Image: Google Maps/Berkeleyside

There have been 1,022 housing units built in Berkeley, across 17 projects, since 2014, according to the latest “housing pipeline” report issued by the city of Berkeley.

The June 2019 pipeline report — which was on the Berkeley City Council’s agenda this week — includes about 75 projects of at least six units that have been built in the city since 2014 or are in some stage of the permitting process. It’s the first time since 2017 that the city has updated its pipeline report. Going forward, staff plans to release it annually in July, in line with the schedule for state-mandated housing data requirements.

Units built in Berkeley since 2014 include 128 listed as below-market-rate housing. That number is split nearly evenly between units considered affordable to very-low-income households and low-income households.

In its report, the city has listed “group living accommodation” projects, such as dormitories with higher bed counts, alongside other projects available to the public. Berkeleyside has split those out from the rest of the numbers and will consider those projects below. Because of this discrepancy, Berkeleyside has focused on the numbers in the 2019 report rather than providing a historical comparison to the city’s 2017 numbers.

About 842 units, across 15 projects, are under construction and expected to be completed by 2020, according to the pipeline report. That is set to include 85 below-market-rate units, but the city cautioned that this number could change. Developers have up until the time a certificate of occupancy is issued to make final decisions about whether to include affordable units in the project or pay a fee to the city instead.

The city did not include any information in the report about Housing Trust Fund fees associated with the housing projects.

The city has approved 23 other projects — totalling 1,735 units — that do not have an active building permit yet. There are about 230 estimated below-market-rate units included in these projects, but that number could change, as noted above. (The city includes one other project among this batch but it also has a new application pending. Berkeleyside removed those units from this part of the tally so as not to duplicate them.)

Six of the approved projects, with 284 total units, have applied for their building permits. These permits “will be issued in the near future,” according to the pipeline report. Four others on the approved list date back to 2016 and have not yet sought a building permit.

The projects that may have the longest road ahead of them have been submitted to the city but are not yet considered complete applications or are pending review by city officials. There are 15 projects, totalling about 1,190 units, on that list. (One project included in the pipeline report, 1486 University Ave., was withdrawn recently by the applicant, so Berkeleyside did not count it.)

As for group living accommodations, there are three projects expected to be done by 2020, totalling 734 beds, as well as two projects that were completed in 2016 totalling 352 beds, according to independent research by Berkeleyside. Several other group living accommodation projects — completed and underway — were not included on the city’s list. Berkeleyside has asked staff for clarification.

Berkeleyside did not include the city’s calculations for its regional housing needs because group living units were included in those counts. Berkeleyside has asked the city for additional information on this topic.

Note: This story was updated after publication to reflect numbers that appear, from independent research, to be more accurate than some of those in the city’s pipeline report. Berkeleyside is seeking clarification from the city.

Emilie Raguso

Emilie Raguso (senior editor, news) joined the Berkeleyside team in 2012. She covers politics, public safety and development. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...

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175 Comments

  1. It’s not at all so obvious. A big enough developer might well seek to equalize profits with losses so as to pay no income taxes. An ordinance severely taxing vacancies after four months would effectively compel owners to rent for what the market will currently bear (rather than angling indefinitely to hook the occasional affluent newcomer).

  2. Great news all! According to a new study out of UCLA, housing developers in the Bay Area are actually ramping DOWN developments in the region, not UP, because projects are increasingly difficult to pencil thanks to rent control, local bureaucratic processes and high and inconsistent fees. How this can surprise anyone I have no idea, but congrats to all the folks who have demonized builders, you’re winning and if you work a little harder you might successfully push Bay Area real estate out of reach of just about everybody. Make no mistake, if a developer stops trying to build projects in your area it’s not out of spite, it’s because they don’t pencil and/or the local government has made it so painful and risky to pursue a project that it makes more sense to withdraw and pursue projects elsewhere. Its amazing how many times we manage to shoot ourselves in the foot in this city with our extreme politics. If we were even just a BIT more moderate and responsible we could be a shining example of a progressive city “that works” and we could wow the world with both our values AND our savvy ability to run a city by building enough homes for our population and maintaining our infrastructure. Instead we chase builders out of town and then complain about the lack of housing. Sheesh.

    Link to the UCLA report: https://sanjosespotlight.com/report-bay-area-developers-see-headwinds-in-housing-market/

  3. Not true. Population planning is just one out of the three factors in the IPAT equation — all equally important and all essential.

    Having population stable and per capita emissions growing is obviously just as bad as having per capita emissions stable and population growing.

  4. 30% is about 3 million people which I think will be quite enough for our already challenged infrastructure to handle. Of course if we declassified all of our open spaces, wetlands, agricultural preserves and zoned them for housing, we could fit the other 7 million in.
    Just kidding, of course.

  5. The ends justify the means.

    If you want to keep Bangladesh above sea-level, shuffling some desk chairs in Berkeley isn’t going to do it.

    The only planning that has any chance of changing the future is population planning.

  6. Many neighbors do mobilize to fight housing. Decades ago, this was the most common bias, which is why Berkeley’s population did not increase for decades. Today, there are still many people with this bias, as we can see by looking at Berkeleyside comments saying that the housing should be built somewhere else – Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Antioch, anywhere but Berkeley.

  7. Oh, come on! I didn’t suggest executing anyone. I talked about building housing in a way that would benefit the largest number of people. Building housing in a way that promotes clean transportation rather than automobile use is very different from executing innocent people.

    Because local residents focused on self-interest make it difficult for cities to build enough housing, the state is stepping in with laws to protect the common good. And those state laws are obviously needed to protect everyone’s interest rather than just the interest of those who already live in a city.

  8. No, it’s the reality of property valuation. If you can build a $50M property on a parcel, that parcel will tend toward a much higher price than if you can only build a $600k property on that parcel.

    There are multiple factors at play, and the job-housing imbalance is part of the equation and the one that Berkeley is neither responsible for nor in a position to significantly impact.

    What Berkeley can do is make Berkeley an undesirable or near-impossible place to build faux-luxury housing, and an easy place to build low and mid-range affordable housing.

