Update: Fall 2015
Supreme Court Case
Efforts to change the demolition ordinance in 2013 faltered after the city became aware of a pending court case on inclusionary housing. Although the 2015 California Supreme Court decision does not apply to rental units, the decision does give more latitude to municipalities to charge impact and mitigation fees.
Building Trades decision: CA Building Trades Vs San Jose final (PDF)
Now the City has gotten back results of a New Nexus Study to set fees.
Please note the study itself says that quantifying demolition of rent controlled housing should be done on a case-by-case basis – but staff are calling to change the law and set a fee for demolished units that will only capture the impact of new expensive units on the need for affordable housing and NOT cover mitigation of the loss of the affordable units caused by the demolition itself.
Zoning Board Ignores Demolition Ordinance
Consider that since the voter-approved Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance in the mid-70s Berkeley has had an ordinance that sets high standards to tear down buildings. Since rent control began, BMC 23C has prevented demolition of all but the most derelict apartment buildings. This summer, the ZAB approved demolition of 18 units which had all been rented by students only one year before. ZAB accepted at face value the developer’s proforma showing they could not make a profit from rehabilitation even though:
1) Even the number and type of units in the current building was in dispute and
2) The number of units could no longer be verified because the developer invited the Fire Department to practice in the building and that led to removal of all the walls.
We are appealing the decision to Council, and the students of UC Berkeley (ASUC) have joined us in that appeal – and the developer has also appealed!
2631 Durant; Appeal November 17 – Carried Over to December 1, 2015
Appeal from ASUC and Berkeley Tenants: 2631DurantAppeal (PDF)
Revising the Old Law
Meanwhile, as the staff report on the Nexus study hints, the City Council wants to set a flat fee for very little money to allow demolition of rent controlled units. This will literally pave the way for expensive condos and commuter apartments, displacing long-time residents with predictable rents. There can be no rent control on these new buildings per state law. The fee proposed in the Nexus is a big step away from the one-for-one replacement of each rent controlled unit with permanently affordable housing that the community called for in 2013. See letters from NAACP, Sierra Club, BAHA, and many other Civic Groups posted on this page in 2013 (below).
The impact if the City Council upholds the ZAB decision allowing unverified math to determine that the developer can’t get a fair rate of return, coupled with a flat fee for demolition, could see practically anything in Berkeley torn down simply to build fancy new units.
Demolition Ordinance November 2013
The Berkeley City Council is considering revisions to the Demolition Ordinance which would make it easy to tear down rent controlled apartments – and any other building in Berkeley!
In June 2013, a compromise draft of revisions to the existing Demolition law (BMC23C.08) went to the City Council. Since then, each new draft of the law is worse for Berkeley, and Berkeley tenants in particular, than the last. The Sierra Club, NAACP, Neighborhoods Council, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn. and East Bay Community Law Center are also speaking out against these new drafts. BTU asks that any change require one-for-one replacement of rent controlled housing with units affordable to low income residents – The Housing Advisory Committee and the Berkeley Rent Board agree.
Email us at info at berkeley tenants dot org to help with this campaign.
BTU’s recent letter to the Planning Commission offers a comprehensive summary of the process to date:
Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn. (BAHA)
Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) letter
Berkeley Neighborhoods Council (BNC)
Berkeley Neighborhoods Council Shirley Dean letter
Housing Advisory Commission (HAC)
East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC)
East Bay Community Law Center letter
Current Demolition Ordinance:
“Worse” August 30 draft:
Demolishing older, affordable rentals to replace them with luxury apartments is a national trend: