Berkeley begins process to end single-family zoning

By Supriya Yelimeli, Berkeleyside, February 24, 2021

“The Berkeley City Council unanimously denounced the racist history of single-family zoning in the city, beginning a two-year process to change the city’s general plan and introduce more multi-unit housing in every part of the city.

According to UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute, single-family zoning presents a barrier to promoting racial residential integration in the Bay Area.

“[Councilmember] Lori Droste and co-authors pointed out in the resolution that Berkeley was the first city in the United States to enact single-family zoning in 1916 in Droste’s district, the Elmwood. This combined with discriminatory lending practices, redlining, and the Berkeley Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance of 1973 to create deeply segregated neighborhoods.

“Due to the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation from Senate Bill 828, Berkeley is already required to build 9,000 more units in the next several years. Mayor Jesse Arreguín and others have said zoning changes are one of the only ways to accomplish this quantity, and that the choice to do away with single-family zoning was practically decided for them.

“ ‘I’m glad people have realized … that our Black population is almost gone, but we can’t separate that from the policies that got us here in the first place,’ said Councilmember Terry Taplin, rejecting an assertion that ending single-family zoning ‘in predominantly Black areas of the city could potentially further gentrification.’

“[Councilmember Ben Bartlett added, ‘… not only are we the birthplace of [single-family] race zoning, but we are also the birthplace of the Fair Housing Act authored by Berkeley’s own Byron Rumford, which became the Federal Fair Housing Act — a seminal piece of legislation guaranteeing equal access to housing.’ ”

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