  9. Economics wins! In order to build in Berkeley–a very high cost area–developers have to pay an affordable housing mitigation fee, permit fees, Berkeley Unified fees, and maybe other fees. Consequently, they have to charge a lot for the units to compensate for the high building costs and exorbitant Berkeley fees. No way around that unless you print your own money.

  10. Oh the virtue signaling!

    Old people consume the most health care dollars which are paid for by healthy workers, so shouldn’t we balance those two facts and execute everyone over 70?

    The average American emits 20 tons of co2 per year while the average Bangladeshi emits 0.29 tons. So shouldn’t we balance those two facts (and keep Bangladesh above water) by executing every surplus (>1 per household) American child between the ages of 2 and 5?

    Or perhaps you don’t care about how your decisions affect others. How many children do you have?

  11. Neighbors don’t mobilize to fight the housing, they mobilize to fight for housing for the not-rich as well as the rich — but virtually all new projects target high end incomes. Neighbors mobilize for photovoltaics, for ‘green’ water use, and for features of the buildings that don’t destroy the streetscape.

    No one mobilizes against housing. And if our council and the various boards that must approve housing projects, would actually listen to the public –instead of only listening to their rich campaign donors/developers — projects could be approved quickly. It is this citys failure to listen to the people who show up that slows down build permits. Well that and greedy developers who only want to build housing for the upper class.

  12. I just passed by because it was on my way. There are obvious signs that the apartments are occupied – people’s possessions visible in the windows. There are also For Lease signs on all the storefronts.

    The fact that the storefronts in this building are vacant while all the other storefronts on the block are filled implies that the developer is holding out for a high rent. He thinks that there is enough demand for retail here that he can make money hand over fist if he just waits for the right tenants.

  13. “Eliminate the possibility that cheap, low density housing can be replaced with expensive high density housing and suddenly Berkeley property is a much worse investment and much lower value.”

    No, this is just silly. Take away the possibility of high density housing and the job -housing imbalance continues to get worse and worse, resulting in all the new folks pushing out lower-income folks instead of bidding up the newer units.

  14. Never heard of Slumburbia and I’ve been here a long time. Where are you from where that term was used? Not sure what you consider distant suburbs, but much of southern Alameda County, southern/western Contra Costa county and many parts of Oakland had lots of great deals. All on BART lines.

  15. “business leases typically run for 10 years or more and developers don’t want to be locked into long BMR leases”
    That makes sense – and it implies that developers expect to lease those spaces at higher rent if they wait long enough, and that they will make more money in the long run if they wait for the higher rent. So it implies that there is demand for those spaces – so much demand that they will eventually get a high rent – and so it makes sense to keep building them.

    “but it might be a challenge to fill spaces in today’s web commerce economy”
    But this point contradicts the earlier one. It implies that there is not enough demand to fill all of those spaces, so the developers should lower the rents until they reach a level low enough that the spaces will be rented (eg, as office space rather than retail) and will earn them some revenue rather than staying vacant and earning them nothing.

    So which one is it?

  16. The jobs create the market. The expectation that Berkeley property can be used to satisfy that market drives the price. Add in state action trying to remove local zoning authority and you drive the price even higher.

    Take away the job growth (recession), and the bubble will burst. Eliminate the possibility that cheap, low density housing can be replaced with expensive high density housing and suddenly Berkeley property is a much worse investment and much lower value.

    You need two things for high prices: a market for expensive housing and the ability to give that market what it wants.

    The price of land is dependent on what you expect to be able to grow on it. If you can’t grow faux luxury housing here, you won’t have faux luxury prices. People don’t pay top dollar for infertile land.

  17. That’s why I normally refer to it as “faux-luxury”. It’s cheap housing being sold at absurd prices because we are in a real estate bubble.

  18. The congestion makes it a bit harder for people who live in Berkeley to get around. The housing in Berkeley makes it much easier for people to get around than it would be if they had to move to Antioch.

    Shouldn’t we balance those two facts and act for the greatest good of the greatest number? Or should we just think about the people who already live in Berkeley and not care about how our decisions affect others?

  19. The storefronts in that one site where Grocery Outlet used to be are empty, but the storefronts across the street from it on the other side of Fourth Street and the storefronts further south on the same side of Fourth Street are occupied – so there does seem to be demand for retail space in that neighborhood.

    Of course, there is obviously high demand for retail space on Fourth St. north of University Ave, and some of that demand seems to spill over to this block of Fourth St. south of University Ave.

    That entire building where Grocery Outlet used to be seems unoccupied based on a casual look at it on google street view. I will have to look more closely.

  20. We’re going to have to really speed up this building if we hope to make a dent in SF’s 150,000 shortfall in housing units. Already business growth in SF is slowing due the difficulty in hiring enough workers and the necessary elevated salaries to cover housing costs. Sure, we might increase congestion and destroy the character of Berkeley, but you can’t expect these tech bros to have to take BART all the way to Antioch.

  21. You have it precisely backwards. What is driving the cost is not that “the market started to believe it can build whatever it chooses” it’s that the Bay Area has added hundreds of thousands of jobs without building enough housing to accommodate them, and Berkeley is wonderfully situated to access those jobs. Or are you going to pretend that job growth has always been this blistering here?

  22. The only thing that makes the new housing “luxury” is its scarcity. Slapping granite countertops on a small kitchen only takes a few grand. Building in an extremely expensive market takes much more.

  23. I often disagree with the decisions Jesse makes, but I don’t appreciate criticisms that are patently untrue like “he is an unskilled buffoon.”

  24. Not so much in Berkeley. Most of the foreclosures were in outlying suburbs, in fact, the percentage of foreclosures grew the further they were from urban or job centers. Many people driven out of gentrified inner city neighborhoods migrated to more affordable distant suburbs and the term “Slumburbia” was born.
    Gas prices were on the rise at the same time as foreclosures. It’s all about the transportation.

  25. A better idea is to build purchasable low-income units with permanent restricted equity. When units are sold, they revert to the city or agency that controls ownership for resale. Homeowners can recoup purchase price and improvements they made, but the unit remains permanently “affordable.”

