters of the petition are lobbying for a minimum of 40% below-market-rate units in the project and more parking, as well as community benefits from developer Realtex, such as the dedication of 5% of rental proceeds to South Berkeley nonprofits. Zoning board members said Thursday night that those asks are beyond what the city can require, and a majority of the board voted to approve the project as submitted.

Public testimony lasted for more than three hours and included many passionate speakers on both sides: neighbors concerned with the project’s impacts on South Berkeley, as well as advocates of increased density, particularly on transit corridors and near BART, who say the state’s housing crisis demands timely approval of projects like this one. Unlike many zoning board meetings where public comment tends to be dominated by stiff opposition, Thursday night’s speakers included quite a few voices in favor of approval.

Many in the former group were dismissive of those in the latter camp of self-described “YIMBYs,” or “yes-in-my-back-yard” residents, who say they want to see appropriate housing built as quickly as possible. Petition-signers tended to be homeowners who are older and have lived in the city longer. Many of the YIMBYs said they didn’t live in the immediate neighborhood, were younger renters, and were more likely to be car-free or “car-light.”

“It’s fairly obvious to me who doesn’t live in the neighborhood,” one man told the board as he described the reasons for his opposition to the project. “It’s completely out of context for the neighborhood. I’m not interested in turning Berkeley into New York City.” … Continue reading »

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Judge tosses out legal challenge to Berkeley high-rise

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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An Alameda County Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied numerous challenges to the Environmental Impact Report prepared for 2211 Harold Way, meaning that construction of an 18-story, 302-unit building with 10,000-square feet of retail space and new movie theaters in Berkeley’s downtown can proceed – unless the decision is appealed.

In a 16-page ruling, Judge Frank Roesch denied the 15 claims Berkeley residents Kelly Hammargren and James Hendry had filed in January to stop the project. The two had filed separate challenges which were combined. Roesch conducted a four-hour court hearing on the challenges on Aug. 26.

In December, the city council approved the complex, which will be the largest construction project built since Berkeley adopted the Downtown Area Plan in 2012. Under the plan, density downtown was increased and Berkeley sanctioned the construction of seven towers ranging from 120 to 180 feet high. In exchange, developers were required to provide extraordinary community benefits.

City officials ordered the developer of 2211 Harold Way, HSR Berkeley Investments, to make a $10.5 million payment into the Housing Trust Fund, with another $1 million going into an arts fund. Habitot Children’s Museum, which will be displaced because of the project, will receive $250,000 of that money. The developer has also agreed to use union labor and to rebuild the Shattuck Cinemas. Berkeley applied a $6 million credit for the labor agreement and a $5.5 million credit for the theater. The developer will also have to pay into a streets fund and a childcare fund.

The first $2 million of that payment will be made when HSR Berkeley Investments obtains its building permit. Half will go into the housing fund then, and the other half to the arts fund. The developer will have to pay $3.5 million – or post a bond or otherwise guarantee payment – when it gets its occupancy permit.

‘The project team is pleased with the decision as it reinforces our perspective that the lawsuits were specious to begin with,” said Mark Rhoades of Rhoades Planning Group, which assisted Penner in the entitlement process. “The decision also reinforces the voters’ desires for the Downtown Plan as it is reflected in this project after more than 35 public meetings. The project team is currently in discussion on the next steps but the strength of the decision likely means that the project will move forward even IF there is an appeal.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Proposed Berkeley development on Adeline highlights key community issues

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Who Berkeley residents vote onto the Berkeley City Council this November could dramatically alter how the city looks in the future. The Berkeley City Council currently stands divided, with pro-development council members claiming the majority of votes, but that could all change once ballots are cast this fall. While some on the council favor more aggressive development as a way to abate the housing affordability crisis, others take issue with the rampant building that tends to favor affluent residents while displacing those without large … Continue reading »

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Proposed in Berkeley: 50 units in place of Anh Hong

A developer would like to replace Anh Hong with 50 new housing units. Image: Trachtenberg Architects
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Update: The zoning board approved this project unanimously on consent at its July 28 meeting. Commissioners Denise Pinkston and Steve Donaldson were absent and did not have substitutes, so the vote was 7-0-0. See the minutes for more information.

