Nov. News: Today’s Mtg Rescheduled, New Mask Order & Our Backyard Cottage Rules Pass Council!

Dear Neighbor,

With a 70 percent chance of rain this afternoon, I am rescheduling today’s In-Person Outdoor Office Hours to discuss development of the N. Berkeley BART Station to this Sat., Nov. 6 from 4:30-5:30 p.m.

N. Berkeley BART Parking Lot
Sat., Nov. 6
4:30-5:30 p.m.

The Planning Commission Meeting on BART Zoning and the Joint Vision and Priorities Document will take place this Wed., Nov. 3 beginning at 7 p.m.

In this newsletter:

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In Some Fully Vaccinated Spaces, Employers Can Choose Whether Masks Should Be Worn

The City of Berkeley issued the following news release last week:

Beginning today, the City of Berkeley Health Officer will grant certain indoor settings that verify full vaccination status the choice to allow people to remove face coverings. 

The offices, gyms, places of worship and other hosts covered by the order would have to ensure that no one entering has a fever, cough, congestion, nausea, headache, runny nose, muscle aches or any other Covid-19 symptoms.

These groups would also be controlled by:

  • – not opening to the general public
  • – limiting size to no more than 100 people
  • – limiting access to the same regularly gathering group
  • – maintaining a list that identifies the names, dates, times of entry and exit of everyone who enters the indoor space
  • – posting signs promoting self-assessment for symptoms around the exterior of the space

This decision to allow certain indoor spaces where entirely vaccinated people can choose to unmask reflects the decline in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations as well as the enduring power of vaccination to limit spread and, especially, severe illness.

Nonetheless, lowering risk by wearing a mask is something hosts or individuals may continue to choose. Universal masking remains particularly important when including guests with weaker immune systems or that are more vulnerable to severe illness.

“Vaccinations and face coverings protected our community and the region as a whole from the worst that the Delta variant inflicted elsewhere,” said Dr. Lisa Hernandez, the City of Berkeley Health Officer. “With that success, we now have some spaces where hosts can choose whether their guests must mask.”

Who is Covered

As long as they control their settings as described above, the following places would be allowed to set their own rules for indoor masking:

  • – indoor offices
  • – gyms
  • – fitness centers
  • – employee commuter vehicles
  • – religious gatherings
  • – other organized gatherings of individuals who meet regularly

Fully vaccinated people cannot be unmasked at indoor special events such as weddings, concerts or conferences.

Hosts Must Verify Vaccination Status

If unvaccinated people are inside these controlled settings, everyone must mask. To verify vaccination, employers or hosts can use different documents that verify vaccination, and each should include:

  • – name of the vaccinated person
  • – type of vaccine provided
  • – date(s) the dose or doses were given

Acceptable records with that information include:

  • – A Vaccination Card issued by the CDC or foreign government
  • – A photo, copy or digital copy of a Vaccination Card
  • – healthcare provider record confirming vaccination
  • – Covid-19 vaccine record issued via or that of another state, local, or foreign government
  • – An authentic digital record with QR code that, when scanned by a SMART Health Card reader, displays the vaccine recipient’s name, date of birth, vaccine dates and vaccine type

A person is considered fully vaccinated 14 days after a CDC- or WHO-approved one-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), or 14 days after the second shot of a two-dose vaccine, such as Moderna or Pfizer.

Unvaccinated people are nearly 7 times more likely to get infected, 12 times more likely to be hospitalized and almost 18 times more likely to die, according to state data as of Oct. 9.

Get Vaccinated to Protect You, Us

If your organization has members who are not yet vaccinated, encourage them to do so. Any of the three approved vaccines will protect them, lower spread and protect our community.

“Vaccinations, face coverings, and other easily available public health tools shepherded us to a safer future,” said Dr. Hernandez, the City Health Officer. “As more of us vaccinate and protect each other, we open up more safe spaces.”


UPDATE: Our Proposal for Accessory Dwelling Units (Backyard Cottages) in the Flats Passes!

I’m very proud to report that our proposal for Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs in the flats passed the Council unanimously last Tuesday.

This means that all homeowners who live outside of the Hillside Overlay (a zoning map designation) will soon have new flexibility to create an ADU that is attached or detached from their main dwelling.

A backyard cottage in District 1.

Please find below a summary of the key provisions of our enacted proposal for the flats. If a homeowner wishes to create an ADU and follows these development standards, they would be able to build an ADU “by right,” meaning that no public review is required so long as the proposed project conforms to the local ADU ordinance and other relevant zoning code provisions—as required by state law.

  • Allows all attached and detached ADUs to be up to 20 feet in height. This means that all homeowners in the flats will have the option to create a two-story ADU that can take advantage of cheaper building options and better quality design.
  • Allows all garage conversions to be enlarged into a full ADU (up to 850 square feet for a one-bedroom unit or 1,000 square feet for a two-bedroom unit). This means that all homeowners will have the ability to fully expand a garage (or other accessory structure), even if it’s located close to the property line, as long as the new square footage and height is outside of a four-foot setback from the property line. In practice, this could mean that a second-story addition to a garage near the property line would be recessed so that the additional square footage follows the setback rule.
  • Allows certain equipment or architectural features to be installed up to two feet within the four-foot setback. Regardless of whether a homeowner builds a new ADU or expands an existing structure, they will be able to install equipment or architectural features (including chimneys, water heater enclosures, flues, heating and cooling equipment, eaves, cornices, canopies, and awnings) up to two feet into the four-foot setback. (This option would generally not be available for the portions of an existing structure that are less than four feet from the property line.)
  • A rooftop deck would require an Administrative Use Permit (AUP). The AUP process allows the public to review and comment on a proposal, and allows City staff to approve the proposal if it’s not detrimental to the neighborhood or inconsistent with the City’s goals and policies for development. The reasoning behind offering an AUP for an ADU rooftop deck, rather than a by-right approval, is because all other rooftop decks are subject to an AUP. A balcony would still be available by right, as long as it conformed with the zoning code.
  • No objective design standards can be required for ADUs of any size. Some of my Council colleagues have introduced the concept of objective design standards for development, so we took the added precaution of specifying that ADUs cannot be subject to objective design standards. State law already bans design standards for ADUs that are up to 800 square feet, so this specification will protect ADUs that are between 800 to 1,000 square feet. This will ensure that homeowners have the ability to design their ADU as they see fit and that they can take full advantage of new pre-fabricated options that are increasingly becoming available.

During my time on Council, I have interacted with a number of District 1 families who desperately need the flexibility that we have provided for height and setbacks in order to create adequate living space for changing family needs. For our homeowners who live on small parcels, this new flexibility to create an ADU will help them to build wealth and equity while adding to our housing stock. My Council colleagues who introduced this item with me, including Councilmembers Ben Bartlett, Rigel Robinson, and Terry Taplin, believe that these are sensible rules that provide flexibility to homeowners while being respectful of neighbors.

What’s Next? Our Planning Department will now need to come back to the City Council with an updated local ADU ordinance for the flats that incorporates the development standards passed by the Council last week, and then it will require a second reading (all ordinances have to be voted on twice about 30 days apart). Barring anything unforeseen, these new development standards for the flats should all be finalized within a couple months. 

The Council did not land on an appropriate policy for the Hillside Overlay District due to concerns about fire risk, and we will take that up again in the coming months. For now, all homeowners in the Hillside Overlay area are still eligible to apply for an ADU permit by right under state law, which allows for the creation of ADUs up to 16 feet in height and up to 800 square feet; garage conversions can be increased by a maximum of 150 square feet.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me: or (510) 981-7110.