Open letter to: Housing Advisory Commission, Mayor, and City Council
Re: Item 8, June 1 Commission meeting; June 13 City Council Public Hearing on affordable housing

Charlene M. Woodcock
Wednesday May 31, 2017 - 02:15:00 PM

The 12/16 figures that show Berkeley has met 278% of our ABAG quota for above-median-income housing but only 3% for low-income and 4% for moderate-income residents provide more than ample justification for a strong new policy from our city council to address this intolerable imbalance.

A new policy to require 40% inclusionary low-income and family units in all new residential developments and to require all new buildings both residential and commercial to meet LEED platinum environmental efficiency standards can be made effective immediately and can apply to any project that has not yet broken ground.

At this point we surely do not need to encourage any project except for those of non-profit developers and those that that provide a significant 40% percent inclusionary low-income and family units. A lower percentage of inclusionary units or an in-lieu fee are simply inadequate to the very serious problem we now have. Additionally, it is well past time that Berkeley as a city address climate change and ensure that any new building meets much more stringent energy and natural resource efficiency requirements than the very dated LEED Gold standards.  

A legal search provides the precedent for the council’s ability to establish more stringent requirements and apply them on already approved projects where ground has not yet been broken. I’m happy to send fuller descriptions of the Spindler and Anderson decisions.  

CA(3) (3) Despite minor factual variations Spindler and Anderson are clearly controlling; they stand for the proposition that neither the existence of a particular zoning nor work undertaken pursuant to governmental approvals preparatory to construction of buildings can form the basis of a vested right to build a structure which does not comply with the laws applicable at the time a building permit is issued. By zoning the property or issuing approvals for work preliminary to construction the government [****13] makes no representation to a landowner that he will be exempt from the zoning laws in effect at the subsequent time he applies for a building permit or that he may construct particular structures on the property, and thus the government cannot be estopped to enforce the laws in effect when the permit is issued. 

We’re counting on you to do what is necessary to address Berkeley’s gentrification problem which is pushing longtime Berkeley residents and families out of their homes and changing the character and diminishing the diversity of our city. This is the issue that motivated Berkeley voters in November. We need you to address it effectively.