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Neighborhood group says they are not anti-development, not afraid of change

The Hearst-Curtis-Delaware Neighbors
Saturday April 13, 2002

The to Editor: 


On February 19, 2002, the Berkeley City Council voted by strong majority (7-1-1) to change the zoning on the north side of the 1100 block of Hearst Avenue from R3 to R2A. On November 28, 2001, the Berkeley Planning Commission voted unanimously for this zoning change.  

A recent letter to the Planet from the League of Women Voters was sharply critical of these actions, claiming that the Council was responding to neighborhood "nay-sayers". We, the Hearst-Curtis-Delaware Neighbors, would like to refute the League’s mischaracterization of the zoning change, and clarify the facts. 

Our new zoning designation, R2A, allows an additional 22 units of new housing to be added to this small, ten parcel area, which is only one side of one block. That is a 50% increase over what’s there currently.  

This neighborhood is not anti-development. Over the last ten or so years, 10 units of new housing have been added to these parcels, and many more have been added across the street.  

We have welcomed many new neighbors, and will continue to do so. The League’s letter states they favor a moderate expansion of housing. Is a 50% increase not moderate, even more than moderate? 

R3 zoning, which accommodates projects as large as hospitals, was a zoning anomaly and inappropriate for our narrow, local, residential street. This anomaly is very apparent when one looks at the City zoning map. Other areas of the City zoned R3 are areas on major transit corridors (portions of Ashby, College, Alcatraz, Oxford, and Sacramento) and in the immediate north and south campus areas. 

This anomalous zoning designation left us prey to the very kind of inappropriate development that the General Plan seeks to prevent. There are no more empty lots on this block. The more intense development encouraged by R3 zoning promotes the demolition of existing, inhabited, rent-controlled housing. Tenants could be displaced, and long-time rent-controlled units with lower rents could be lost.  

This change in zoning has almost universal support in the neighborhood. Property owners asked that our own properties be rezoned, limiting our own rights to development, in order to protect our neighborhood’s character and quality of life. 

Our neighborhood strongly supports the development and maintenance of affordable housing. Some of us live in it ourselves! The affordable housing complex owned by Resources for Community Development (RCD), which is in the rezoned area, is an anchor in our neighborhood and integral in setting both the social and physical character of the neighborhood. We would not have pursued rezoning if it had jeopardized the RCD complex. 

The University Avenue Area Plan, formally adopted as part of the new General Plan, directs denser development to the Avenue and clearly states "Protect and enhance the lower density character of surrounding neighborhoods."  

Our neighborhood deserves this protection as much as any other.  

Changing a zoning designation in Berkeley was not easy. It required months of time and hours and hours of work on the part of residents, City staff, Commissioners, and elected officials. This change was made carefully and thoughtfully. We are not afraid of change – we worked very hard to effect a positive change for our neighborhood.  

Are we "nay-sayers" or Nimbys? No! We are teachers in the Berkeley Unified School District, nurses, chefs, gardeners, musicians, office workers, and retirees, to name but a few of our professions and jobs. We are students at UC, community colleges, Berkeley High School and Berkeley grade schools. We are young, old, gay, straight, long-time residents and newcomers, renters, homeowners, Black, white, Mexican-American, Japanese-American, Spanish, Ecuadorian, French, and Middle-Eastern-American. We are the very people that the League of Women Voters wants to attract to and keep in Berkeley! We are united in our commitment to keeping our neighborhood a pleasant, safe, healthy, clean place to live and grow.  

We would have expected the League of Women Voters, who have been known for fairness and deliberation of the facts before acting, to have done a little bit more research before issuing their statement. Fortunately, the Planning Commission and the City Council did take the time to analyze the facts. Thanks to their forward-thinking actions, our neighborhood will be better able to retain its essential, attractive, Berkeley character and provide a day-to-day quality of life that keeps us living and working in Berkeley.  




The Hearst-Curtis-Delaware Neighbors