City of Berkeley to work with BART to develop housing around North Berkeley and Ashby BART stations

Ireland Wagner/Staff

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The city of Berkeley and BART are moving to rezone areas around the Ashby and North Berkeley BART stations for housing development, and in effect implementing state law Assembly Bill, or AB 2923, which requires changes to zoning requirements in areas surrounding BART stations.

Berkeley City Council will vote Dec. 10 on a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, which outlines the potential rezoning and development efforts. According to Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, the MOU is a “framework to help (the city and BART) move forward with this development.” Ultimately, the MOU lays out the city’s and BART’s priorities for the rezoning and defines their responsibilities.

This development includes building housing in lots owned by BART, an effort in part driven by AB 2923. According to BART’s website, AB 2923 “affects zoning requirements on existing BART-owned property” and includes two core components: transit-oriented development and development streamlining.

Transit-oriented development, or TOD, defines the development as a higher density project and “adjacent to frequent transit” according to BART’s website. Development streamlining allows the developers to expedite local approval if the development meets certain requirements.

Elgstrand said BART’s own TOD standards require that the development includes at least 35% affordable housing. He added, however, that the city hopes to increase the percentage of affordable housing.

“It is too early to assess the actual mix between affordable or market-rate housing on either of the two stations,” said Igor Tregub, vice chair of the Measure O Committee, in an email. “However, there is conversation about making housing the at Ashby BART parking lot as close to 100% affordable as possible. My personal hope is that all or most of the housing at both stations would be affordable to those making below-market income, ranging from extremely low income to workforce housing.”

According to Elgstrand and the MOU, the city will take charge of rezoning the areas surrounding the BART stations. Elgstrand added that the rezoning is a community effort and will include input from the Planning Commission and a “Community Advisory Group (CAG).” The CAG will, according to the MOU, serve as an advisor to the Planning Commission and help make decisions on zoning for the Ashby and North Berkeley BART stations.

As of now the CAG is not formed or definite, but it will include representatives from stakeholder groups and various city commissions, according to Elgstrand.

Elgstrand said this development and the rezoning efforts align with the city’s goals.

“Both the city and BART agree that the Bay Area is facing an affordable housing shortage and climate crisis,” Elgstrand said.

Community members, especially those around the North Berkeley BART station, are supportive of this development. Neighborhoods surrounding the BART station have formed together as a group called North Berkeley Now!, which advocates for “a beautifully-designed development that provides lots of homes for new neighbors at all income levels, with thoughtful design that could make it safer to get around without a car” according to the group’s website.

This has been and will continue to be a community effort as we move forward on these projects” Elgstrand said.

Contact Robson Swift at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @swift_robson.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Igor Tregub is the chair of the Berkeley Housing Advisory Commission. In fact, he is the vice chair of the Measure O Committee.