Berkeley City Council is scheduled to discuss a contentious Zoning Adjustments Board appeal and a much-anticipated missing middle housing report at its regular meeting Tuesday.
According to the City Council’s action calendar, the board appeal concerns an unpermitted cottage on the lot of a legally developed eight-unit apartment building. The detached cottage was built about six years ago without permits.
The board concluded that it could not approve the deviations from current zoning requirements and denied the project in November 2018. The applicant then appealed the decision and requested a re-evaluation of the zoning denial to legalize the cottage.
If the City Council rejects the board appeal, it could call for the removal of the cottage. One argument against the removal of the cottage is that it is affordable housing, but the agenda notes that the cottage’s location on the land of a rent-controlled apartment does not necessarily make it affordable housing.
Timothy Burroughs, the director of the Berkeley Department of Planning and Development, submitted the board appeal recommendation for the City Council, suggesting that the council conduct a public hearing and adopt a resolution to affirm the board’s decision to deny the permit and dismiss the appeal.
Alongside the board appeal, discussion of the missing middle housing report — which will continue from the March 26 meeting — is also on Tuesday’s agenda. The agenda recommends a report on methods and zoning code revisions that would foster a broader range of housing types.
The missing middle housing report arose from the shortage of affordable housing for working families, according to Tuesday’s agenda packet. Housing costs have been “skyrocketing,” forcing low-, moderate- and middle-income households to spend an increasing percentage of their income on housing, according to the agenda.
Missing middle housing is meant to be affordable for residents earning 80 to 120 percent of the area’s median income, according to the agenda. This is especially relevant in Berkeley, where people earning 80 percent of the city’s median income are considered low-income by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standards.
Current zoning laws severely limit missing middle housing, restricting it from single-family and two-family zoned areas, according to the agenda, which states that new housing in Berkeley often neglects “the majority of the population.”
City Councilmember Rigel Robinson, one of the recommendation’s sponsors, said there is a need for missing middle housing, which could diversify housing and help undo the “tangible” legacy of residential segregation.
“We have a crisis in the supply of our housing and the affordability of housing in Berkeley. … It makes moving in prohibitive,” Robinson said. “Missing middle allows more affordable types of housing to be built in areas zoned for single-family homes.”