Thursday, August 20, 2015

Smart[sic] Growth comes to Berkeley 2

Berkeley deserves better than 2211 Harold Way

From Attack of the Stepford Planners in The Berkeley Daily Planet:

by Elisa Cooper

Berkeley is an iconic city because of its bohemian ambiance: people dwell in Berkeley instead of elsewhere because they want to identify as intellectuals, artists, spiritual seekers, social activists, quirky, creative, and diverse. Just as we sought Berkeley to embrace those identities, we are collectively responsible for protecting the city as the place that makes those identities possible. 

For months I have been bewildered as I've watched the City Council and a multitude of commissions ignore, shrug off, and often mock the surge of citizens that have been pleading for them to put an end to the hijacking of the City by the interests of market rate developers and to attend to the need for affordable housing. This experience has become something like those cheesy old 70s horror films like Attack of The Pod People, They Live, and, The Stepford Wives. Has our City government been taken over by pod people? The way they consistently and rather robotically disregard their constituents that literally beg them to make the Market Rate Reign of Terror stop seems like it...

The invasion of the Pod People started in the City planning department. A planner named Mark Rhoades decided "planners set the pace" for the city of Berkeley. The latest "smart growth" philosophies being pushed from the State level as well as academic departments, including UC Berkeley—which has an interest in shifting the student housing burden onto the City—was to build for "density" around transit and eventually supply would meet demand for housing. 

Clever planners could insert themselves into this process and make their own fortunes on the side. The City Planning Department gets paid out of developer fees, so their mission became to plan for as much dense smart growth as possible. Mark Rhoades and fellow city planner Matt Taecker upzoned themselves to start their own development consulting firms. 

Once the Planning Department opened the door to the idea that Berkeley was ready to be "redeveloped," Berkeley's political process became inundated with money from real estate industry lobbyists from all over the country. The local property owners’ association formed a half million dollar PAC. Developers fund the most read local news venue, Berkeleyside, and astroturf the comments section. A couple of paid "youth" get paid to testify to City Council and the Commissions about how we need to destroy Berkeley because somehow that will ultimately result in the youth getting housing...

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At 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got no problem with market driving housing production, but the design is pedestrian. However having said that, I would gladly take this design over the monster skyscraper residential planning just 45 feet from our SOMA residential enclave. The 400 foot towers planned for Mission and South Van Ness are a crime!! Zero transition between those towers and 40 foot residential just down the block. NO where else in the city or bay area are such sharp transitions in height and bulk allowed.

At 2:24 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, it's really shocking how City Hall is using the Smart Growth bullshit to justify giving developers a green light on these massive buildings. I've been railing against this in vain for more than ten years, but city progressives bought into the dogma. Far from making it hard for developers in San Francisco, city progs have greased the skids for that part of town because "we need housing."


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