  26. BMR housing projects are built by not-for-profit developers like Mercy or Bridge Housing. They finance projects mostly with various grants and money from developers who don’t want to include on-site affordable housing units in their projects. It’s difficult to mix market-rate and BMR beyond the 15% that cities require because of this type of financing. Ideally, projects would mix income-levels in projects as it benefits lower-income residents.

  27. Doesn’t the whole bldg remain empty? I’ve heard that the city won’t issue occupation permits until a grocery store moves in.

  28. Perhaps b/c business leases typically run for 10 years or more and developers don’t want to be locked into long BMR leases. SF has been threatening to levy fines for empty storefronts. Good for the streetscape, but it might be a challenge to fill spaces in today’s web commerce economy. Cities should develop approved storefront usage plans so they can be used for other purposes than retail, but still provide sidewalk interest.

  29. Maybe he is intelligent and skilled, but governing a complicated city takes more than that. You have to be able to make effective decisions on difficult issues. That seems to be where he falls short.

  30. When Groc Outlet was demolished and there was outcry from the community about losing that popular store in a neighborhood that needs a grocery store, I recall there were vague assurances that a new grocery store would be opened there in the commercial space. Most of us doubted that would ever happen because small grocery stores are generally not profitable. Even the major large chain grocery stores have very thin margins.

  31. “How about a goal of letting people who work in Berkeley choose to live in Berkeley if they want to – or choose to live in another city if they want to?”

    Yep. That’s the goal. That requires fighting the current push to increase density with high-end commuter housing, to gentrify the existing residents out, to give up local control to the state, and to eliminate the hard won restrictions that have been protecting low income communities for decades.

  32. Stanford University endowment: $22B
    Palo Alto population: 67k
    Palo Alto density: 2800/sqm

    UC Berkeley endowment: $6B
    Berkeley population: 127k
    Berkeley density: 11700/sqm

  33. “Rather, a developer choices from among the available options that have an adequate return on their investment. ”

    Given the choice of an “adequate” return or a fantastic return, the developer will choose fantastic return 99% of the time. The other 1% of the time, he’s drunk.

    The goal is not to “only allow affordable housing”, but to make affordable housing the best, if not only, option for some developers/property owners in some areas through zoning. It was done successfully for most of the 20th century.

    And, as you point out, you don’t need to create additional impediments (though it wouldn’t hurt). You simply have to remove some of those that are there. When you have massive obstacles that prevent development of housing of any kind, you have a fantastic opportunity: remove the delay, reduce the permitting, reduce the review process, eliminate the fees, and prioritize the process for one housing type.

    You do not have to subsidize housing to make it cheaper. You have to make the land cheaper (restrictive zoning) and make the process cheaper and faster but with a focus on affordable housing only.

    “then to the extent that the impediments result in less new housing than would otherwise be built, such housing is that much more expensive due to the increased gap between supply and demand”

    This is not actually the case unless you look at housing as a single product (as if often done, and which is wrong). A tech millionaire is not in the market for an economy studio. An entry level blue collar worker is not in the market for a 4 bedroom house with a view in the hills.

    By analogy, a shortage of Ferrari’s does not increase the price of a Civic.

    If you increase the supply of affordable housing and decrease the supply of faux-luxury housing, you increase the cost and availability of housing to the high-end buyer and lower the cost and increase the availability of housing to the low-end buyer.

    That is exactly the goal.

  34. Using zoning to only allow affordable housing does not make it suddenly profitable to build low cost housing. A developer does not simply choose the most profitable option and build there. Rather, a developer choices from among the available options that have an adequate return on their investment. If there is no such option they choose to build nothing.

    Only incentives to developers in Berkeley will result in them building housing below market rate, and such incentives raise the cost of housing for everyone who is not a lucky lottery winner.

    If we followed your logic of creating additional impediments (which is already done extensively in Berkeley), then to the extent that the impediments result in less new housing than would otherwise be built, such housing is that much more expensive due to the increased gap between supply and demand.

    There is no alternative in Berkeley for creating affordable housing than doing so with subsidies, and someone has to pay for them. Currently, advocates have won by making all the subsidies come from either new residents or funding from outside the community (e.g. federal, state, county). They have successfully avoiding having to contribute any of their own money. The result is a lot fewer new units than if we all contributed.

    The long term problem being added to our existing housing problems is that virtually all new housing is for renters rather than owners. That will result in myriad problems in the future.

  35. That is exactly what people who can’t afford Berkeley but can afford somewhere else do.

    For the people who can’t afford to rent anywhere, and also have ties to Berkeley, many choose a Berkeley location to be homeless.

  36. Maybe that’s because a lot of people who live here don’t work here but commute out. How’re you gonna fix that? Just like those who live here and work elsewhere, others who work here may have to live elsewhere and commute.

  37. Amen. Some people think their own personal philosophy is binding to all. No offense to R.D., but I believe that would effectively kill all housing investment- unless subsidized by the Gov/City. Why would anyone assume the risk? J. Baker- the average American moves an average of 11 times in their life.

  38. I wouldn’t be the right one to answer that question since I am not on the right.

    I can only say that there definitely are those on the right (in certain camps actually many, take for example a Trump rally) who deny facts because it does not fit their ideology (climate “sceptics” and climate change “deniers” are a good examples).

    That said, I don’t believe just because one side is narrow-minded, the other side should do the same thing. I will always hold “my side” to a higher standard. So in that sense, yes, Berkeley is a town full of lefties who will adhere to their set minds even when evidence indicates we should be rethinking our strategies. The goals might be the right ones, but obviously the methods to achieve those goals sometimes need to be changed. People should learn to be more critical and adjust when necessary. There is no shame in admitting that one has become smarter.

    So to get back to the issue at hand, I believe it would serve the left’s cause much better to adhere to facts and judge people solely by their actions rather than the class they hail from (their skin color, their wealth, their upbringing, etc.) or their attempts to overtly display supposed virtuousness and talk the sweet talk of Kumbaya. Jesse has talked a whole lot yet he has done nothing of substance in this town to further social justice (unless we shall consider enabling addicts to come to our streets to die unattended “justice”). Those that champion social justice would therefore be well advised to start looking for a better candidate to replace Jesse 2020. Again, if we settle for mediocre talkers, we will get a government of mediocre talkers and we will have nobody else but ourselves to blame for that.