Original story, July 25: A Dublin-based developer has proposed to replace a downtown Berkeley Vietnamese restaurant with a 7-story building featuring 50 housing units and a 1,500-square-foot ground-floor restaurant.

The building, at 2067 University Ave., would have no car parking, but it would provide parking for 48 bikes, according to preliminary project plans submitted to the city. The project site is located just west of Shattuck Avenue and close to the downtown Berkeley BART station.

Read more about housing in Berkeley.

Project architect David Trachtenberg is representing the property owner, identified only as “2067 University Avenue Apartments,” through the city permitting process.

Use permits would be needed to demolish the existing single-story building, construct the new building, reduce side setbacks and reduce the required parking. The project — scheduled for the consent calendar Thursday night before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board — would need a use permit to reach its proposed height of nearly 75 feet.

The project seeks to use the state “density bonus” to build to that height, which means below-market-rate units would be included on site. … Continue reading »

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Luxury rental housing to replace Berkeley offices

1950 Addison. Photo: TCA Architecture
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A 2-story office building in downtown Berkeley is slated to be replaced by a 7-story building with 107 luxury apartments and no retail. The project, at 1950 Addison St., between Milvia Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, was approved Thursday night by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board.

A ground-floor parking garage will have space for 68 vehicles on lifts, and 75 bicycles. Total project height is slated to be 74 feet. The units will be a mix of studios, and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

Four of those units will be below-market-rate apartments. The developer is expected to pay $1.26 million into the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which is used to build affordable housing elsewhere in the city. The property is owned by Westwood BayRock Addison LP of San Francisco.

See the Berkeleyside real estate section.

The project is opting to take advantage of the “density bonus” and a use permit to build up to a height of seven stories. Zoning board members spent a significant amount of time discussing the density bonus and, in some cases taking issue with, how the city calculates it. (Scroll down for details.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council votes to increase inclusionary housing

Many community members attended Tuesday night's council meeting, which was slated to focus on housing. Photo: Ben Gould
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Despite an ambitious agenda, the Berkeley City Council managed Tuesday night to vote on just one policy shift related to affordable housing after attendees became outraged at proposed agenda changes put forward early in the evening by Mayor Tom Bates.

Council voted 8-1 on the Bates proposal to increase the percentage of affordable units required in new projects from 10% to 20%, and to increase the mitigation fee developers can pay if they don’t want to build those units on site. Councilman Max Anderson was the lone “no” vote.

The fee per unit — for all units in a project — is set to increase from $28,000 to $34,000, payable when the certificate of occupancy is issued. There’s a temporary discount, to $30,000, for those who pay early, when the building permit is issued. The discount is slated to sunset after 18 months. Those who choose to build below-market-rate units on site can get out of the fee or pay less, depending how many units they build.

Council asked the city manager to come back with revisions to the existing affordable housing mitigation fee ordinance, which would also “expand the level of affordability” for the below-market-rate units. Currently, units must be affordable for households earning up to 50% of the area median income; the new proposal would add a second tier of units affordable to households earning up to 80%.

The idea behind the mitigation fee is to bolster the city’s Housing Trust Fund to help Berkeley build greater numbers of affordable units around town. To some degree, there is an ideological divide between those who believe developers should include affordable units on site, and those who want to boost the city’s own fund. Proponents of the fund say it can be used to go after grants and leverage the money to get more units in town than building on site — mixed in with private developments — would allow. … Continue reading »

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City Council to focus on creation of more housing

For Rent signs on Spruce Street. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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In the past five years, the population of Berkeley has grown 5.5%, but its housing supply has only increased 1.2%.

That discrepancy, coupled with an economic boom that has pushed highly paid tech workers out of San Francisco and into the East Bay, has sent housing prices higher than ever before. Berkeley’s median rent grew $400, or 12%, to $3,584 in 2015, according to a February 2016 Berkeley city staff report. That means a person must earn $143,360 to afford a median rent apartment, according to Mayor Tom Bates. The median price of a house to buy grew even more – up 15% – to $974,000, according to staff reports.

