The Truth about Maps Showing the Effects of SB827

Thomas Lord
Tuesday October 09, 2018 - 01:29:00 PM
Transit Priority Project Eligible Areas
Transit Priority Project Eligible Areas
SB827 Map
SB827 Map

A recent op-ed and comments, published on Berkeleyside.com, make outrageously false claims about a map that I shared with a number of people in January of 2018. The op-ed and the comments use these falsehoods in an attempt to influence the upcoming vote for District 8 City Council Member.

I thought it might be helpful to provide the truth. In part, this is because the voters of District 8 should not be misled by the Berkeleyside op-ed. In part, it is because the falsehoods in the Berkeleyside piece are about me, personally.

Some background: SB827 is a bill introduced into the state Senate on January 3 by Scott Wiener, and with our own Senator Nancy Skinner listed as one of two principal coauthors.

The purpose of the bill is to over-ride certain local land use powers in geographic areas the bill identifies as "transit rich". In such areas, the bill would exempt eligible projects from local limits on residential density, floor area ratio, parking requirements, design standards that might otherwise limit the number of units (for example Berkeley's requirement that bedrooms in apartment buildings have windows), and certain height limits. To be eligible, a project would be required to provide a very small number of so-called affordable units.

When the bill first came out, Senator Wiener's office conspicuously failed to provide maps of the geographic areas that would be impacted. Housing activists quickly noticed, however, that the geography impacted by SB827 would be nearly identical in effect, at least in this region, to Transit Priority Project Eligible Areas, as defined in California Public Resources Code Section 21155.1.

That was helpful because the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) had recently prepared a map of those Transit Priority Project areas. That is the map you can see in Berkeleyside. I have included a copy of it here. I have also included a copy of a map that MTC made later, for SB827 specifically. You can see for yourself that, indeed, the Transit Priority Project Eligible map and the SB827 map are nearly identical. (See also the editorial "SB 827 (Skinner, D-Berkeley) will destroy local land use control", Berkeley Daily Planet January 6, 2018 -- three days after SB827 was introduced.) 

The MTC map we circulated in January 2018 was extremely helpful to housing activists scrambling to understand the bill's impacts. This allowed us to organize statewide, quickly and effectively. The conclusions we drew from that first map have been vindicated by every successive refinement of the mapping, including some recent noteworthy analysis released by the Urban Displacement Project at UC Berkeley. ("SB 827 2.0: What are the implications for Bay Area communities?", Miriam Zuk, Ian Carlton, Anna Cash; published October 1, 2018.) 

So, what about Berkeleyside? 

In the article "Opinion: In District 8 race, Candidate Mary Kay Lacey distorts City Councilwoman Lori Droste's position" (October 8, 2018) the headline writer provides this subtitle: 

Lacey has been showing Elmwood residents a fake map that exaggerates where "high-rises" would be permitted with a new state law and is saying (falsely) that Droste supports it. 

The map is not "fake". Nor was it, as the op-ed itself twice claims, "fabricated". Berkeleyside published these outrageous assertions - and a picture of the map with my name attached, without the slightest fact checking. 

In the comments, Tor Berg (who I replaced on Berkeley's Housing Advisory Commission), asserts that I prepared the map for the Housing Advisory Commission. I did not. I provided a snapshot of the map to the Berkeley Daily Planet and others. 

Tor Berg correctly notes that, months later, the MTC released an SB827-specific map - but he omits that the January map was also by the MTC, and that it did a good job of providing the earliest understanding of the geographic impact of SB827. 

Seeing how the op-ed has misrepresented even the map I would counsel skepticism about the charges levied at Mary Kay Lacy (candidate for Council, D8) or the defenses offered of Lori Droste (incumbent Council Member, D8). 

I do know this much: In January 2018 the Housing Advisory Commission wrote to City Council suggesting that they quickly (time was of the essence) study SB827 and consider endorsing against the bill. In April, though the bill had by then stalled (for now!) in committee, a majority of City Council voted in opposition of the bill. Among the noteworthy abstentions, however: Councilmember Lori Droste.