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Against height limits

Nancy Bickel
Wednesday September 18, 2002

To the Editor: 

Regarding Michael Goldberg’s letter (Forum, Sept. 11) I don’t think Councilmember Maio would deny that there are other sources of traffic in Berkeley besides those commuting here for work. Her arguments referred to the impacts of Measure P, the height initiative, which threatens the potential for meaningful amounts of housing, particularly affordable housing, to be built in Berkeley. People who work here but live elsewhere are major contributors to Berkeley’s traffic problems. 

Mr. Goldberg states that it is a mistake for Berkeley to look at itself in isolation. Measure P is a fine example of isolationist thinking. Neighborhoods are not static and neither are cities. I am glad that Mr. Goldberg raised the issue of what other communities are doing. While Berkeley is offering the rest of the Bay Area an example of how to obstruct the provision of housing with Measure P, communities throughout the Bay Area and beyond are promoting housing in their existing commercial areas (e.g., Oakland, San Jose, Livermore, Fremont, Mountain View, etc.). The larger outcome of this strategy is to relieve pressures for development on undeveloped green space. 

I would also ask Mr. Goldberg if he believes downtown Berkeley has become a more vibrant, enjoyable place in the last 10 years. The atmosphere in Downtown Berkeley has improved because of the addition of housing and residents to the downtown as well as commercial investment. Many of our other corridors in Berkeley – University Avenue, Shattuck Avenue near the downtown core, and San Pablo Avenue - would benefit from similar investment. Buildings that have commercial services on the ground floor and housing above create safer, livelier streets. To be economically viable, these buildings need to be more than 28 feet tall, the limit proposed by Measure P. 

Certainly we can not provide housing for everyone who works in Berkeley or grew up here, but we can resist efforts to limit the expansion of housing opportunities in Berkeley. Berkeley residents can demonstrate positive leadership in the face of a regional housing crisis by voting “No on P.” 


Nancy Bickel 


League of Women Voters  

of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville