Berkeley, California, is considering social justice policy for future housing in the northern California city by ending single-family-home zoning by December 2022.
The San Francisco Chronicle described the plan as “an effort to right the wrongs of the past and address the region’s housing crisis.”
The Berkeley City Council is set to vote next week on a “symbolic resolution” to end the ability of families to live in a home where only their family resides.
The policy targets safe and prosperous neighborhoods, according to the Chronicle:
Berkeley is the latest city looking at opening up these exclusive neighborhoods to more housing as the region struggles with exorbitant rents and home prices and increasing homelessness. Sacramento recently took a big step in allowing fourplexes in these neighborhoods and one San Francisco politician is pushing a similar plan.
Berkeley may also allow fourplexes in city neighborhoods. Next month, the council will consider that proposal, which will likely spark push-back from tenants groups fearful it could fuel displacement if more protections aren’t included.
For Berkeley, which has historically been anti-development, the moves are the latest shift as the city slowly embraces more density, including plans to add housing around the North Berkeley and Ashby stations.
Councilwoman Lori Droste, who introduced the resolution and who considers single-family homes “racist,” grew up in the Elmwood neighborhood established in 1916 and developed to put one house on each lot.
“At the time, an ordinance stated that its intent was to protect ‘the home against the intrusion of the less desirable and floating renter class,’” the Chronicle reported.
“I live in the Elmwood area where it is sort of the birthplace of single-family zoning,” Droste said. “I thought it was incumbent upon me as representing this neighborhood to say that I want to change something that I think is detrimental to the community.”
Councilman Terry Taplin, who also authored the resolution, said the same reforms that need to be made to policing should apply to housing.
“This is really a historical moment for us in Berkeley because now the racial justice reckoning really has come home,” Taplin said.
David Garcia, the policy director at left-wing University of California Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, called the proposal a “big deal.”
“It wasn’t that long ago when Berkeley wasn’t considered the most forward thinking on housing,” Garcia said.
But he also warned of harming current housing.
“It’s important to be thoughtful about these decisions because they cannot be easily reversed,” Garcia said, adding:
Creating such a significant change of land use in such a large part of the city is going to involve a lot of planning and critical thinking on how to ensure the best policy outcome. You’re going to want to make sure the policy itself does result in the kind of housing city leadership wants to see.
Jassmin Poyaoan, director of the Community Economic Justice Clinic at East Bay Community Law Center, said policies should start with the idea that “housing is a human right.”
The plan will bring 1,450 new “housing units,” about 50 percent of which would be for low-income families.
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