Contradictory Housing Policies from Berkley City Council?
Berkeley has been expediting building permits and cutting fees for developers, saying our town desperately needs housing. One policy that some see as quite promising would make it easier to add a legal in-law unit on an existing property. But when it comes to low-cost housing for students, policymakers appear to be swayed by pressures from existing homeowners, because students are known to be noisy and make a mess, they say.
In fact, the initial legislation on mini-dorms approved by the Council in January seems to point to the sort of problems that cannot be anticipated by neighbors or Zoning Commissioners unless they make assumptions about the future behavior of possible tenants, perhaps unfairly: “Such buildings tend to impair the quiet enjoyment of the surrounding neighborhoods by creating trash and litter, creating excess parking demand, and being the location of numerous loud and unruly parties.”
In July, the City Council began work on an ordinance that would curb proliferation of the so-called “mini-dorms” by requiring a public hearing for new construction with six or more bedrooms. The ordinance would only impact certain neighborhoods – the ones close to campus, according to the Daily Cal.
It seems to me that instead of regulating potential threats to civil society based on assumptions about young people, the Council might do better to look into why existing housing code is not enforced at existing properties. Several students said they would welcome more scrutiny of their housing, according to the Daily Cal: “We don’t feel safe, because we are in an attic that has no fire escape… We are a lot of people living on top of each other with no fire escape or anything — with no smoke detectors either — so in that sense, we feel really unsafe.”
I Urge Anyone In The Above Situation to Contact Code Enforcement! There are existing laws to protect you, and you may be entitled to a rent decrease too – ask at the Rent Board. Stand up for your own safety!
Students, please join BTU at our next Potluck, August 14.
As one commenter on Berkeleyside put it, “We have codes up the wazoo, often unenforced by the City and ignored by some property owner who make a living exploiting students.”