April News: BART Housing Next Steps, Homekey Award, Trees & More

Dear Neighbor,

I wanted to remind you that a second Covid-19 booster shot is available four months after the initial booster shot, if you are 50 and older. If you are at least 12 years-old and are moderately to severely immunocompromised, you are also eligible to receive a second booster shot. To learn more about second booster eligibility, please see the California Department of Public Health Covid-19 Vaccine Eligibility Chart. City clinics now have second booster doses available to those who are eligible.

In this newsletter:

QUICK UPDATE: My Street Paving Item will be heard again this morning at 9 a.m. at the Budget & Finance Policy Committee. View my street paving presentation to the Committee HERE.

BART Housing Next Steps

You may have read or heard the news that the Planning Commission voted on April 6 to recommend zoning for the Ashby and N. Berkeley BART stations that goes beyond the minimum requirements of state law to allow a maximum base height of 12 stories.

Under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines, an “environmentally superior alternative” is required to be identified, and Alternative 3, which increased height to a maximum of 12 stories, was found in the Environmental Impact Report to be environmentally superior due to the “increase in density in proximity to transit.”

N. Berkeley BART station. Photo: Pi.1415926535 (Creative Commons License).

Our City Planning staff have recommended a maximum base height of 7 stories (the minimum requirement of state law) after an extensive community input process and development of related Joint Vision and Priorities in five key areas, Affordable Housing, Public and Civic Space, Land Use, Building Form, and Station Access. 

Ultimately, the City Council as a body must vote to adopt zoning for the BART stations, and is expected to do so on May 31. I will be listening closely to your input between now and May 31.

REMINDER: The City Council will hold a work session TODAY beginning at 6 p.m. to discuss zoning of the BART stations and the Joint Vision and Priorities document. You can attend tonight’s Zoom meeting by clicking HERE (BART Transit-Oriented Development is listed as the second item on the agenda, and public comment will be heard on this item).

If you would like to request a meeting – for yourself or your neighborhood group – to discuss BART housing before the May 31 vote, please feel free to contact me (rkesarwani@cityofberkeley.info or 510-981-7110) to schedule a Zoom or in-person meeting.

For The Record

I pride myself on providing accurate information in my newsletter, so I regret that the statements I made about a maximum density per acre of 75 in my last communication were based on a legal opinion provided to me prior to the release of BART’s Final AB 2923 Technical Guide in June 2021. I want to clarify that a maximum density per acre of 75 is legally permissible for the BART sites. However, based on other zoning parameters established by state law AB 2923, a maximum density of 75 units per acre could result in units sized at more than 2,000 square feet (more than double the average unit size we’ve seen in a typical multi-family development in recent years), according to our Planning Director. This outcome would not align with the goals for housing at the stations that have been articulated through various planning processes over the past several years, including the BART Community Advisory Group input for the Joint Vision & Priorities document, which specifies goals to “maximize the number of new homes, and especially permanently affordable, deed-restricted homes” … “with a variety of unit sizes.”

Homekey Grant for Homeless Housing Awarded to Berkeley

Last week, Governor Newsom’s office announced six new sites to be awarded state Homekey funds for hotel conversions to permanent supportive housing for the homeless – with the City of Berkeley awarded $16.2 million! This means that the proposed conversion of the Golden Bear Inn at Cedar and San Pablo to permanent supportive housing will be moving forward.

The Golden Bear Inn is located at the corner of Cedar and San Pablo.

Here are key project details:

  • 43 studio units will be created for formerly homeless individuals earning up to 30 percent of the Area Median Income; residents will be selected using the County’s standardized Coordinated Entry System with a priority for individuals in North Alameda County (Albany, Berkeley, and Emeryville)
  • The site will be operated by Bay Area Community Services and staff will include one full-time manager living on site, two full-time case managers, and a property manager (funding for security has also been budgeted)
  • On-site amenities will include space for counseling, a community room, and a dining hall

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office (rkesarwani@cityofberkeley.info or 510-981-7110). You may also direct your questions to Jonathan Russell, Chief Strategy Officer with Bay Area Community Services (jrussell@bayareacs.org).

Trees Make Life Better Program in West Berkeley

In Berkeley, our tree canopy is not equitably distributed. That’s why I’m excited to share with you that the City has received two state grants to plant more trees in West Berkeley:

  • The Urban Greening Grant Program provides $725,000, with a City match of $190,000
  • The Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program Grant provides $500,000, with a City match of $125,000

With funds from these grant awards, the City has developed the Trees Make Life Better Program to inform residents in eligible areas of the potential for new street trees. Both grants will cover staff costs, trees, planting materials, marketing, watering, and concrete cuts if needed.

The City anticipates that approximately 1,200 to 1,800 new street trees will be planted with these funds. So far, more than 200 trees have been planted in West Berkeley.

Additionally, the grant will provide for the planting and watering of 250 trees in Aquatic Park, 50 in San Pablo Park, and 50 on University Avenue between Frontage and Marina Boulevard. Arbor Day Tree Planting at San Pablo Park is planned for Sat., April 30 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can sign up to volunteer HERE.To request a tree from the Trees Make Life Better Program, you can complete an application and e-mail it to trees@cityofberkeley.info. For information about the City’s standard tree planting program, please call 510-981-6660.

Events and Meetings

Waterfront Clean Up & Biking Virtual Meeting

Join City staff, community groups, and volunteers from around Berkeley to help clean up trash and plastic pollution along various areas of the waterfront in celebration of Earth Day on Sat., April 23 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Click HERE for more info and to register.

A Virtual Community Meeting on Bicycling in Berkeley will be held on Thurs., April 28 from 12-1:30 p.m. Help make Berkeley a city where bicycling is safe, easy, and convenient. Click HERE for more info and to register.

Thursday April 28th at 2pm. Attend the Virtual City of Berkeley Holocaust Remembrance Day Event