  39. By the way, having worked with Jesse on some issues, I should add that he is a very intelligent guy with an incredible grasp of the details of policy. Agree with him or disagree with him, it is patently false that he is an “unskilled buffoon.”.

  40. Because Berkeley does not have enough housing for the people who work here or go to school here.

  41. That plan ran into legal problems. The city found that, legally, it could only charge them a fee equal to the cost to the city of leaving the spaces vacant, and this was such a small amount that it would not have any effect.

    Some of those storefronts have been rented as office space after being left vacant for years.

  42. It’s a lot more housing development than there was in Berkeley earlier in the 20th Century. And it’s lot less than what we need. But I can’t think of a substantial proposed housing development in Berkeley where the neighbors didn’t mobilize to fight it. We welcome everyone–regardless of race, national origin, sexual orientation etc–to Berkeley, as long as they don’t want actually join us and move here!

  43. “Developers would rather leave them empty than lower the rent to something reasonable.”

    There seems to be some truth to this, but I cannot understand why. The developers would obviously be better off renting them and getting some revenue from them rather than leaving them empty and getting nothing from them.

    The only explanation I can think of is that the developers believe that, if they wait long enough, they will ultimately find tenants who will pay the higher rent they demand – so they will make more money from them in the long run.

  44. The retail spaces at the new developments near where Grocery Outlet used to be are also all empty and the few businesses that open in them have very high turnover.

  45. But why? Why not convert these unused spaces to office or warehouse space instead of leaving it as vacant retail? What happened to the plans to tax vacant retail spaces?

  46. “We need small affordable office and warehouse spaces, which have not been built in Berkeley for decades.” There is a reason that small and affordable hasn’t been built for years. If you build new space, it will not be affordable. The cost will be between $400 and $500 per gross square foot to build it. Accordingly, the rents will need to be in the $4.25/rentable sqft range for a project to makes sense. If you rent a 250 sqft, one person office, you will be paying over $1,000 per month.

  47. So how does that fit in with the comment that I was responding to:
    “Are there many people in Berkeley that are not SJW’s?”

    Is it really true that almost everyone in Berkeley adheres to ideology in the face of contradictory evidence?

    Is it really true that only people on the left who support justice adhere to ideology in the face of contradictory evidence? No one on the right adheres to ideology in the face of contradictory evidence? For example, no one on the right denies that global warming exists, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that it does?

  48. I was responding to the comment “There is just no demand for this space.”
    Of course, San Pablo and Delaware is a different question from downtown.

  49. You mean San Pablo and Delaware if you’re talking about Popeye’s. Are there any of the complexes with any significant number of tenants? How about the one at Dwight and MLK? What type of businesses would that location even likely attract?

  50. Density is usually defined in a City’s general plan as dwelling units/acre (43,560 square feet). This is usually interpreted in a consistent zoning ordinance as the number of units per square footage of lot area. The MUR is approximately 35 dwelling units/acre, which is medium density as defined by the land use element of the general plan. High density would be above that to 100 du/acre. The general plan needs to be updated to redefine densities as many new avenue developments exceed 100 du/acre.
    The MUR is mixed-use residential, and the residential only use is allowed.

  51. What you call “insecurity and lack of control” others would refer to as freedom.

    The freedom to move in and out at will. The freedom of being in charge of your finances rather than worried if that collateral (the thing you cal “home”) on your 6-figure debt to some bank is still doing ok. The freedom to not care about the ups and downs of the real-estate market. The freedom to have other people worry about fixing your dwelling. The freedom of choice: fix the dwelling and make it nice or I’ll ship out. That freedom does not come with a 30-year mortgage on a property valued by a market you have essentially zero control over.

    I agree that owning your house sounds great. And it is if it’s truly yours. But unless you’re super rich and can afford to pay for it cash or you have already paid back your mortgage long ago and really own it 100%, you’re not a free owner. You’re essentially a tenant of your mortgage issuing bank. But unlike a renter who can just walk away, you hold all the responsibility and the risk while they make money off of you essentially assuming zero risk (if they do their diligence). I’d say those buying high priced homes in a housing bubble like the one we in this area are experiencing right now are those who are most “insecure” and suffer from a “lack of control”. I feel for young families who believe they must get into this market now by buying a home. It’s nuts and I consider myself very lucky I don’t have to do that.

  52. Maybe UC Berkeley charges reasonable rent. I’m still waiting for that apartment complex on Shattuck and Delaware (across the street from Popeyes) to have a whiff of a tenant. I’m also waiting for the ground floor of Stonefire apartments on University to have tenants. The Higby ground floor is also mostly empty.

  53. But who fills it out? Is it just a random sampling? I don’t submit census data yearly.

  54. Are we betting before or after Cal adds another 10k undergraduates to the 30k who already eat up half of the rental units?

  55. Of course not. It’s clear that what many (perhaps most?) people using the term want to indicate is related to supporting silly measures under the guise of being righteous and interested in social justice. Something the left often doesn’t get (and I say this as a lefty myself) is that good intentions do not make good policy. Acting stupid is still stupid regardless of how virtuous your intentions are. If measures do not deliver they need to be revisited regardless of how well intentioned they were. Adhering to ideology in the face of contradictory evidence is stubborn foolishness no matter how righteous the proponent may claim to be. I’m pretty sure it’s that kind of folly people using SJW have in mind.

    In the context of Jesse and Berkeley politics it’s quite clear that what several posters are getting at, is that just because Jesse talks the compassionate and righteous talk, does not distract from the fact that he is an unskilled buffoon who’s in over his head. Just because he plays a tiny violin for the deprived and the outcasts does not make him a good mayor, politician, or man. Perhaps somebody who schmoozes less about injustices and righteousness, but spends more time on actually serving this town, cleaning up the mess, improving traffic safety, getting affordable housing built, and making it a better place for all, would do more for the masses than a clueless sweet talker like Jesse who after two years has still essentially achieved nothing, let alone made Berkeley more socially just.

    If voters in this town focused more on what people accomplish and less on what they blather about, maybe then we’d see better politicians and face better choices on our ballots. We get the government we deserve.

  56. Nope.
    Enrollment numbers, and the makeup of the students (instate, out-of -state, international), at Cal are mandated by the Regents. Neither Cal, or the city, has anything to do with it.
    Also, construction funding unfortunately does not follow the mandated increases….

  57. Depends on what your opinion of high density is, my point was MUR which used to have small business and artists reside is being turned into residential only.

  58. The old Pacific Steel site will be turned into small warehouse and industrial spaces for small business and artists. That is exciting, West Berkeley will not be turned into another Emeryville!

  59. Why should we create a ton of housing here in Berkeley when all the new job creation is across the bay. Infill the peninsula and silicon valley instead.

  60. You’re right: just checked a Berkeleyside report: “City staff argued that invoking SB 35 for 1900 Fourth St. would have violated the state constitution, which allows cities to protect landmarked areas.”

  61. I will add that the price of housing in Berkeley went way down after World War II and during the 1950s and into the 1960s. Lots of family homes built early in the century were broken up into apartments and converted into low-income rentals, and beatniks and hippies moved here because of the low rents.

    Again, price was based on supply and demand. Demand for housing in Berkeley went down as the middle-class moved to the suburbs during the post-war years.

  62. The idea that jobs and housing should be separated is outdated. It’s true for industrial jobs, it’s not true for the modern bay area jobs.

  63. Densities were very high in Manhattan one hundred years ago, but there was lots of low-cost housing. The lower east side was the densest neighborhood in the world at the time – denser than Hong Kong – but it was a very cheap place to live, filled with the poorest of the poor. Prices were low because they were building so much housing in Manhattan at the time; price is determined by supply and demand, not by density.

    Density in Manhattan peaked in 1910, when there was lots of cheap housing there. Go to https://www.citylab.com/equity/2015/06/watch-210-years-of-manhattan-densification-in-2-minutes/394736/ and scroll about half way down the page to see the historical graph of Manhattan densities.

  64. How about a goal of letting people who work in Berkeley choose to live in Berkeley if they want to – or choose to live in another city if they want to?
    Right now, many people don’t have that choice, because they are priced out of the Berkeley housing market. Lots of students want to live near campus but can’t afford to.

  65. “The first goal is just to provide as much housing as jobs.”

    That is not the goal. It’s the regional goal, but it is not and should not be the goal of any individual city. Commuting is expected and generally a sign of good planning. Industry and residential sectors are separated.

    Berkeley cannot have a jobs/housing imbalance because it has never been the goal that Berkeley would be a self-contained city. By analogy, Berkeley also doesn’t have an agriculture/resident imbalance even though it has near zero agriculture because it has always expected to import food. And El Cerrito doesn’t have a university/resident imbalance because it expects to exports its university students and professors to Berkeley.

    In short, Berkeley is not an isolated village that must produce everything it consumes. Berkeley exists in an ecosystem of surrounding cities some of which are industry centers and some of which are residential centers. Berkeley houses a massive university and has about 10 largely residential cities within 20 minutes commute time.

    It would be ridiculous for it to set a goal of net zero imported workers. But that’s exactly what people are suggesting.

  66. When a politician does something we disagree with, he is pandering for votes.
    When a politician does something we agree with, he is representing the people who elected him.

  67. Housing prices have gradually increased over the past 40 years. This is normal urban growth as density drives prices higher.

    Gradual price increases are not what we’re talking about. The last five to ten years are not representative of the past 40.

  68. They are ultra expensive retail spaces that cost many thousands of dollars a month. Developers would rather leave them empty than lower the rent to something reasonable. We need small affordable office and warehouse spaces, which have not been built in Berkeley for decades. We should also tax vacant spaces to encourage landlords to rent them at prices people are actually willing to pay.

  69. That’s wild but I kinda like it. However the fact is that a 30-year tenure in the same dwelling isn’t rare. The median is I believe 6 years between moves for American adults.

  70. That’s because those new spaces are actually huge. They are designed for national franchise tenants.

  71. Most people in Berkeley support social justice, which is why they vote for progressive politicians. That’s for sure.

    Does adding the word “warrior” prove that there is something wrong with supporting social justice?

  72. Housing prices started rising in the 1970s. In 1970, housing was affordable for low and middle income families in the parts of north and central Berkeley near downtown, but by the 1980s, those neighborhoods were no longer affordable. It took longer for gentrification to spread to south and west Berkeley, but it began in low density neighborhoods around central Berkeley that were converted from low-income rentals to expensive owner-occupied in the days before upzoning.

    I myself lived in a low-income rental that was sold to an owner-occupant in the 1970s, and the low-income rental I moved to was sold to owner-occupants in the 1980s. .

  73. That’s incorrect. For decades, housing prices in West and South Berkeley and West Oakland, for example, remained within reach of low and middle income families and open to a diverse population. The displacement is happening now. The prices skyrocketed in the last 5-10 years.

    Two things changed: a) the market for faux-luxury housing rose because of tech, but this has happened before on prior tech bubbles without the commensurate price increase, and b) the market has started to believe it will soon be able to build anything it chooses here.

    If a property that previously could only serve single family housing expects it will soon be given a by-right ability to be replaced with a 6 story apartment building, the price of the land will rise to align with the future use.

    Pop that expectation, and the price will drop back to a reasonable valuation for housing.

  74. The issue is more complex. Smart growth advocates claim that, if ENOUGH new housing is built in the ENTIRE BAY AREA, it will counter the trend toward rising housing costs, which contributes to homelessness.

  75. No, cities have often done downzonings without their being challenged as takings. It is not a taking unless it leaves no economically viable use of the land.

    I myself am in favor of downzonings in some locations (agricultural land on the periphery of the Bay Area that is in danger of being developed with sprawl) and in favor of upzonings in other locations (near transit in existing cities and suburbs).

  76. I totally agree. There are hundreds of vacant commercial properties all over Berkeley that are on the market the past few years for triple the prior rent. And the city especially j is doing NADA. Why the laissez faire mode toward this and other housing shortage issues? Other nearby cities like S.F. And Oakland are run by mayors who are doing many, innovative and creative things to address housing shortage issues. But j and his gAng do NADA.

  77. The MUR is not zoned for high density residential. Depending on the lot size, a unit requires 750-1250 square feet of lot area. That is not high density. Name a residential project in the MUR that meets your definition of high density.

