Page One

City to study housing plans

By John Geluardi Daily Planet Staff
Thursday February 15, 2001

The City Council adopted guidelines Tuesday to develop affordable housing on the Ashby BART parking lot and recommended that the housing be made available to city workers and teachers. 

The unanimous council approved a recommendation to consider whether building affordable housing on the west side of the parking lot would be feasible. Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek submitted the recommendation that cites Berkeley’s high housing costs, which creates a situation where most teachers and city workers can’t afford to live near their jobs. 

The parking lot is currently the site of the weekend Berkeley Fleamarket, which would have to be moved. 

Shirek said the median price of a home in Berkeley is $436,000, a purchase price that only 10 percent of the population can afford.  

“Most teachers and government workers are priced out of Berkeley’s housing market, leaving the people who provide vital services to our city locked out of living in and being part of our community,” according to the recommendation. 

Director of Housing Stephen Barton said the idea of building on the site is completely new. Staff will now be assigned to study the idea and meetings will be scheduled with BART officials to discuss the possibility. 

President of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers Barry Fike, told the council that he considers himself very lucky to own his grandmother’s former home in Berkeley, which he was able to purchase from his family at a reasonable price. “To be able to ride my bike to work every day all these years has been an incredible advantage,” he said. “I feel lucky to be able to contribute economically and emotionally to Berkeley.” 

Fike said that starting pay for teachers is $36,000 a year, which makes it impossible for them to purchase a home anywhere in the city. 

Shirek’s recommendation also said that affordable housing for Berkeley school and government workers would have added environmental benefits. “(Commuting) also exacerbates negative environmental and quality of life situations,” the recommendation says. “More cars are needed to reach work places. Traffic and parking have become nightmares for both residents and commuters.”