Last month, Berkeley began to consider how it will do its part to help California meet its goals for addressing climate change through a regional Sustainable Communities Strategy.
On April 27, the Planning Commission reviewed the “Initial Vision Scenario” for the Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) for the Bay Area. The regional planning effort is called for under SB375, the law that requires each of California’s metropolitan regions to plan for growth in a manner that minimizes greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the ten targets set for the SCS by the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission calls for the region to provide enough housing by 2035 to accommodate 100 percent of the Bay Area’s projected 25-year growth by income level, without displacing current low-income residents.
California is leading the country when it comes to facing climate change. One of the ways California is setting the example is by asking cities to do their part by creating more compact communities. If the SCS is successful, it will give people more transportation choices, create more livable communities and reduce the pollution that causes climate change.
Over the next two decades, the Bay Area is expected to add nearly a million new households and more than as many new jobs. The Sustainable Communities Strategy will be the Bay Area’s integrated land-use/transportation plan to accommodate that growth with the least environmental impact.
What could this mean for Berkeley?
The Initial Vision Scenario developed by regional agencies proposes that Berkeley accommodate an additional 15,720 housing units on transit corridors by 2035. Thirty-one percent of those units would be in the Downtown, twenty percent on San Pablo Avenue, with the rest spread between University Avenue, Telegraph Avenue, Adeline and South Shattuck.
The April 27 planning staff report states that, “should this 'vision scenario' occur, Berkeley would be close to a jobs/housing balance as opposed to the City’s current substantial imbalance with many more jobs than employed residents” – meaning, the scenario would provide housing options potentially for the thousands of workers who currently commute into Berkeley.
City staff’s “educated guess” is that the level of growth posited in the scenario exceeds what can be feasibly accommodated in Berkeley. Staff is also concerned that other communities are not being asked to do as much as Berkeley.
The success of statewide efforts and the huge challenge of responding to climate change depends on the individual counties, cities and transportation partners in every region adopting the SCS goals and working to develop more compact communities.
There are many factors that make Berkeley an appropriate location for substantially more housing: its location in the center of the Bay Area, its huge institutional employer (UC) and good transit infrastructure including three BART stations. In addition, over the last 40 years Berkeley’s total population has had small fluctuations, but has not grown significantly.
Livable Berkeley will be following the Sustainable Communities Strategy process in Berkeley, advocating that Berkeley play a leading role in the region to help accomplish Statewide goals for addressing climate change. We’ll keep you posted.