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City council at standstill over ADU regulations, Councilmember Harrison could decide its fate

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During Tuesday’s meeting, the Berkeley City Council arrived at a standstill regarding regulations for the longstanding efforts to build accessory dwelling units.


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Lead city government reporter

SEPTEMBER 21, 2023

The Berkeley City Council failed to pass a set of regulations in regards to the longstanding efforts to build accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, during Tuesday’s regular meeting. The most contentious of these provisions was one that would require property owners to provide off-street parking in order to build ADUs.

Instead, the council deadlocked and moved to revisit the issue at its Oct. 3 meeting. The vote was split, with councilmembers Rigel Robinson, Susan Wengraf, Sophie Hahn and Mayor Jesse Arreguín voting in favor of the regulation. Councilmembers Rashi Kesarwani, Ben Bartlett, Terry Taplin and Mark Humbert voted to oppose it.

Councilmember Kate Harrison, who was absent from the meeting, could decide the fate of the regulation when the council revisits the ADU provisions during its next regular meeting Oct. 3.

The proposal of an off-street parking requirement is the result of concerns over wildfire threats and public safety.

According to Councilmember Robinson, with more cars parked along the narrow streets of the hills, it is more likely that emergency vehicles will be blocked in the event of an emergency. Robinson said during his comment period that this is how people are killed in catastrophic fires.

Robinson’s concerns were shared by the mayor, Wengraf and several public commenters.

“We’ve seen what has happened with other fires in California. Fires can spread quickly and can have a devastating impact,” Arreguín said during the meeting.“This is an issue of city-wide concern and we need to address public safety as much as we address new housing development.”

Councilmember Kesarwani acknowledged the validity of the wildfire concern but proposed holding off on the parking regulation until the city council received an evacuation study. She held that she would not vote to adopt the regulation upon first read.

In addition to the off-street parking requirement, the council also considered reversing or limiting the rule requiring homeowners to notify their neighbors and any tenants before constructing an ADU on their property. However, many attendees spoke in favor of the notification provision. 

 The council also voted unanimously to adopt a resolution authorizing the city attorney to write an amicus brief in support of the UC Regents in the ongoing Make UC a Good Neighbor v. Regents of University of California case.

The resolution comes almost two weeks after Gov. Newsom signed AB 1307. The bill prohibits residential noise from being considered as a “significant environmental effect” under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, and can give public universities conditional exemption from considering alternative sites for housing projects — two of the main arguments in Make UC a Good Neighbor v. Regents of University of California.

AB1307 is law,” Robinson said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, after the resolution passed. “It is on the supreme court now to apply the statute to the case so this student housing & permanent supportive housing can move forward.”

Contact Anna Armstrong at  or on Twitter


SEPTEMBER 22, 2023