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Berkeley seeks objective standards for thorniest aspects of new developments

By Nico Savidge, Berkeleyside, September 5, 2021

“The city already has some objective standards on the books. But, Mayor Jesse Arreguín said, ‘Issues that are often the crux of what is controversial around development in Berkeley, and many cities, are not really clearly defined in the zoning ordinance.’

“Along with City Councilmembers Sophie Hahn, Kate Harrison, and Susan Wengraf, Arreguín is drafting a referral to staff that will come before the City Council at its Sept. 14 meeting, which will recommend contracting with consultant Ben Noble to draft a set of standards — including rules for shadows, views, design, and privacy.

“Those standards will go before the Planning Commission before eventually coming back to the City Council for final approval, a process Arreguín said he wants to wrap up by the end of next year.

“ ‘If you’re a jurisdiction, and you’re trying to preserve your local control, objective design standards are now a really important way you still have control over development,’ [Daniel Saver, assistant director for housing and local planning at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission,] said.

“Although she is working to draft the referral, Hahn said she is skeptical of the need for objective standards. Berkeley’s current approval process appropriately mixes existing standards with the discretion of its zoning board, Hahn contends, and ‘has generally made good decisions that allow developments to go forward.’

“Pointing to regional requirements that Berkeley build 9,000 new housing units over the next decade, Arreguín said this is the city’s chance to accomplish that goal in a way that residents can support.”

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