Council may require developers to build low-income units in ‘opportunity zones’

Council was set to vote on whether to require developers to include affordable housing units in their projects downtown and in parts of South and West Berkeley. The item was postponed.

Opportunity zones in Berkeley. The Adeline Corridor is marked in black. Source: Councilwoman Kate Harrison’s office

Update: Councilwoman Kate Harrison postponed the opportunity zone item to a later date, which has not been set. There was no discussion on it.

Original story: The Berkeley City Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether to require developers to include affordable units in housing projects downtown and in parts of South and West Berkeley.

Under the current rules, developers in Berkeley have a choice about whether to build below-market-rate units on-site or pay a fee to the city’s Housing Trust Fund. The city leverages Housing Trust Fund dollars 4-to-1 and is using it to help pay for 100% affordable projects like those on Berkeley Way and at 1601 Oxford St.

The new proposal, from council members Kate Harrison, Ben Bartlett, Cheryl Davila and Sophie Hahn, would require developers to build inclusionary units in construction projects in any of the city’s “Qualified Opportunity Zones.” If approved, the new law would apply to any project with 10 or more units. It would require 20% of all units in a project to be affordable.


In 2017, President Donald Trump established opportunity zones as part of his tax cuts “to revitalize low-income communities and incentivize investment there by delaying capital gains taxes, entirely circumventing federal taxes on profits” made there, according to the council item. Proponents say the new law will result in more low-income housing in the city.

There are five census tracts in Berkeley that are on the opportunity zone list, according to the item: downtown, the Adeline Corridor, South Berkeley between Sacramento Street and Shattuck Avenue, and the area in West Berkeley bordered by University Avenue and Dwight Way to the north and south, and San Pablo Avenue and Fifth Street to the east and west.

Critics of the item — including Berkeley Councilwoman Lori Droste — say it will lead to less affordable housing and is opposed by firms that build it, such as Bridge and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates.

Droste described the policy in a lengthy thread on Twitter as “an overall home killer.”


On Tuesday night, the City Council is also set to consider placing a charter amendment on the November ballot to replace the city’s Police Review Commission with a new “police board.” (See Item 38.)

There are also significant contracts on Tuesday’s consent calendar, including a $35 million contract to rebuild Tuolumne Camp (Item 22); $3.5 million to rebuild the Berkeley Rose Garden pergola (Item 6); a 60-year lease at the Berkeley Marina for the Doubletree Hotel, which will give $2 million to the city for street improvements (Item 18); “complete streets” improvements on Sacramento Street set to cost $2.5 million (Item 25); and nearly $5 million for street paving and other rehabilitation throughout Berkeley (Item 27).

The regular City Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. Berkeley has published a guide for the public on how to participate in virtual meetings. See the full agenda on the city website. Berkeleyside will tweet highlights of the meeting on Twitter (there’s no account needed to view the feed).

Emilie Raguso is Berkeleyside’s senior news editor. Email: emilie@berkeleyside.com. Twitter: emraguso. Phone: 510-459-8325.