The Planning Commission will hold the first public hearing tonight on the Southside Plan, the document designed to guide development in the area around upper Telegraph Avenue for about the next 20 years.
Debate is expected to focus on whether the plan, which divides the Southside area into four separate zones for development purposes, allows for enough new housing to be built in the area.
Andy Katz, director of city affairs for the Associated Students of California, said the ASUC had not yet taken a final position on the plan, but he did express some concern about whether it would increase the amount of housing in the area.
“We’re going to have discussions before we come out with a final position,” he said. “The spirit of the plan is consensus, so we hope the city will work in good faith to make sure that they enact policies that alleviate the housing crisis.”
John McBride, a Berkeley citizen who has followed the planning process closely, said that many of the properties that will become available for high-density housing under the plan are owned by the university.
“The ball is in the university’s court,” he said. “Are they serious about housing? The sites are there.”
Commission chair Rob Wrenn, author of the most recent draft of the plan said on Tuesday that the goal of the plan is to balance the concerns of the university, the students and local neighborhood groups.
“We’re not trying to create as much housing as possible no matter what,” he said. “Under the plan, there’s the potential to increase the population by about twenty percent. I don’t think you can double the population without destroying the area.”
The plan called for less dense development away from the high-density corridors of Telegraph and Bancroft Avenues. The goal, Wrenn said, is to “step down” from dense areas into existing single-family neighborhoods.
The Planning Commission has made finalization of the plan, which has been in development for around eight years, its top priority in the upcoming months.
The Planning Commission will meet at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave., at 7 p.m.
Contact reporter Hank Sims at firstname.lastname@example.org