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Berkeley push to finish single-family zoning takes form

A couple of years after being sued for its efforts to dam this three-unit growth on Haskell Road, Berkeley is on the verge of adopting zoning that encourages multi-unit tasks in neighborhoods throughout the town. Credit score: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

A far-reaching effort to rewrite zoning guidelines for many of Berkeley’s neighborhoods is gaining momentum.

Metropolis employees Tuesday laid out an in depth proposal for zoning modifications which are meant to encourage homeowners to construct small house buildings in neighborhoods the place they have been banned for many years.

The brand new insurance policies would additionally velocity up the approval course of for these tasks, permitting development to be greenlit and not using a public listening to.

The proposed modifications, that are nonetheless months away from a closing vote, have been prompted partly by the Metropolis Council’s name final yr to finish single-family zoning in Berkeley, which was adopted by a state regulation that abolished that class. zoning in cities all through California. . Supporters say enhancing zoning to permit extra small residences in much less dense areas can 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 tried to subvert the state’s single-family zoning regulation, SB9, or problem aggressive housing targets. However whereas Berkeley pioneered single-family zoning within the early twentieth century, and in recent times waged a authorized battle to cease a developer from constructing three homes in a residential neighborhood, the town is now poised to go far past required by SB9.

“This work will go a good distance towards increasing the housing inventory within the metropolis,” Councilman Rigel Robinson mentioned, including that the modifications would “encourage the event of housing that’s extra reasonably priced by design, create new homeownership alternatives, cut back greenhouse gasoline commuting and, as a matter of equity, assist introduce affordability to our most costly neighborhoods.”

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

Listed below are some key provisions of the Berkeley Division of Planning and Improvement proposal:

Density: There isn’t any easy reply to what number of residences property homeowners can be allowed to construct on residential neighborhood websites underneath the proposed zoning change. As an alternative, the foundations use extra complicated standards that imply bigger heaps can have an increasing number of residences, whereas smaller heaps 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 restricted to 3 models in R-1 zoned areas, however may have as many as six within the denser R-2A and MUR districts.

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

Top: The proposal permits for slight will increase in constructing top, which in most residential areas is often capped at 28 toes at present. Whereas the tasks can be restricted to a median top of 28 toes, they may rise as excessive as 35 toes at their highest level; the boundary drops 22 toes to the rear of the property.

Approvals: House tasks that meet the town’s goal set of design requirements may earn what’s often called “by proper” approval. That streamlined course of can be much like the one owners use to get yard cottages accredited, and would contain sending a discover concerning the venture to their quick neighbors. Single-family houses would nonetheless be allowed, however must undergo the longer use allow course of.

The hills: The zoning modifications would enable larger density within the Berkeley Hills, although the foundations there can be extra restrictive. Tasks would have a decrease general top restrict of 28 toes and can be topic to extra stringent density caps in comparison with different elements of the town: For many hills, a 5,000-square-foot lot may have not more than a duplex.

Shadows and views: One query dealing with Berkeley’s effort to develop a set of goal design requirements for brand new growth has been whether or not to incorporate guidelines that prohibit tasks that solid shadows on surrounding properties or block views of their neighbors. The zoning modifications don’t embody these provisions: planning employees and consultants contend that the proposed top limits can be sufficient to handle considerations about shadows and views, making extra requirements pointless for them.

Planning employees will proceed to work on the proposed zoning guidelines over the following few months in response to feedback from the Metropolis Council and the general public. A closing proposal will 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 modifications for the Southside neighborhood close to UC Berkeley, together with elevated top limits that might enable house complexes as much as 12 tales excessive on the far finish. north of Telegraph Avenue and surrounding areas. These modifications are on a quicker timeline, and the Planning Fee is predicted to choose them up later this fall.

The Metropolis Council on Tuesday appeared broadly supportive of the zoning ideas, although members additionally mentioned sure particulars.

Whereas Councilmember Sophie Hahn mentioned she understood why Berkeley is shifting towards approving tasks that meet its requirements in their very own proper, she expressed concern that doing so may stifle enter from neighbors.

“It’s true that the processes we now have in place have been utilized in some instances in an obstructionist method,” Hahn mentioned. “However I wish to make certain we’re not fully throwing the child out with the bathtub water.

“We have to construct houses, however we additionally want to verify we’re constructing a group.”

Others supported streamlined approvals as a step to make the homebuilding course of quicker, cheaper and extra predictable.

“These ensures,” Robinson mentioned, “are going to be large for the tasks.”

Resident Todd Darling was amongst a handful of public commenters who mentioned he was involved that the choice to not set requirements for shades may imply new growth may block his neighbors’ photo voltaic panels. He known as the proposed modifications “an try to remake the town, tradition and setting of Berkeley in a destructive means.”

Total, although, there was comparatively little opposition Tuesday evening to the route of upper density in Berkeley’s residential neighborhoods. As an alternative, a lot of the feedback from council members and the general public centered on methods to additional calm down rules and permit extra housing in these areas.

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

Metropolis planning employees mentioned the boundaries have been meant to encourage owners to construct smaller models, which could possibly be cheaper for renters or consumers than bigger ones, and in addition famous the boundaries wouldn’t apply to current buildings, comparable to a single-family dwelling that an proprietor desires to transform to a duplex. However defenders of density argued that the foundations would have the impact of stifling efforts to construct residences, since there are not any related limits on the dimensions of latest houses.

“Do we would like extra single-family houses or do we would like extra duplexes and triplexes?” mentioned Kevin Burke of the group East Bay for Everybody. “We ought to be offering extra incentives and discouraging single-family houses, moderately than making single-family houses actually the biggest, most worthwhile construction you could possibly construct on a parcel.”

Three councillors, Robinson, Lori Droste and Rashi Kesarwani, mentioned they shared considerations that density caps could possibly be too restrictive or complicated. They steered that Berkeley may cease utilizing density metrics altogether and as an alternative set up zoning guidelines for many neighborhoods primarily based on the overall dimension of buildings, moderately than the variety of residences they include.

“We have to resolve what we wish to regulate,” Kesarwani mentioned. “We have to regulate the constructing envelope, not the variety of models.”

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