  78. If you think Berkeley is anything like Manhattan I must assume you have never been to either.

  79. If that is the case why do the ground floors of new housing developments remain empty for years?

  80. Small commercial spaces remain empty for years in every new development built in Berkeley. There is just no demand for this space.

  81. It is not just about Berkeley. Affordability of housing is a problem for the entire Bay Area.

  82. We have seen that theory tested in Berkeley. For decades, the city zoned for low densities and discouraged new housing from being developed. The result was that housing prices soared and existing affordable housing was gentrified.

  83. “If you’re talking jobs/housing, you also have to not count students.”
    But students also want to live in Berkeley and have a short commute.

    Clearly, there are lots of people who live in Berkeley and commute to jobs elsewhere – but the balance is about whether more people are commuting in or commuting out.

  84. 200 units per year. Anyone want to take bets on the next census’s population numbers? And meanwhile we still haven’t realized the small apartments that make up much of Berkeley’s housing stock. The put homes where I don’t need to see them strategy has failed.

  85. Commercial office space and industrial warehouse space does not just generate property tax for the city. It also generates business taxes, payroll taxes, and jobs. People that live in Berkeley need affordable new commercial spaces for their businesses. Small businesses can´t compete for commercial space with venture capital funded start ups.

  86. Says who? The city of Berkeley for one. The association of bay area governments (ABAG) for another.

    Additionally, you’re assuming that a complete lack of commuting is the goal. It’s not. The first goal is just to provide as much housing as jobs. Reaching that goal does help reduce commuting, but it won’t zero it out.

    https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Planning_and_Development/Home/BERKELEY_DRAFT_GENERAL_PLAN_EIR__4B__POPULATION,_EMPLOYMENT_AND_HOUSING.aspx

    “During the 1980s and 1990s, employment growth in Berkeley continued to increase much faster than housing production and the number of employed residents. Consequently, Berkeley had a jobs/housing imbalance, with a ratio of 1.17 in 1980 and 1.31 in 1990. A continued but greater imbalance with a jobs/housing ratio of 1.39 exists in 2000, and 1.37 in 2020, based on ABAG projections. This trend will further increase demand for housing in Berkeley. Jobs/housing balance is also now an important consideration in setting housing production and affordability goals.”

  87. This is at the end of the pipeline report but not noted in the article:
    “Within the numbers in Table 5 is a trend that merits highlighting in this report: the
    production of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The number of building permits
    issued for new ADUs increased from one in 2015 to 80 in 2018, for a building permit
    total of 171 since 2015.”

  88. Who enables the university to do what they want? We do, when we elect a mayor who is afraid of the UC system, when we elect a governor who doesn’t give a rats ass about us, etc etc. If Berkeley folks wanted to make a difference they would protest at the office of the UC president and in front of his/her house, But Berkeley folks and Berkeley leaders don’t really care about important stuff like that they really care about renaming man-hole covers and making sure Milo doesn’t get to speak at the campus.

  89. You’ve got the economics backwards. The value of the land will always rise in correlation with the highest value potential use of that land. The potential use sets the price, not the other way around. The land has no intrinsic value.

    So, yes, if the land and market can support faux-luxury housing and such housing can legally and practically be built under local law, then the only thing that will be profitable to build on that land will be the most expensive housing that land will support.

    Make it impossible or impractical to build such housing through local law and the price of the land will fall to support whatever is legal and practical.

    In other words, restrictive zoning is the solution, not the problem.

  90. UC Berkeley enrollment
    2014 36,776
    2018 41,444

    An extra 4657 students. That’s only 4.6 students per new residence.

  91. The Berkeley “successful” economic model is: student housing.

    Everyone else can go hang.

  92. It’s true. Look at the firesale prices in Manhattan! And gold will be $16/oz any day now! Short short short!!!

  93. Apparently you really don’t understand the economics here. If you look at the costs that SAHA or others have recently built “affordable” housing at, you will see that it is NOT profitable to build and rent at the rents defined as affordable.

    If it were possible to build affordable housing profitably, these projects would be proposed. They are not proposed because it is not possible to do profitably.

  94. Says who? Who actually tracks how many people commute out of Berkeley for jobs vs those who commute in? Then of course you’d have to take into account those who commute in by choice– they deliberately don’t choose to live here even though they work here and could afford to but prefer safer and cleaner and less crowded communities like Orinda, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, etc. If you’re talking jobs/housing, you also have to not count students.

    Then people like you who live here but commute out are taking up a house that a local worker could live in. That would have to be included in the jobs/housing imbalance.

    So, as you well know, the housing balance is more complicated than that. Many of the newer residents here are also commuting out on those big black or white buses picking up all over town. The new housing is not only being occupied by local workers.

  95. Increasing home ownership is nearly always a win-win strategy for improving the social order. A renter’s psychology is seriously affected by the insecurity and lack of control over their home, while they inevitably are paying the mortgage of their landlord.
    It may be a stretch, but I believe that instead of rent control and affordable housing strategies; we simply legislate for a system that automatically gives renters a stake in the unit they pay rent for. After 30 years, they own the unit.
    How complicated is that?

  96. Affordable housing sailing through approvals is NOT happening as you point out. So encouraging that to happen is definitely NOT perpetuating the status quo.

    There is no shortage of investment money today (which is a huge part of the problem). There is a shortage of affordable housing. The whole point is to make it less profitable to build faux-luxury housing and more profitable to build affordable housing. So you increase the cost and lower the profitability to do one and decrease the cost and increase the profitability to do the other.

    As a city that has a substantial bureaucracy already in place that makes building any housing expensive, that’s a surprisingly easy thing to do. Streamline one thing. Don’t streamline the other. Leave expensive requirements in place for one type of housing. Remove those requirements for another.

    The tools exist. The city just has to start using them.

  97. Demand for housing in Coastal California is almost infinite. There are at least 10 million people both foreign and domestic who would move here in a minute if housing became more affordable.Do we want to accommodate a doubling of the Bay Area population in a decade or so?

  98. Absolutely.Berkeley will be turning into more and more of a bedroom community without affordable office and commercial spaces.
    How about it green city advocates?

