SB 827 is 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. It does not benefit the homeless.
Rather, it is based on the trickle-down theory that has been disproven in economics and in housing markets. SB 827 perpetuates the myth that building more housing brings down the rental rates and makes way for lower-income residents— a narrative that residential development in San Francisco has disproven in the past 10 years.
Those of us truly concerned about climate change and justice for workers want Berkeley families, students and workers to be able to live where they work or go to school so they don’t have to commute to Berkeley. Unless housing is limited to low- and moderate-income tenants, which is not part of SB 827, adding more housing near BART and virtually all transit routes does not serve our urgent need for low-income housing. Instead, it turns Berkeley into a bedroom community of apartments and condos for those rich enough to afford market-rate rents. Even in theory, transit-oriented housing arguably forces people to spend most of their waking hours not where they live but where they take transit to work. It’s more cost- and energy-efficient, and much less stressful, to live and work in the same place.
Instead of upzoning — increasing allowable building heights and density — and overriding local planning, we need a moratorium on for-profit development. We need to renew our commitment and funding for nonprofit, inclusionary residential buildings that provide housing for families and low-income residents in Berkeley, not for the wealthy and commuters who work in Silicon Valley.
Charlene M. Woodcock is a retired UC Press editor and Berkeley resident of 50 years.