Last week, we saw how a new 23-unit development was voted down by the Berkeley, California zoning board. The plot will remain a gas station.
This week, the zoning board and local residents came out in opposition to another development in an advisory meeting. Emilie Raguso explains in Berkeleyside:
A proposal for a five-story, 57-unit building in South Berkeley has come back in its latest iteration after a failed attempt in 2013 to get city approval.
The project, at 2701 Shattuck Ave., at Derby Street, has faced significant neighborhood opposition due to concerns about height, privacy and loss of sunlight, among other issues.
Thursday night, a representative for the property’s new owner told the Zoning Adjustments Board that significant changes have been made to respond to neighborhood concerns. But the few neighbors who spoke, along with the majority of the board, said the project is still too big and still poses too many problems for existing residents. The meeting was a preview only, to provide feedback to the development team rather than to vote.
Strong anti-development sentiment among “concerned residents” (colloquially called not-in-my-backyardism or NIMBYism) isn’t anything new, but it’s worth pointing out some of the arguments residents used against this development by concerned residents.
“This is an insane invasion of privacy to the folks who live next door. This is not how we do things in Berkeley,” said Commissioner Carrie Olson…the project would block too much light for the immediate neighbor to the east. “Berkeleyans depend on the afternoon sun. It’s what we live for.”
[Substitute Commissioner Toni Mester also added] I don’t know how Berkeley’s going to manage this kind of thing. People say, ‘Poo poo, it’s more important for people to have the housing than for the NIMBYs to have their values or whatever.’ That is such a devaluation of human life. I mean people really do need their sunlight for health.”
This rhetoric makes the development sounds like a Mr. Burns-style project to block out the sun. In reality, this would only moderately block sunlight to an immediate neighbor (who can still experience the California sunshine by taking a walk, which also good for their health.)
Speaking of prioritizing the concerns of neighbors about growth in the Bay Area, Mester also commented,
There’s no way you can build a large building there without devaluing private property…I see several single-family homes I think are going to lose their value.
This candor is almost refreshing. In plain English, the zoning board is prioritizing folks who can not only already afford to live in Berkeley, but financially benefit from restrictive zoning codes over those who are priced out.
The article is worth reading in full. The mix of naked self-interest by NIMBYs with arguments that are just plain silly (Commissioner Olson is also concerned that “[t]hose who own dogs take them up [to the development’s rooftop garden] to poop”) is unfortunately a regular feature of the land-use and zoning regulation debate.