  99. Is there one person who is not a SJW that thinks Jesse is doing a good job as Mayor?

  100. Money that would otherwise have been spent building housing in Berkeley will not “go to the back of the line” it will just be deployed in some other city that will allow profitable housing to be developed.

    One would think that Berkeley would be a place where projects that provide affordable housing would sail through approvals, and yet that has not happened either, judging from this pipeline report.

    In other words, your idea is to perpetuate the status quo.

  101. MUR zoned properties in west Berkeley are being bought up by developers and converted into high density residential only. The city does not require mixed use in its application process.

  102. Just maybe if people can’t afford to live in Berkeley they should consider living somewhere they CAN afford…damn there I go talking common sense…

  103. If true to form/history, a recession will hit about 5 minutes after the perpetrator leaves office

  104. Mayor Jesse Arreguin used that as his excuse but the real reason he refused to support it was to pander for votes from the activist fringe.

  105. Berkeley has a jobs-housing imbalance. Too many jobs for our housing.

    “Except for being factually wrong, it’s a nice theory.”

  106. It is not just about housing. Where is the office and warehouse pipeline? There are lots of people that live in Berkeley that need affordable small office and commercial warehouse spaces that can´t find it. A successful economic model is not based only on housing, it requires mixed use residential, office and commercial space.

  107. Affordable housing is also created by restrictive zoning (though you wouldn’t know it by some of the backwards advocacy today). Restrictive zoning, by eliminating potential uses of property, lowers the value of some property (and raises the value elsewhere) creating the opportunity for affordable housing to exist where the market would otherwise tend toward the most profitable use.

    In short, affordable housing in an upmarket requires subsidy (your point) or market manipulation (mine). Zoning and planning provides the framework for that manipulation and have proven very effective at preserving economic diversity.

    Affordable housing does not need to be subsidized. It can be planned (though it may be too late for Berkeley). The key is to create impediments to building the housing that wealth wants, while simultaneously making fast lanes that make it easy and cheap to build affordable housing.

    “If you want to build a commuter tech high-rise, go to the back of the line and expect a 10 year process. If you want to build affordable housing using one of these standard pre-approved layouts, we’ll have you out the door and building in 6 months.”

  108. The recession in 2008 chased a lot of people out of homes they never could afford in the first place. “Creative” financing was what bought their homes. That opened up supply at more normalized prices that working class people could afford. Unfortunately, at the same time foreign investors started buying up the inventory too. When rents top out and they can no longer make money on those investments, hopefully they’ll begin to sell, opening up opportunities for local people to buy and live in their own homes.

  109. That is what I keep wondering. Realistically, how many relatively high-salaried workers who are young now aspire to spend their adult years in a rental apartment in a multiunit complex in Berkeley? If they’re waiting for boomers to somehow age out of their homes and move into those apartments, I think they are dreaming.

  110. But most of this new construction is for commuters. There are not that many new jobs being created in Berkeley that need over a thousand workers.

  111. It also likely undercounts the four people living in homemade bunks in the kitchen of the house two doors down from mine, but the Census Bureau does the best they can.

  112. There’s no shortage of demand for subsidized housing (i.e. free stuff). We’ll never be able to satisfy the demand side

  113. Rents will go up, with respect to income (recessions only make things worse, in general), as long as there are fewer housing units available than needed.

    Rent control may restrict rent increases but then no new housing is built.

    By effectively making developer fees be the sole source (among Berkeley taxpayers) for subsidized housing, that new housing will be in the upper echelons of market rate, as the new residents ultimately pay those fees. This creates an even bigger dearth of housing, with the available housings going to the most well off.

    The solution is to build new housing at a rate that meets demand, current and forecasted. Stop making developers pay fees to subsidize housing, rather, if the city of Berkeley wants to subsidize housing then we all should contribute. Finally, we should focus on creating more home owners rather than renters (includes apartments).

  114. We continue to choose to not allow construction sufficient to meet demand.

    The construction we do allow is virtually 100% towards renters. Long term, this will doom the agenda of the home owning NIMBYs and they move from a majority to a minority of voters.

    It is far better, in my opinion, for most people to own where they live. UC puts a wrinkle in that, but having students renting does not have an adverse impact on the community.

    I’m always amazed how people, whether on the right, left, or otherwise, consistently agree to policy that is against their own interests.

    In any case, the environment is our most pressing issue, and increasing housing density in urban areas and improving public transportation are essential components in any plan with a chance of success is dealing with our climate and population issues.

  115. A recession only makes the problem worse, affordability is the issue, not nominal prices.

    The recession in 2008 made housing far less affordable despite lower prices. Reduced income and wealth drove prices down, but only to the level where the best off people could pay, those most vulnerable suffered the most.

    The number of vulnerable people dramatically increases in a recession.

    So, relying on a general economic downturn to help with the housing crisis is doomed to failure.

  116. You’re preaching to the choir, I’ve been saying this for years. But certain advocates do not want to consider how to pay for what they advocate.

    It really is simple:
    • Affordable housing costs money.
    • The money required for affordable housing is an on-going requirement, not only a one time expense.
    • To create affordable housing the money has to come from somewhere.
    • Once affordable housing is created, money is needed to maintain that affordable housing for however long it will remain affordable.
    • A budget is needed that includes funds needed to create affordable housing. The budget needs to also include the funds needed to maintain existing affordable housing.
    • The source, duration, and dependencies of that funding needs to be identified.
    • Once the above budget and sources are in place, then everyone’s expectations about affordable housing can be set realistically.

    Of course, some politicians and advocates think they have a better chance of achieving their goals using more furtive approaches, such as getting people into new affordable housing without securing any funding other than the initial funding with the hope that funding will be easier to secure when the consequence is eviction or overly burdensome rent.

    Likewise, many advocates propose using other people’s money to gain support. This has two big shortcomings. First, the amount of such money is very limited (fees from developers and other government entities). Next, to the extent funding comes from developer fees, the cost is passed on to new residents while getting no contribution from existing residents (it’s generally more ch easier to get support when agreement appears to cost you nothing). This serves to exacerbate the affordability problem by increasing rents even further, widen the gap between affordable housing and market rates (as the new housing serves a smaller market of the upper echelons of market rate and creating no new housing at the lower end of market rate housing).

