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Housing and density

Gregory S. Murphy Berkeley
Saturday November 16, 2002

To the Editor: 


In response to Mr. Labriola's letter (Forum, Nov. 13) about the politically-correct blindness to the “facts” of Berkeley's housing and growth strains I ask, has he ever looked at facts? According to the Census Bureau, the population of Berkeley has remained essentially stagnant over the past 10 years. Does that mean the current complaints about growth and housing are unwarranted? No, it means we have been faced with these problems for more than a decade. The strain on growth is due to the chronic lack of housing and an increase in demands on particular neighborhoods, especially around UC where the student enrollment has gone up (off-setting the overall loss of population elsewhere in the city). Regardless of how many immigrants have come to Berkeley, the fact is they have not made the situation any different. 

The housing crisis is caused by too many people wanting to live in this particular area, and not having adequate housing stock to meet the demand. Any real estate agent can tell you this has been true for a very long time. So one solution, espoused by Mr. Labriola, is to reduce the population of Berkeley. But how? Make some sort of eligibility requirement? Only people who have lived here for 10 years can stay, everyone else has to leave? Anyone who isn't a citizen must go? How about anyone with funny-sounding names? It is an absurd, if not frightening, position when you really think about the reality of such an idea. 

The clear solution is to find a balance between housing availability and the negative effects of density. What is needed are both new ideas and proven techniques to develop housing without deteriorating the quality of life in Berkeley. It will take non-ideological, practical, and possibly even politically-risky leadership. Quite a challenge for our new Mayor-elect and the new City Council – let's hope they are up to the task. 


Gregory S. Murphy