BART Board of Directors will consider supporting major state housing bill

Maryam Eldeeb/Staff

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The BART Board of Directors will meet Thursday morning to consider supporting SB 827, a measure that would allow for housing near BART stations.

In January, State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, introduced SB 827, a state measure that would remove restrictions on the number of units allowed to be built within a half-mile of a BART station and within a quarter-mile of major bus routes, including AC Transit.

“Regarding proposed legislation (including SB 827), our Government and Community Relations staff will provide a State and Federal Legislative update at tomorrow’s Board meeting,” BART spokesperson Jim Allison said in an email. “Staff will recommend, to the Board, official positions on pieces of legislation and will ask the Board to authorize formal positions.”

East Bay for Everyone, YIMBY Action and California YIMBY created a petition asking BART to support SB 827 on Monday. The organizers stated on the website that they will be presenting the petition with signatures to the BART Board of Directors at the Thursday morning meeting.

“We want BART to support SB827. … SB827 is intended to increase housing density around transit stations, and BART just so happens to run a bunch of transit stations that apply,” the petition said.

SB 827 has received criticism from several Berkeley City Council members, who claim that the bill does not incentivize affordable housing but rather lifts restrictions on construction. City Councilmember Kate Harrison previously said the bill increases coverage without addressing the issue of affordability.

City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, however, said “real-world facts” are being left out of this argument. The city has “extremely restrictive” height limits for buildings in the campus area, according to Worthington. The city laws force people to build retail spaces rather than housing, and SB 827 will aim to make it easier to build more housing in urban areas, Worthington said.

“I think BART benefits by having lots of housing built close to BART stations, and I think the environment benefits by having lots of housing close to BART stations,” Worthington said.

In Berkeley, Worthington said it is necessary to build market-rate housing in order to fund low-income housing. For every development in the city, Berkeley requires that 20 percent of the units be affordable housing.

The original draft of the bill did not address affordability, Worthington said — but the new draft is “inching in the right direction.”

“I think (SB 827) has already had some amendments,” Worthington said. “I applaud the support for availability and lament the absence of equal focus on affordability.”

Ella Colbert covers schools and communities. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @colbert_ella.

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