Public Comment

Lori Droste’s fanciful push for “missing-middle housing”

Zelda Bronstein
Friday February 08, 2019 - 10:39:00 AM

On the evening of Feburary 6, Berkeleyside tweeted a photo of Berkeley Councilmember Lori Droste and her son at the Berkeley School Board meeting. The tweet read: 

@loridroste and her son, an Emerson student, together voice their support for BUSD employee housing. "Creating this kind of missing-middle housing is really hard. We really need to keep our teachers within our community," says the grown-up speaker. #busdmtg 

We certainly do need to keep our teachers within our community, but it’s hard to see how more of what Droste calls missing-middle housing is going to accomplish that goal. 

Under the heading ‘Missing Middle Initiative,” Droste and three other councilmembers—Ben Bartlett, Rigel Robinson, and Rashi Kesarwani—recently proposed that the city council place on its February 19 consent agenda a proposal to potentially revise Berkeley’s zoning to expedite the approval of “clustered or multi-unit housing types compatible in scale with single family homes or accessible to those earning between 80-120% of the area median income.” 

Area median incomes are set by HUD. Household incomes of 80 % and below are officially considered affordable. In other words, Droste and her colleagues want to expedite the approval of market-rate, if not luxury, housing. 

In 2018, 80% AMI for a household of one in Alameda County was $62,750; for a household of two, $71,000; for a household of three, $80,650; and for a household of four $89,600. The 120% AMI for a household of four was $125,300. 

As of January 31, 2019, the average public school teacher salary in Berkeley was $66,918, typically falling between $58,417 and $77,254. 

Ergo, what’s missing from Droste’s missing-middle housing is housing that most Berkeley public school teachers, especially if they have kids, could afford. 

On February 4, Droste pulled her proposal from the council’s Agenda Committee agenda. Watch to see if she comes back with another missing-middle initiative. If she does, crunch the numbers.