  117. There have been 1,022 housing units built in Berkeley, across 17
    projects, since 2014 and yet homelessness is up 13% obviously the two
    have nothing to do with each other…other than one being used for the
    others agenda…

  118. Emilie,

    It appears this data is limited to projects of at least 5 units.

    Do we have any data on smaller projects? Ideally, an ADU number and also a small project (like Haskell) number would be good. I think it’s important to see how much ADU state reforms have accomplished while also seeing how little we do in the small development category.

  119. Your percentages are only accurate if you limit the discussion to “households” in Berkeley and exclude people living in group living quarters. For the total population, which includes over 10,000 students living in group living quarters, fewer than 45% are in owner occupied housing.

  120. No, those numbers define the upper limits of each category, so everybody below is included in extremely low.
    “Do you think you’ve hit bottom?
    Oh, no
    There’s a bottom below
    There’s a low below the low you know
    You can’t imagine how far you can go down”
    lyrics from the song, There’s a Bottom Below by Malvina Reynolds

  121. A recession is coming but we without a crystal ball don’t know exactly how massive. The business cycle has peaked, and market downturns are inevitable. With Trump at the helm, anything could happen.

  122. Looks like the revised HUD standards no longer consider “very low” to be the annual SSI income.

  123. Okay and also. Could you focus in when you write again about these units on their prices? And why whey are so high like 2700 or 3400 a month? For someone who makes more than 80% of the median income, that is not affordable. Other cities are covering folks who make 120% or even 160% of the median income which is still not enough when the rents in those places are way passed 4400. Which again gets back to pricing and why it keeps getting higher. . . I hope you write a story that quotes renters like me and not these homeowners and realtors/investors who keep talking about market rate supply and demand or empty advice like moving somewhere else or getting a better job or getting better educated . . . The latter status quo is not working and it needs to be fixed and the first fix has to be stopping rent increases.

  124. Hmmm. Those of us whose incomes are below “extremely low” remain unclassified. Do you think we’re to understand that we simply aren’t worth considering at all?

  125. We are building much slower than the rate at which demand is increasing. And hence rents continue to increase.

    If we really want to nip this housing crisis, we’d need to start developing much more and more dense. If we chose not to do this, it won’t be long until anybody making less than ~$140k a year can start packing.

    You can refuse to build, but you cannot curb demand. Not without a massive recession, that is.

  126. Someone should also be looking at who moves into these units. UC students? People who work locally, or people who commute to jobs in the West Bay or even further? These sorts of use patterns could be quite informative.

  127. If we demolished 1000 houses in your opinion would that raise or lower the prices of the remaining houses?

  128. It wasn’t the nuisance suit that stopped the Spenger’s lot development. It was the mayor, objecting to the fact that the development’s 130 affordable units – that’s just over the number that have been built in all of Berkeley since 2014 – would revert to market rate in… wait for it… 55 years! By that time the site could well be under water, and not in the mortgage sense.

  129. Probably almost none. Most are rental apartments, aren’t they? At least when we hear about them, they are described as rentals, not condos. This city seems to prefer a large rental population. Homeowners are the greedy, nimby bad guys; tenants are the poor victims of all the greed.

  130. What is considered affordable? Many I’ve talked to in Downtown Berkeley who were paying 1100 or 1600 for a below market rate unit had their rent raised to 2700 or more recently. I hope you do an article about that development. And one bedrooms or studios in newer buildings are going for 3400 or more. Your coverage of these new units interestingly enough never discusses the prices of them although the word affordable housing gets thrown around a lot. Also, the notion that building more housing will lower the price. That has not happened in Berkeley or any other city where more housing was built. In fact, the trend is that the prices fluctuate upward – with a few months here and there of price dips – for the most part as in $500 or $1000 or more increases. I know you don’t intend it but you writing about the housing situation often seems to follow what the mayor/city council and developers would want to read.

  131. Most units in CA (except for townhomes and single family homes) start their life as rental. Once the 10 year mark passes and the builders can not be sued for construction defects, the owners consider converting to condos. The units are all condo mapped to make it easy to convert later. (The law is really a little more complicated with various deadlines for different components, but you get the idea.)

  132. Which state mandated housing report are you referring to? The main one is due April 1st.

  133. Apples and Bananas comparison.

    Oakland 429k people
    Berkeley 122k people

    Oakland 78sq miles
    Berkeley 18sq miles

    Oakland density 5500 p/sqm
    Berkeley density 6700 p/sqm

    Unlike Oakland, Berkeley has 32000 off-campus students and plans to add 10k more.

    Historic things that involve humans and land use are rarely sustained. The gold rush was functionally over by 1851. Berkeley’s population boomed after the 1906 quake but we’ve never seen those numbers since.

    Berkeley Population Growth
    1870 534%
    1880 354%
    1890 207%
    1900 159%
    1910 206%
    1920 39%
    1930 47%
    1940 4%
    1950 33% (now includes resident students)
    1960 -2%
    1970 1%
    1980 -11%
    1990 -1%
    2000 0%
    2010 10%
    2010 1%
    2020 ??? (some estimates point to 13%)

    BTW Cal adding 10k students ==> +8%

    Want lower rent? Force Cal to stop consuming the lions share of Berkeleys rental property.

  134. It would be a lot faster if we did not have endless nuisance suits brought against development proposals like the building at the Spenger’s parking lot.

  135. Looks like the pace of completed dwellings is roughly 10 per month. That is a small fraction of the historic rate of expansion of about 1% per year. For comparison Oakland currently has over 12000 dwellings under construction, while Berkeley has 1000. The Berkeley production rates are not high enough to relieve prices, but the nearby construction in Oakland could make a dent, if sustained.

  136. How many of those units will be owner occupied?

    How many housing units, in total, exist to n Berkeley and how many are owner occupied?

  137. From the staff report: “Given that all local data must be submitted to the State by April 1 of each year, staff propose that the annual housing pipeline report be submitted to the City Council each July moving forward.”

  138. For those who are interested, I’ll also be reviewing this list alongside our March 2019 report to ensure we have the latest information on there. Stay tuned.