Saturday, March 04, 2017

Nimbys, Yimbys, and Berkeley

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
2211 Harold Way

Zelda Bronstein in 48 Hills and The Marin Post:

...East Bay Forward has less to show for its efforts, but then, it’s barely a year old. According to [Gregory]Magofña, the group’s biggest success has been alerting Oakland planning commissioners to the perils of downzoning parts of the city. “A lot of elected officials know who we are,” and the do-ocracy approach has fostered East Bay Forward’s reputation for “being sane.” He also mentioned that they’d gotten “lots of people involved” in the repurposing of the Naval Weapons Station in Concord for new housing and parks (a Lennar project).

But Magofña also marked key reversals. One occurred on the municipal level. In 2014 voters approved Berkeley’s new Downtown Plan and its provisions for dense construction. In last November’s election, however, “Berkeley flipped in a very surprising way: it went completely NIMBY.”

The other setback was both political and personal. When Magofña was working as an aide to Tom Bates, his questionable backroom machinations were exposed by the editor of “a news rag”—he didn’t name the publication; clearly it was Becky O’Malley’s Berkeley Daily Planet—that, he said, “is supposed to be reputable” but “is now her opinion column.” The editor “associated me [with]the mayor, so I had to step away” from East Bay Forward.

When it came time for Q & A, I had my question—I knew I’d have a chance to ask only one—ready. I prefaced it with remarks to Magofña, stating that what he’d said about smart growth being popular in Berkeley (my town) was not true. 

The reason that all the candidates save one who’d been endorsed by Tom Bates, including incumbent Darrell Moore, lost badly last November was that voters opposed the new buildings going up in downtown, notably the eighteen-story, luxury tower at Harold Way (off Shattuck) that had been waved on by the Bates council. Magofña did not contest my claim.

I didn’t have to comment on his run-in with O’Malley. As he said, she did go after him in an April 2015 op-ed that opened with this memorable lede:

If it wasn’t such a cliché, I might say that you can’t make this stuff up. How could it be ethical for Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who will eventually be reviewing variances sought by 2211 Harold Way in his quasi-judicial role, to lobby himself using the services of his taxpayer-funded aide, who seems to be organizing “a special Berkeley sub-group” of the now notorious SF BARF group which fronts for developers?

It appears that the Berkeley activities of the pro-development San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation are being coordinated out of the office of Berkeley Mayor Bates, or at least by one of his city-paid staffers. A reader who lurks on the San Francisco BARF list-serv forwarded this communication to us:

From: Gregory Magofna  
Subject: [sfbarentersfed] Berkeley Community Benefits/Housing Mitigation Fee
Date: April 7, 2015 PDT 

I know a special Berkeley sub-group was created upon my request, I will get to that with specific projects in the coming weeks. I just wanted to let the group know about something on tonight’s city council agenda: Significant community benefits for developments over 75 ft in Downtown Berkeley. 

The fight is over what else developers should be required to do and NIMBYs have been making outrageously impossible demands to meet to block the project. There is talk of another meeting coming up just on this so it’s not the end of the world if no one attends, but it does set the stage for the other 4 tall buildings in downtown. Please plan on coming to the special meeting in May. 

There was no need to defend the Planet against Magofña’s insinuation of disreputability. That indictment was undercut by his admission that in the wake of O’Malley’s piece, he had to temporarily abandon East Bay Forward...

See also Does Compact Development Make People Drive Less?

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