The city of Berkeley recently released its draft Housing Element that outlines how the city plans to build the state-mandated 8,934 residential units by 2031.
The number of units this eight-year cycle, beginning in 2023, is based on the Regional Housing Needs Association, according to Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín. By comparison, the previous eight-year cycle required only 2,959 residential units, which were primarily built in Downtown and West Berkeley, Elgstrand said.
“During the last cycle there were less state laws that helped promote the acceleration of development of affordable housing,” Elgstrand said in an email. “Since then, several laws have been passed, notably SB 35 which streamlines the production of affordable housing developments.”
The draft housing element outlines several goals for the new housing, including affordability, medium- and high-density zoning and accessibility. In addition, it proposes formally eliminating exclusionary single-family zoning, according to Elgstrand, in order to address racial and economic equity.
However, Elgstrand noted the document only serves as a guide, and specific changes to zoning and design standards will be made outside it.
“As Berkeley continues to grow and develop, housing density will increase,” the draft housing element reads. “This increased density can have many benefits, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved health, and more access to affordable housing.”
In addition to the housing goals, the document also includes a site inventory map showing likely sites, pipeline sites where the planning process has already begun and opportunity sites where rezoning is not required.
The map denotes the recently zoned areas around the Ashby and North Berkeley BART stations as likely sites. The majority of the sites are located in South, West and Downtown Berkeley along major arteries such as University, San Pablo and Shattuck Aves.
Once accessory dwelling units, entitled projects and the BART stations are accounted for, there are 4,249 units remaining for the city to build, according to the draft Housing Element. Of these units, 1,824 will be set aside for very low-income residents, and another 780 for low-income residents.
“Much of the housing is expected to be built along major public transit corridors, such as near BART stations and major AC Transit lines, which will also help achieve climate goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Elgstrand said in the email.
Elgstrand said Berkeley is one of the first Bay Area cities to begin updating its Housing Element in order to have time for “robust public input.” The current draft is available for public comment and review until July 14 according to Elgstrand. Additionally, the city will host a public workshop June 29 to further discuss the document.
The Housing Element must be finalized by early 2023 in accordance with state law.