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Plans to sacrifice Berkeley BART parking for more housing are now moving ahead

Plans to sacrifice Berkeley BART parking for more housing are now moving ahead
Photo via Berkeley Planning
By Wesley Severson - Published on April 11, 2022.

Plans are moving ahead for two 12-story developments right next to the two BART stops in Berkeley. If built, the two housing towers could provide a combined 3,600 new residential units. In a recent 5-to-4 vote reported by the SF Chronicle, Berkeley’s Planning Commission moved the plans forward by recommending them to the city. That means the two housing developments will soon be taken up by the Berkeley City Council which will have the final say on approval. 

Berkeley, like many municipalities, has been scrambling to meet housing milestones set by the state. 9,000 more units must be built in the next 9 years in order to meet the demands laid out by the state-approved Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Berkeley does not have a lot of extra land that can be used to build housing and is now turning to the land surrounding the Ashby and North Berkeley stations. More specifically, the city wants to use large portions of the huge parking lots at each station for transit-oriented housing — something that's already been done one station south of Ashby, at MacArthur Station. 

Last month, Berkleyside reported that if the developments get built, the parking lot at Ashby Station would get cut from 535 spots down to 85. The parking lot at the North Berkeley Station would be chopped from 700 spaces down to 200. According to BART analysis published by Berkeleyside, “82% of riders get to or from the Ashby station, and 75% of riders get to or from North Berkeley, without parking there.”

“We need to walk the talk of Berkeley’s progressive values and actually build more housing to allow people to live in a way that doesn’t destroy the environment,” Berkeley Planning Commission Vice-Chair Savlan Houser told the SF Chronicle. Berkeley City Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani said on Twitter that the planning commission's recommendation was “a 1st step in moving away from our car/parking-centric past & towards our future: homes, green open space & a bike/walk-first design.”

 

To address Berkeley’s desperate need for more housing, the planning commission recommended zoning changes late last year around the BART parking lots that allow for 12-story buildings instead of the originally proposed seven-story buildings. The height is still a point of contention for other planning commission members because adding the additional stories could apparently limit the number of affordable units at the two proposed developments. According to the SF Chronicle, the council “will hold a working session on the commission’s recommendation on April 19th and is expected to vote on May 31st.” After that, it will be up to BART to strike a deal with developers to make the plan a reality.