BART, in partnership with Bay Area communities, will address the region’s housing crisis by using its parking lots to build housing at 27 of its stations, including the North Berkeley station, as a result of AB 2923, which was signed into law September 2018.
Assemblymember David Chiu, D-San Francisco, authored the bill, which allows BART to direct its own transit-oriented development, or TOD, guidelines. The bill also gives BART the authority to set its own TOD zoning standards for planned projects.
“A lot of these different BART stations have these huge surface parking lots, and we’re trying to use that space more efficiently,” said Jennifer Kwart, Chiu’s communications director. “We have a housing crisis and a lot of congestion in the Bay Area. This is a bill that helps with both.”
Per AB 2923, BART has a two-year deadline to create its own zoning standards for land that it plans to use for development, according to Kwart, who added that corresponding cities within those areas must then adopt those standards.
Some Berkeley residents have voiced concern regarding certain aspects of the potential North Berkeley station project. Reasons include a potential loss of parking, preservation of the neighborhood’s “unique character” and the affordability of the new units, according to written ideas and comments collected last year by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s office.
According to AB 2923, however, if housing replaces parking at a commuter-heavy station, the district must develop a plan to “maintain station access.” Kwart said this will likely include replacing some parking.
Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison said the loss of parking spaces from the potential housing project is a chance for the city to “take a leap” into a more car-free future. She added that in the presence of climate change, Berkeley can take this project as an opportunity to do something different.
“Let’s not talk about parking. Let’s talk about access,” Harrison said. “If we talk about it just as parking, we’re stuck in the old paradigm. I would like to see a paradigm shift.”
At least 20 percent of units at each BART housing project must be “affordable to very low” cost, according to AB 2923. BART said in a September 2018 statement that it aims to keep at least 35 percent of all units affordable.
BART is committed to collaborating with city officials and communities as it develops TOD housing, according to its statement. Harrison added that there has been a strong sense of teamwork in Berkeley surrounding the potential North Berkeley station project.
“I really appreciate the community and all their participation,” Harrison said. “There’s been a kind of openheartedness that I’ve seen that I think is really special about our town.”