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Berkeley City Council discusses affordable housing requirements

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Some councilmembers advocated for a feasibility study to determine a developers’ fee amount for smaller units contributing to the affordable housing requirements.


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JANUARY 25, 2023

Berkeley City Council heavily debated citywide affordable housing requirements at its weekly meeting Jan. 17. With intensive deliberations, the council approved item 21 with certain revisions proposed by staff.

Along with other items, councilmembers voiced their support for a feasibility study that would determine a developers’ fee amount for smaller units contributing to the affordable housing requirements, since the previous study did not take projects under five units into consideration. The council accepted a motion to exempt projects under five units until April 1, 2025.

“We’re not just building for a population that is going to live here temporarily,” said Councilmember Kate Harrison at the meeting. “We have an obligation as public officials to think about the type of housing we want, not just what the market wants to give us.”

In their discussion, Councilmember Rigel Robinson said it is timely to discuss reforming the affordable housing fee structure and expressed a desire for a lower and declining fee amount for smaller project sizes. However, he affirmed that maintaining the exemption for below-five-unit projects until the feasibility study and zoning changes are “played out” was best for the current state.

Robinson also drew attention to the Pacific Center for Human Growth, an LGBTQ+ center currently in the process of relocating from its location on Telegraph Avenue to Downtown Berkeley. Robinson called upon the council to support the move process by donating from their office funds; several members donated upwards of $200.

Later, Councilmembers Sophie Hahn and Susan Wengraf also brought up the Affordable Housing on Faith Lands Act which would allow religious institutions to build housing even if local zoning prevents it. The councilmembers suggested an exemption toward certain historical churches which are worthy of being landmarks.

Councilmember Mark Humbert objected to the amendment, adding that some of the historic churches have land associated with them that would be appropriate for by-right development. Despite this, the council ultimately agreed that certain historical churches should be exempt from the act.

“If we’re committed to ending exclusionary zoning and building housing in residential neighborhoods, we will create the economic conditions that will encourage the type of housing products we build in our residential neighborhoods,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín at the meeting.

During public comment, residents raised concerns about the recent winter storm and its impact on the city’s houseless population. Moni Law, a community proponent for Community Emergency Response Team training, called on the council to expand training for future disasters.

Another community member, Christina Murphy, cited an immediate need for storage units for unhoused people’s belongings. Arreguín responded that he recognized the need and will be formally referring the issue to the city manager.

“It’s a resource we need to put in place,” Arreguín said at the meeting.

Contact Maya Jimenez at 


JANUARY 25, 2023