This housing crisis is prompting the Berkeley City Council to consider about a dozen separate housing-related items on Tuesday’s agenda, including one far-reaching item put forward by Bates that includes 13 separate sections.

“Our ethnic and cultural diversity is being eroded as low- to moderate-income households are displaced or priced out,” Bates wrote in his proposal. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: A new vision for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund

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On Tuesday, the City Council will discuss Mayor Bates’s omnibus housing plan. The plan has 13 points and covers everything from condo conversions to incentivizing Section 8 vouchers and by-right development rights. Yet, his proposal is a sweeping portrait of supply side economics and does not address displacement. It is premised on the idea that increasing the supply of market rate (expensive) apartments will ease the burden on everyone else, because, the argument goes, wealthy new comers will no … Continue reading »

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Berkeley considers ways to build more affordable housing

City Council members talk to Cynthia Kroll, ABAG’s chief economist, at a special meeting to consider affordable housing issues. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Transferring development rights to allow for taller buildings. Increasing the amount of affordable housing required for large developments. Offering developers a discount if they pay into the Housing Trust Fund at the beginning of the development process rather than the end.

Read more about Berkeley affordable housing.

These were some of the ideas tossed around Tuesday night at a special city council meeting held to discuss affordable housing. While nothing was decided, the meeting brought together a broad array of people involved in housing, from economists at  the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), to UC Berkeley professors specializing in housing and gentrification, to developers, consultants, affordable housing developers, Berkeley planning staff, and people involved with government subsidized housing. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on bike sharing, PRC protest report, homeless services, housing

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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It may be another late night for the Berkeley City Council, which has two meetings Tuesday night set to include more than 60 agenda items. At 5:30 p.m., there’s a special session on the city’s economic profile, as well as updates from state Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond. For the regular 7:30 p.m. meeting, there are 19 items on the action calendar alone. There’s a public hearing on a new bike sharing program the city hopes to launch, council consideration of the Police Review Commission’s look into last year’s protests, a proposal to add homeless services to what the city already offers, and several council proposals related to living wages and housing. The latest five-year paving plan is also on the agenda, along with a resolution from the Peace and Justice Commission to end drone warfare. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on affordable housing, PRC protest report, homeless services, protest march

2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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At its Dec. 1 meeting, the Berkeley City Council is set to kick off with a special 5:30 p.m. session on affordable housing, followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m. The action calendar includes two appeals related to a Durant Avenue housing project, a look at the Police Review Commission’s report about last December’s protests, and a proposal from Councilman Jesse Arreguín to expand the city’s services for the homeless. The meeting is set to take place in the Longfellow Middle School auditorium, at 1500 Derby St. Scroll down to see the highlights and learn how to follow along. … Continue reading »

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$20K a month for Berkeley house? Skyrocketing rental prices draw crowd to housing affordability ‘teach-in’

About 180 people attended a "teach-in" about Berkeley's housing affordability crisis on Sunday. Photo: Kathleen Costanza
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About 180 people packed into Berkeley Arts Festival, a performance space in Downtown Berkeley, on Sunday to hear housing experts and advocates discuss the city’s housing affordability crisis and what can be done to make Berkeley a more affordable place to live.

Audience members lined the walls, balcony and sat on the floor for the “teach-in,” organized by the Ad Hoc Committee for a Progressive Berkeley in conjunction with eight other advocacy and tenants’ rights organizations.

Housing experts say there’s a rental affordability crisis across the country, and the Bay Area continues to be one of the most extreme cases in the nation. In 2014, median rent in Berkeley reached just over $1,300 for a one-bedroom or studio apartment, according to the American Community Survey. (The national median rent for a one-bedroom or studio is $796, according to the survey.) And Zillow, an online real estate database, currently estimates the median rent for all units and homes in Berkeley is $3,584.
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