Balancing resident input, Berkeley wades into developing North Berkeley BART station
The Daily Californian
May 13, 2019
On Monday, May 13, Berkeley’s city council and passionate, colorful onlookers gathered in Longfellow Middle School to discuss the redevelopment of the North Berkeley BART Station 8-acre parking lot into a multi-family housing unit. The sea of people, signaling a larger than average turnout, separated themselves by green and blue posters. Created by the North Berkeley Neighborhood Alliance, the former’s shouted “NOT Urban City Center” thereby rejecting BART’s design guidelines for the lot, which sits in a neighborhood dominated by single-family homes; the latter’s called for “More homes, less parking” asking for dense development and favoring an outcome that would result in buildings with at least seven stories.
The North Berkeley BART project presents an opportunity to revisit the North Berkeley neighborhood’s history of opposition to change, according to UC Berkeley architecture associate professor Greg Castillo, who also attended the meeting. The project, he said, could also be an opportunity for the transit agency to amend its status as politically unpopular among residents who feel unheard in its decision process. Castillo said that when the BART system was implemented half a century ago, BART attempted to develop housing on what is now the Ohlone Greenway, posing a “major intervention into this bungalow suburban landscape.” He said neighbors received “some pretty amazing concessions” while successfully blocking the development.
“Now, it’s interesting that there is another battle over how dense this should be developed, and some feel a low level of suburban density would be appropriate,” Castillo said during the meeting. “If a portion of that site would be devoted to affordable housing or senior housing, it’s simply impossible for a neighborhood group to say no.”
Castillo says that although the North Berkeley Neighborhood Alliance is in favor of affordable housing, the number of below-market-rate and low-income units would be dependent on developing market-rate units to realize such a goal.
“There seems to be not a recognition that a number of low-cost housing is directly related to market-rate housing, and subsidized housing is inverse to the number of parking spaces,” Castillo said during the meeting.
As of right now, no decisions have been made. At the meeting, the City Council members unanimously voted to set simple goals for future development and begin work on creating zoning codes for future construction..
The Council also approved a visioning document that outlined priorities of the development including accessibility, neighborhood compatibility, and affordability — a commonality between both groups holding green and blue signs.
The next stage of planning the station’s future will entail collaboration between the city and BART to explore project feasibility and solicit community engagement, including opportunities for community input.
More details, here.