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Berkeley’s push to finish single-family zoning takes form

A couple of years after being sued over its efforts to dam this three-unit improvement on Haskell Road, Berkeley is poised to undertake zoning that encourages multi-unit initiatives in neighborhoods all through town. Credit score: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

A large-reaching effort to rewrite zoning guidelines for many of Berkeley’s neighborhoods is coming into focus.

Metropolis employees on Tuesday offered an in depth proposal for zoning adjustments that intention to encourage property house owners to construct small condominium buildings in neighborhoods the place they have been successfully banned for many years.

The brand new insurance policies would additionally pace up the approval course of for these initiatives, permitting building to be green-lit with out a public listening to.

The proposed adjustments — that are nonetheless months away from a remaining vote — have been pushed partially by the Metropolis Council’s name final yr to finish single-family zoning in Berkeley, which was adopted by a state regulation abolishing that zoning class in cities all through California . Supporters say upzoning to permit extra small residences in less-dense areas may even assist Berkeley meet a state mandate to approve plans for practically 9,000 new houses over the following eight years.

A number of California cities have sought to subvert the state’s single-family zoning regulation, SB9, or problem the aggressive housing targets. However whereas Berkeley pioneered single-family zoning within the early 1900s, and lately fought a authorized battle to dam a developer from constructing three houses in a residential neighborhood, town is now poised to go properly past what SB9 requires.

“This work will go 1000’s to increase the inventory of housing within the metropolis,” stated Councilmember Rigel Robinson, including that the adjustments would “encourage the event of housing that’s extra inexpensive by design, create new possession alternatives, scale back commute emissions and, as a matter of fairness, assist introduce affordability into our costliest neighborhoods.”

The zoning adjustments that have been offered to the Metropolis Council on Tuesday would have an effect on areas Berkeley classifies as “low-density residential,” which make up simply over 60% of town.

Listed here are some key provisions of the proposal from Berkeley’s Planning and Improvement Division:

density: There isn’t any easy reply for what number of condominium property house owners can be allowed to construct on websites in residential neighborhoods underneath the proposed zoning change. The principles as an alternative use extra advanced standards that successfully imply bigger tons can be allowed to have extra and larger residences, whereas smaller tons can be restricted to fewer. These limits additionally fluctuate among the many several types of residential zones in Berkeley: a 5,000-square-foot property can be capped at three items in areas zoned R-1, however may have as many as six within the denser R-2A and MUR districts. .

A map from metropolis planning employees highlights the areas of Berkeley that may be affected by the proposed zoning adjustments, which cowl simply over 60% of town. Credit score: Metropolis of Berkeley

Peak: The proposal permits for slight will increase in constructing top, which in most residential areas is usually capped at 28 ft right now. Whereas initiatives can be restricted to a median top of 28 ft, they might rise as excessive as 35 ft at their tallest level; the restrict drops to 22 ft towards the rear of the property.

Approvals: Condominium initiatives that adjust to town’s set of goal design requirements may get what’s referred to as “by-right” approval. That streamlined course of can be much like the one owners use to get approval for yard cottages, and would contain sending discover in regards to the challenge to its speedy neighbors. Single-family houses would nonetheless be allowed, however they must undergo the longer use allow course of.

The hills: The zoning adjustments would permit for larger density within the Berkeley Hills, although the principles there can be extra restrictive. Initiatives would have a decrease total top restrict of 28 ft and can be topic to tighter density caps in comparison with different components of town: for a lot of the hills, a 5,000 square-foot lot couldn’t have greater than a duplex.

Shadows and views: One query dealing with Berkeley’s effort to develop a set of goal design requirements for brand new improvement has been whether or not to incorporate guidelines proscribing initiatives that forged shadows on surrounding properties or block their neighbors’ views. The zoning adjustments do not embrace these provisions — planning employees and consultants include the proposed top limits can be enough to deal with issues about shadows and views, making additional requirements for them pointless.

Planning employees will proceed engaged on the proposed zoning guidelines over the approaching months in response to suggestions from the Metropolis Council and public. A remaining proposal is ready to go earlier than the Planning Fee early subsequent yr and the Metropolis Council someday within the spring.

Metropolis employees on Tuesday additionally shared a separate set of potential zoning adjustments for the Southside neighborhood close to UC Berkeley, together with elevated top limits that would permit condominium complexes as much as 12 tales tall on and across the north finish of Telegraph Avenue. These adjustments are on a sooner timeline, with the Planning Fee anticipated to take them up later this fall.

The Metropolis Council on Tuesday seemed to be broadly supportive of the zoning ideas, although members additionally scrutinized sure particulars.

Whereas Councilmember Sophie Hahn stated she understood why Berkeley is shifting towards by-right approval for initiatives that adjust to its requirements, she expressed concern that doing so may stifle enter from neighbors.

“It’s true that the processes that we’ve got have been utilized in some situations in obstructionist methods,” Hahn stated. “However I need to make it possible for we’re not utterly throwing out the infant with the bathwater.

“We have to construct housing, however we additionally have to make it possible for we’re constructing a group.”

Others supported the streamlined approvals as a step to make the method of constructing housing sooner, cheaper and extra predictable.

“These ensures,” Robinson stated, “will likely be large for initiatives.”

Resident Todd Darling was amongst a handful of public commenters who stated he was involved the choice to not set requirements for shadows may imply new developments may block their neighbors’ photo voltaic panels. He known as the proposed adjustments “an try and remake town, tradition and surroundings of Berkeley in a damaging method.”

General, although, there was comparatively little opposition Tuesday evening to the path of larger density in Berkeley’s residential neighborhoods. As an alternative, most of the feedback from councilmembers and the general public targeted on methods to additional loosen the laws and permit for extra housing in these areas.

A number of audio system from native Sure In My Yard (YIMBY) organizations took subject with the coverage’s proposed density caps, which might set comparatively low limits on the dimensions of residences in multi-unit initiatives.

Metropolis planning employees stated the bounds have been meant to encourage property house owners to construct smaller items, which might be cheaper for renters or consumers than larger ones, and likewise famous the caps would not apply to current buildings resembling a single-family dwelling that an proprietor needs to transform right into a duplex. However density advocates argued the principles would have the impact of stifling efforts to construct residences, since there are usually not related limits on the dimensions of recent homes.

“Do we would like extra single-family houses, or do we would like extra duplexes and triplexes?” Kevin Burke of the group East Bay for Everybody stated. “We needs to be offering additional incentives and discouraging single-family houses, as an alternative of constructing single-family houses actually essentially the most worthwhile and largest construction you could possibly construct on a parcel.”

Three councilmembers — Robinson, Lori Droste and Rashi Kesarwani — stated they shared the priority that the density caps might be too restrictive or advanced. They steered Berkeley may transfer away from utilizing density metrics altogether and as an alternative set zoning guidelines for many neighborhoods primarily based on the general dimension of buildings, fairly than what number of residences they include.

“We have to determine what it’s we need to regulate,” Kesarwani stated. “We should be regulating the constructing envelope, not the variety of items.”

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