(Note: The letter’s author proposed a development for 1155 Hearst St.)
The state's rejection of the city of Berkeley's Housing Element, citing “too many development restrictions,” highlights the long litany of mistakes, delays, political chicanery and downright illegal actions designed to hinder the legal development of property in Berkeley. Such is unfortunate experience.
Our original development application met all existing zoning standards until the city, in an attempt to stop our development, downzoned our property making it financially impossible for us to build any more new units. This decision is currently the subject of legal action.
The Zoning Adjustments Board asserted that it does not need our affordable housing project (as defined by the state) to meet its state mandated goals, yet there are 4,000 families on the Section 8 waiting list, up to 3,000 homeless people in Berkeley, and the city manager is on record as stating that the city “has never met its regional fair share housing allocations.”
The ZAB denied our application, assuming incorrectly that California Housing Law is not intended to apply to Berkeley. In fact the law states that charter cities are specifically included. There is no exception in state law for Berkeley or any other city. The City Council will have an opportunity to correct this misinterpretation and avert any lawsuit.
Finally, we are not “trying to skirt the zoning rules.” In fact we have complied with everything the planners have requested. We are just a mother and daughter using our life's savings, attempting to comply with city and state law while enhancing a small rental property we have subsidized for 30 years.
If the city follows the law there will be no necessity for future action to protect our legal rights and recover some of the money lost on this endeavor. Perhaps if the laws were routinely followed without delay, housing could be built in a more timely fashion to address the waiting lists of people desperate for housing.