Public Comment

Boat Night at the City Council

Carol Denney
Saturday March 30, 2019 - 02:20:00 PM

The frustration of RV and tent dwellers trying to keep their jobs, school schedules, and families together hit a peculiar peak on Tuesday, March 26th, 2019, when a small item about obtaining a grant to address a couple dozen abandoned boats was suddenly championed as a solution to homelessness. 

Be careful what you ask for, was all some observers could think. There's nothing some of the Berkeley City Council would like better than to sell you a permit to live in a broken boat at the bottom of the bay. 

This is the frustration which will be harnessed to grease the path for the "missing middle" campaign to dissolve zoning protections and load every available space with the new definition of housing, where the bathroom, kitchen, heat, and windows are considered fussy over-reach and developers without constraints suddenly are hip-deep in a lot more land to monetize. 

Without honest rent control the person who moves in isn't the guy who's managed to keep his job at Trader Joe's while living at the HereThere tent village. It'll be the tech worker - again. It'll be the people who think stepping over prone bodies on the way to the Eazybaked concert is just the way it is. 

So watch what you ask for. You want your city staff to leverage grants to recycle old boats, you really do, before some do-gooder makes a slow leak of toxic materials worse. And just as with "tiny" homes, there's no ceiling at present on what a canny developer will charge for a breadbox. 

The best suggestion I've heard regarding "infill", which is ravaging the neighborhoods around me without addressing affordability at all, is to hook any approval or permit both to current habitability standards (which require heat, cooking and sanitary facilities, a window, etc.), and make sure any "missing middle" housing is affordable to anyone living on the minimum wage.  

If this is honestly about addressing the housing crisis, instead of soaring profits, then let's make sure the most vulnerable to the housing crisis are part of the picture.