Berkeley Council Votes for Towering Change, Aims to Elevate Housing Hope

Berkeley Council Votes for Towering Change, Aims to Elevate Housing HopeSource: Google Street View
Nina Singh-Hudson
Published on November 22, 2023

Berkeley is reaching for the skies in a bold move to battle its severe student and citywide housing shortage. In a unanimous vote that could drastically change the landscape near the University of California, Berkeley, the City Council has green-lit a plan to jack up building height limits to 12 stories—and possibly even taller—in the bustling Southside area adjacent to the campus.

The grand upzoning scheme promises to bring over 2,000 new housing units to the university's doorstep, skyrocketing the maximum allowable building height of 85 feet and sparking optimism in a city with housing woes. According to Councilmember Rigel Robinson via CBS Bay Area news, who's got an eye on the Southside's skyline, "This massive rezoning of Southside, alongside a wave of new university dormitories at Anchor House, People's Park, and more, will finally help turn the tide on the student housing crisis," he reflected optimistically about the transformation edging closer.

Decrying the university's ranking as UC's lowest in terms of housing provision—with a paltry 23 percent of students sorted by the institution itself—the move is not just about bumping up the student life quality but also pressuring down the boiling point of citywide housing tensions. "We can help struggling students and staff and alleviate pressure on the rest of the city," Robinson told CBS Bay Area. "This is how we build a more livable Berkeley for everyone."

Over at the San Francisco Chronicle, the cries for more student housing from the university community were heard loud and clear. "We need more student housing, and we need it now," a third-year undergrad said during the council meeting. The zoning enhancements are stretching the possibilities further, offering developers a carrot to shoot up to 16 stories high if they throw affordable and middle-income housing into the architectural mix under the new state density bonus law AB1287 starting next year.

Some locals are waving red flags about the trade-off between density and dearth of greenery, opening up sidewalks, making for pedestrian-friendly vibes, and imagining green roofs amidst the urban jungle. In response, city officials directed the city manager to scout out incentives or mandates for new building projects encompassing such eco-friendly features citywide according to the San Francisco Chronicle.