While there’s always more than enough to think about in this special City that we call home, from what readers have told us, there are the two big issues swirling around right now – yet another piece of State legislation, AB 2923 which would take some very sensitive neighborhood land use decisions away from our City Council and give that authority to BART, and – the upcoming elections. So, let’s take a look…
What is AB 2923?
AB 2923 amends the Public Utilities Code regarding BART. It was introduced on February16, 2018 by Assembly Member David Chiu (San Francisco and Timothy Grayson (Concord).
Co-authors are Kevin Mullin (Speaker Pro Tem), Richard Bloom (Santa Monica), and Philip Y. Ting (San Francisco) – (you might remember him from our E-News Issue No. 23 about SB 827).
AB 2923 went through the usual process, was amended and approved by the Assembly and Senate, and sent to Governor Brown on August 29, 2018 for signature.
Who supported/opposed AB 2923 and why?
Supporters say the bill is part of the solution to the Bay Area’s traffic and housing problem because it would remove road-blocks thrown up by cities or NIMBY neighborhoods to development on the large amounts of existing underused land around BART stations. Supporters include Berkeley’s representatives, Assembly Member Tony Thurmond, Senate Member Nancy Skinner and BART Board Member Rebecca Saltzman. Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, was quoted in The East Bay Times, August 23, 2018, that his group was engaged in “a full-court press” to get the bill passed. The bill is also supported by business groups and The San Francisco Chronicle.
Opponents say land-use decisions should be left to the cities who know their areas better and that BART has its own major problems of inefficient service, financial ineptitude, labor troubles and runaway crime that should be addressed before they take on any added responsibilities. Opponents include Alameda County Supervisors Haggarty and Mitchoff, the Mayors of Fremont, Hayward, Lafayette, Pleasant Hill, Albany, Livermore, Antioch, Concord, Danville, Richmond and Dublin, a Councilmember from Pittsburg, and three BART Board Directors, Debra Allen, Tom Blaloch, and John McPartland. The bill is also opposed by The East Bay Times.
What position did the city of Berkeley take?
At the City Council meeting of May 29, 2018, the Council approved a resolution to oppose AB 2923 unless it was amended to: Limit BART’s purview to density and height; Local government should retain control over height; Require BART to cooperate and coordinate with local governments to create a process regarding affordability and height requirements; Increase the minimum requirements for affordable housing; and, limit application of the bill to current BART properties.
|Voting Yes:||Mayor Arreguin and Councilmembers Davila, Harrison, Maio and Wengraf.|
|Voting No:||Councilmembers Bartlett, Droste, Hahn and Worthington|
But this is what the final version of AB 2923 does:
AB 2923 requires
- BART is to adopt an ordinance that sets transit-oriented development (TOD) zoning that establishes “the lowest permissible” requirements for height, density, and floor area ratio and “the highest allowable” parking standards.
- Local jurisdictions are to adopt a local zoning ordinance that conforms to the TOD zoning standards and is operative by July 1, 2020.
- If local zoning is inconsistent with the TOD zoning standards after July 1, 2020, BART’s TOD standards become the local zoning for any BART-owned property within ½ mile of any existing BART Station entrance. The BART Board determines compliance.
- A certain minimum of residential housing units are to be affordable and construction must be in compliance with specific labor requirements.
- BART must establish a parking replacement policy that is consistent with the District’s “provision to ensure that after construction of the eligible TOD project, auto-dependent stations are still accessible by private auto.” For any station where commuter traffic is reduced as a result of a TOD project, BART shall fund an access plan that “maintains access for at least the number of customers affected by the reduced number of commuter parking spaces, which shall include specific consideration for customers who live further than the one-half mile from the station.” TOD project parking cannot be associated with any residential or commercial use.
- The height of a TOD project cannot be higher that one story, 15 feet, above the highest approved height within ½ mile of a district parcel or entrance on July 1, 2018, including those that are conditional approvals.
What has BART done about building on property they own?
In March 2018, at the community meeting regarding development on the North Berkeley BART Station, BART officials stated:
- BART has completed 11 projects that included 1,975 housing units with 31% of them affordable.
- Seven additional projects are under construction that will include 1,872 housing units with 15% of them affordable when completed.
- Six more projects have been approved, or are being negotiated.
What are existing guidelines used by BART for TOD projects?
BART’s existing guidelines were approved in 2016 and call for 20,000 new housing units by 2040, 35% of which are to be below market rate, and an additional 4.5 million square feet of commercial space.
What’s the potential for BART TOD projects in Berkeley?
The Downtown Station in Berkeley probably will not be affected since there is little BART owned property on which to build.
Both the South Berkeley Ashby Station and the North Berkeley Station will be affected. We’ve already reported on the community meeting on this issue held in March in our E-News Issue Number 23. We will report on the Adeline Corridor in an upcoming issue, as this will involve the Ashby BART Station – an area with several new and potential mixed use projects and one that is further complicated by the fact that the City owns the air rights over that BART Station.
On the other hand, the North Berkeley BART Station is very different from all other BART stations in that it is right in the middle of a low-density residential neighborhood, constructed over an underground tunnel, and is surrounded by a parking lot. It is classified by BART as “Urban with Parking Unclassified,” and it is not zoned by the city of Berkeley. It is said that 385 people currently are on a waiting list to reserve parking space at this station.
