June 2 , 2022
Council Member Rashi Lesarwani – District 1 - statement Ref - BART developments
Before I was elected, it was suggested to me that we might be able to have two-story townhomes at the N. Berkeley BART station someday. That didn't sound very ambitious to me, but I also recognized how hard change can be. Council's action on Thursday evening shows just how far we have come over four years.
Because of a state law that passed in 2018, AB 2923, minimum state requirements for zoning the N. Berkeley BART station for seven stories have shifted our community's beliefs about what is possible. I have heard from neighbors who could not imagine any change at the station who are now in full support of a seven-story building-creating hundreds of homes, including lots of affordable homes for lower-income households because of our minimum affordability requirement of 35 percent. And neighbors who always strongly supported homes at
the station began pushing for more than seven stories.
We will use our forthcoming objective design standards process to consider the design of the site with a seven- story building, as well as the possibility of taller buildings up to 12 stories-due to another state law known as the state density bonus. Either option (or something in between) is likely to be the maximum height at the center, not throughout the entire buildable area of the site. The zoning ordinance and Joint Vision and Priorities that Council passed on Thursday build in requirements for setbacks, a stepped-down perimeter using variations in height, massing breaks, and other design features to ensure that we develop the station in a way that is thoughtful and sensitive to the surrounding built environment.
We also know that there are opportunities across our City to take advantage of new state housing laws to allow for greater zoned capacity-always in a way that is thoughtful and sensitive to the surrounding built environment. I don't see any reason why greater height should not be considered for all of our transportation corridors, not just at the BART stations; allowing more residents to live a lower-carbon lifestyle close to transit is one of the most effective forms of climate action that we can take locally. Finally, we are a stronger community when people of all
income levels have a place here. I want to live in a state, a region, and a city that acts on the true threats to our quality of life: unsheltered homelessness; working- and middle-class people perpetually at risk of being priced out; and the next generation of Californians unable to afford a future here. I will continue to stand firm for these