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Project Proposed In Berkeley To Invoke California's Recently Enacted Streamline Approval Process

Project Proposed In Berkeley To Invoke California's Recently Enacted Streamline Approval Process
Rendering of project proposed at 1900 Fourth St. in Berkeley

A housing project proposed in Berkeley would be the first to use the recently enacted state law SB 35 to streamline the approval process. West Berkeley Investors, a subsidiary of Blake Griggs Properties, plans to build 1900 Fourth St. in Berkeley into a 260-unit housing project with 50% affordable units along with 27,500 SF of retail and restaurant space. A community park and community center are included in the project.

SB 35 established a streamlined, administrative review process for multifamily affordable housing projects proposed in local jurisdictions that have not met their regional housing needs, which includes Berkeley, as determined by the California Department of Housing & Community Development. Under the state law, Berkeley is required to approve a qualified project within 180 days.

Berkeley has permitted 17 low-income housing units during the current Regional Housing Needs Allocation cycle, which is 4% of the city’s low-income housing production requirement. Under the last RHNA cycle, which spanned 2007 to 2014, Berkeley met 21% of its need for low-income housing through its issuance of 87 permits. 

The Fourth Street project will incorporate sustainable design through providing a transit-oriented housing development next to the Capital Corridor train station and multiple bus lines, meets Build It Green certification requirements and incorporates water efficiency.

The development meets requirements under the city’s zoning ordinance and general plan and the Association of Bay Area Governments identifies this site as a priority development area. The project's developers plan to use the state density bonus to maximize the potential of the site. The project will provide housing for about 400 people.

The 1900 Fourth Street project will include a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. Half of the units will have rent set at levels affordable to lower-income households earning less than 80% of the area median income. 

“This is about the dire need for housing in California,” Blake Griggs Properties Vice President of Development Lauren Seaver said in a statement. “It’s time to move from the emotional era of California’s development process, to a common-sense era of creating much-needed housing for teachers, firefighters, service workers and others priced out of their own community.”

WBI has spent five years seeking approval of a different version of the development, which would have included fewer housing units and less public space. The project has faced local opposition from those who argue the site should remain a parking lot because of concerns that the site could contain historic or cultural artifacts. Extensive research concluded that no such resources existed and the site was formerly marshland never inhabited by humans.