The question in Berkeley has been at least since the 1960’s- is Berkeley about all the people, or a community prospering as a result of the University of California Berkeley and the close access to the San Francisco and in the real estate business. The free speech movement in the 1960’s and the Ferguson protests and Black Lives Matter most recently have prompted the question of what Berkeley represents with its far left policies but commercial avarice clouding the future of what is possible in Berkeley. The issues of rent control and housing continues to be the indicator of where the people are, the litmus test as to the value placed on a fair shake for all people who want to live in Berkeley. The Berkeley City Council, the Berkeley Neighborhoods Council and the Coalition for Sustainable Berkeley called for a forum with the City of Berkeley specifically about the disappearing low income housing that has come to be the case in Berkeley. The most striking fact produced at this meeting is that in the past eight years, from 2007-2014, there have been 1190 rental units with 1005 affordable to tenants with incomes of $93,000 or more. There is the complaint to Sophie Hahn, Berkeley Zoning Committee Chair that Berkeley has over built market rate housing, essentially eliminating the possibility for low and lower middle income families to find housing.
The report of the disparity in income that is producing a majority of whites in home ownership with a median income of $117,000 while the median household income in rental housing is $38,000 gives evidence to the concern of those who want to have the new living units more equitable and accessible to people with lower incomes. The renters are reported as mixed races representing “rich ethnic and racial diversity” for which Berkeley has always been known. Squeezing out the spirit of Berkeley by making rents unaffordable is what is at stake. Further the facts presented indicate that for the young professionals finding rentals, 50% of their income is required for rental expense, and so there is a serious question as to the future for Berkeley.
For sure, the tech boom and the Google bus that comes to the BART stations all around Berkeley has much to do with the wealth of its citizenry, and the growing disparity in accessible housing. Artists have left San Francisco, Oakland is having the benefit of the squeeze in San Francisco and Berkeley as young families and renters scramble for affordable housing.
City Councilmen Jesse Arrqeuin and Kris Worthington and the citizens of Berkeley indicated that this meeting brought up the questions but not the answers and more engagement by the community in light of the economic facts around the rental business and its impact on the community of Berkeley and its citizenry is very much in order and will be scheduled for future meetings.
Sophie Hahn, Downtown Development