Affordable Housing Protest Has Been Artificially Promoted

Tuesday July 13, 2004


Local senior activists are being manipulated to participate in a protest at 2517 Sacramento St., supposedly to encourage the city to move ahead with construction of the Outback Senior housing project. Since a divided City Council already approved the project last year, the real reason for the protest can only be to artificially generate press coverage hoping to influence a pending Court of Appeal oral argument in the environmental lawsuit regarding the project. The appellate hearing is set for July 20 in San Francisco. 

An e-mail being circulated to senior citizens claims that “NIMBYs” are delaying construction of the project and that seniors should rally in protest to the City Council. 

In fact, the pending lawsuit is a good faith environmental challenge and is in no way an attempt to bar affordable housing from the site. The Neighbors for Sensible Development support affordable housing for the site but believe the city acted unlawfully in contravention of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in approving the project, a 40-unit, four-story structure on a parcel that should not exceed eight units according to Berkeley’s Master Plan.  

“Everyone agrees this site can be used for an affordable senior housing project,” said Berkeley Housing Commissioner Marie Bowman of Neighbors for Sensible Development. “However, a badly-planned project that lowers our quality of life without regard for the health of its residents is not the kind of development that Berkeley can be proud of. Everyone has the right to a healthy environment.”  

The project is planned adjacent to the site of a former gas station that contained leaking underground tanks. No environmental cleanup has been completed at the 2517 Sacramento site, and MTBE and other chemicals remain that must be properly cleaned up to protect the health and well being of potential residents. The project is also out of scale with surrounding one-story residences in a well-loved neighborhood. The lawsuit simply seeks preparation of an environmental impact report to assess impacts and feasible alternatives to allow the affordable housing project to proceed in an environmentally sensitive manner. Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association supports the neighbors’ efforts. 

The cynical and contrived manipulation of the Gray Panthers and other senior citizens who believe they are attending a rally to promote affordable housing should be recognized. 


Marie Bowman is a founder of Neighbors for Sensible Development.