City Council votes not to adopt certain amendments to affordable housing ordinance

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Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday evening to not adopt certain amendments to an affordable housing ordinance.

Proposed by Councilmembers Lori Droste, Darryl Moore and Kriss Worthington, the amendments to the ordinance intended to make it easier to build accessory dwelling units, or ADUs — small add-on residences built on the same properties as regular homes.

The amendments looked to streamline parking fee waiver requirements within a quarter mile of public transportation stations — including BART stations and bus rapid transit lines — and within approved residential parking permit zones.

A change to the ordinance, however, was approved, removing the inclusion of areas with two bus lines from the list of regions that qualify for parking waivers. The clauses regarding the BART stations, rapid transit bus stops and residential parking permit zones will remain part of the ordinance.

Four council members and Mayor Tom Bates voted to adopt the motion to remove the amendment regarding the two bus lines, while one council member voted against the motion. Three council members abstained from voting.

“The item that was approved did make it easier (to build ADUs) in Downtown and close to the BART station, but it didn’t help for areas that are on two bus lines but not near BART,” said Worthington, who voted to not pass the motion.

The sponsors of the amendments had hoped that their proposals would make affordable housing more accessible for residents — especially those in West and South Berkeley — who may find paying for parking permits an economic burden.

Droste said she wanted to remove the “financial and bureaucratic barriers to ADU construction” because ADUs offer a possible housing alternative for low-income residents and students.

“I think everybody says they want affordable housing, and my experience is ADUs truly are one of the ways that people have affordable housing,” Worthington said.

Other council members, however, worried that the wording of the ordinance was ambiguous and asked for a provision to define “rapid transit lines” to include only high-frequency bus lines that run every 20 minutes.

Some residents also expressed concern during public comment that the construction of more ADUs would encourage companies such as Airbnb to move into Berkeley and take advantage of the housing additions.

Worthington, however, said “most of the homeowners in Berkeley are reasonable-minded people,” not “rapacious corporations.”

Both Droste and Worthington assured that their amendments would not cause ADUs to be converted into businesses but would instead encourage homeowners to rent out the units to students or low-income residents.

“I’m rarely surprised at what happens at City Council meetings, but I was genuinely surprised that this tiny tool to get tiny affordable housing would lose,” Worthington said.

The ordinance will be read a second time at the council’s Nov. 17 meeting and will go into effect Dec. 16.

Contact Ericka Shin and Emma Soldon at [email protected].