Carefully reading items #5 and #6 on the list of AB 2923’s requirements, BART may or may not have to replace on a one-for-one basis the current number of parking spaces. Certainly it means they could skip the waiting list entirely. But it’s a question in our minds that because of the “special consideration” that must be given to the number of existing parking spaces held by persons with addresses that are over ½ mile from the station mean that the replacement number would be only that number? That’s a question we need to pose to the City’s planning and transportation staff in our upcoming forum.
Additionally, and more importantly, is the height question. AB 2923 allows one story over the existing allowable, including allowable by conditional permit and presumably by also with density bonus, etc. height limit from the edge of the BART parcel – not the entrance of the station itself. One-half mile equals 2,640 feet. The area from the edge of BART’s parcel at the south east corner of Delaware and Sacramento to University Avenue is well within that area! The surrounding area within ½ mile of the parcel includes R-1 and R-1A mostly on the north with some on the east and west sides of the property, and C1 on the south side, possibly even across University where there is a strip of R-4. Further, does “allowed height” mean buildings already built, or those that haven’t yet been built but that might be allowed under a Conditional Use Permit, Administrative Use Permit, density bonus or other developer concessions? And, how does the floor area ratio affect these height limits? These are essential questions that need to be addressed since this means the height of buildings which could be allowed on the North Berkeley BART parking lot. BNC honestly doesn’t know the answers or where to find them, but they need to be found!
Stay tuned as to whether Governor Brown signs this bill. If you are a subscriber to BNC you will receive an e-mail notice when we hear. If signed, you will most certainly hear more about how this bill will affect our City.
Mayor Arreguin and Councilmember Maio are hosting an Open House on Sunday, October 13, 4:00 to 6:00 pm (drop in any time) at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. They are asking people who might want to present an idea for what should be constructed on the North Berkeley BART Station parking lot bordered by Sacramento, Delaware, Acton and Virginia (housing is encouraged) to reserve a spot to show case their ideas at the Open House by Friday, October 5, 3:00 pm. To do this you must use an online Reservation Form. Contact number is 510-981-7100 or email@example.com. Then at the October 13th Open House, people will have the opportunity to view these presentations, share ideas, and comment on the ideas that other community members put forward.
The November 6, 2018 Berkeley City Election
As you all know (or should know by now), the Berkeley Neighborhoods Council is a tax-deductible organization (501(c)3) that does not endorse candidates. We can, however, provide fair and impartial election information to our readers, and in that vein, we are listing below all the candidates that the City lists as running for election in November 2018, along with the title which the candidate has self-selected to appear on the ballot following his/her name.
It’s a fairly long list, and we are presenting it now because undoubtedly readers will come across these candidates in the many house parties, forums, etc. that will pop up between now and November. We thought some of you might want to have given some thought to candidates before you go to these events. That’s the primary reason we are posting this list. However, in order to make that process a little more productive, we have also listed who from existing or former Berkeley City Councils is supporting them. Since many of our readers are active in their neighborhoods particularly around land use issues, we thought such a list might connect the dots and contribute to your understanding of the basic philosophy of the candidates you are considering. But YOU must draw your own conclusions, ask direct questions and consider the larger picture each presents. That part is all up to you, as you find out who and where their other support comes from and carefully consider their statements. Also, remember, the lack of supporters who are or have served on the City Council is also important, depending on how you feel about what has or has not been done.
Remember, the list below contains only those names that are listed by the candidate on the statements each candidate has supplied to the City. The candidate may or may not have other important elected or individual names as supporters that you may or may not want to consider.
So this is the list: (Note: These are listed in their ballot order as determined by the City)
City Council Candidates for District 1: (seat is currently held by Linda Maio, who is not running for re-election)
Rashi Kesarwani, Government Finance Manager
List includes: Nancy Skinner, Lori Droste, Darryl Moore and Laurie Capitelli
Igor A. Tregub, Rent Boardmember/Engineer
List includes: Gus Newport, Jesse Arreguin, Veronika Fukson, Kriss Worthington, Gordon Wozniak, Ying Lee
Margo Schueler, Civil Engineer
List includes: Loni Hancock and Linda Maio
Mary Behm-Steinberg, Community Volunteer
City Council Candidates for District 4: (seat is currently held by Kate Harrison, who is running for re-election)
Kate Harrison, Berkeley Councilmember/Consultant
List includes: Jesse Arreguin, Gus Newport, Sophie Hahn, Cheryl Davila, Ben Bartlett and Gordon Wosniak
Gregory Magofna, Elder Nutrition Manager
List includes: Loni Hancock, Tom Bates, Lori Droste, Susan Wengraf and Darryl Moore
Ben Gould, Sustainability Policy Analyst
List includes: Lori Droste, Susan Wengraf, Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore
City Council Candidatesfor District 7: (seat is currently held by Kris Worthington, who is not running for re-election)
Cecilia “Ces” Rosales, Small Business Owner
List includes: Linda Maio, Susan Wengraf, Lorie Droste and Darryl Moore
Rigel Robinson, Student Government Officer
List includes: Jesse Arreguin, Kriss Worthington, Lori Droste and Ben Bartlett
Aidan Hill, Berkeley Dog Walker
City Council Candidates District 8: (seat is currently held by Lori Droste, who is running for re-election)
Mary Kay Lacey, Planning Commissioner/Attorney
List includes: Sophie Hahn, Kate Harrison and Ying Lee
Lori Droste, City Councilmember/Professor
List includes: Linda Maio, Susan Wengraf, Ben Bartlett, Nancy Skinner, Gordon Wosniak and Loni Hancock
Afred Twu, Designer, Artist
Russ Tillernan, Green Transportation Designer