Community Benefits in Downtown Berkeley

In 2015, Berkeley City Council discussed community benefits associated with tall buildings in Downtown Berkeley in terms what those buildings should provide to the community (affordable housing, open space, etc.) I viewed the decision as an incredible opportunity to ensure Berkeley increases our affordable housing supply.

The Droste-Moore Proposal

I’m pleased to say that a proposal which I cosponsored with Councilmember Moore passed by an 8-1 vote. The proposal defines what a “community benefit” is and how community benefits should be provided to the City as new, taller buildings are built in our downtown (per Berkeley’s Downtown Plan). The proposal ensures that every development in the downtown area that exceeds 75 feet must either:

include significant affordable housing units on-site, use local labor, and contribute to some combination of arts and culture, street and open space improvements, green building standards, restoration of historic buildings, or supportive social services or pay a square footage fee that will go into City funds to support the aforementioned benefits.

Additionally, the community benefits amount must be independently verified to ensure that projects provide adequate community benefits while also remaining financially viable. This proposal acknowledges the growth and development that Berkeley voters have indicated they want to see in our downtown, while at the same time ensuring that the growth also contributes to our community in a meaningful way.

The Process for Tall Buildings in Downtown Berkeley

The community benefits package we have approved is the most progressive and generous of any city in the entire East Bay, bar none. Each project will go through:

  1. An application submission
  2. Independent verification of the fees assessed or package offered
  3. Zoning Adjustments Board analysis
  4. Enforcement of community benefits

All fees assessed are subject to independent verification.

The significant community benefits must consist of three components: affordable housing, union labor to provide quality construction, and a third benefit, which will include the arts, sustainable features, open space, restoration of historic buildings or supportive services.

Please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.