The skinny: Berkeley Planning Commission meeting, North Berkeley Senior Center, tonight at 7pm.

Berkeley is at it again. This time, it’s the Friends of R-1A in collaboration with the Berkeley Planning Commission. What is an “R-1A” and why does it need friends? Good question!

Here is a zoning map of West Berkeley. The lighter yellow west of San Pablo Ave is R-1A, the orange on the east is R-2, while the red is a commercial C-W designation.

Contrary to what one would expect, R-1A is closer to R-2 than R-1. The differences that separate R-1A from R-2 are:

  • Hard limit of two additional “main” units per lot in R-1A, while this varies by lot size in R-2
  • Maximum lot coverage (40% in R-1A vs 35% in R-2)
  • Building separation only exists within R-2
  • Two units per parcel in R-1A, with one unit per 2,500 sqft in R-2

At first blush, these are minor differences that might only matter to policy wonks interested in micro-managing housing development. And you’d be correct. What is of interest to East Bay for Everyone is the fact that R-1A and R-2 have legalized building two family sized homes on one lot.

The Berkeley Planning Commission has decided to propose a number of changes to the R-1A rules that would eliminate the second unit and replace it with tiny, cramped, definitely not family sized accessory dwelling units.

This is a net loss of family housing across all of West Berkeley. That is bad. It is very bad, given the difficulty that families already have in finding housing. Berkeley is out to lunch and we need to render some sense upon the dais.

We need you to show up and tell the commission that it is bad. The changes proposed will:

  • Apply a shorter height limit on backyard units, making it harder for a family of four to fit into the same space.
  • Apply a maximum of two stories on backyard units, outlawing a dingbat-style structure where a family of four can live above their garage.
  • Increase setbacks for backyard units, further reducing the buildable surface area.

This is exclusionary zoning targeted at keeping families out of West Berkeley, plain and simple.

East Bay for Everyone is asking its membership to show up to the Berkeley Planning Commission tonight, 7pm, at the North Berkeley Senior Center. We’re asking people to support our proposal which allows for more housing than what city staff is recommending. You can find it here, in the letter we sent earlier this month; check it out, we’ve got some real great renderings from EBFE member Alfred Twu that make it clear. If you can’t make it, email Alexander Amoroso, the planning commission secretary at with your thoughts.

The technical details

Here are the actual proposed changes, as found in the city’s staff report. Click to embiggen:

The full staff report can be found on the city’s website.