Berkeley councilman wants to create 6,000 new beds for students

Berkeley Councilman Kriss Worthington hopes to propose a plan that he said could create 6,000 new beds for University of California Berkeley students. 

The area is focused around Telegraph Avenue near the campus.

“UC has increased its population by about seven thousand in the last seven or eight years,” he said. 

As the number increases, he is trying to come up with a way to address the housing issue which is already an issue. 

Among the ideas is to include a Pilot City Density Bonus in which a developer agrees to set aside a set amount of units for affordable housing and funding low-include housing.

The changes could affect the area around Fulton Street, Bancroft Way, College Avenue and Dwight Way.

“A lot of students have to commute from a further distance or they're crammed three or four to a room or some of them are homeless…  living in their cars.”

Another part of the plan calls building two high rises and changing zoning code to increase the height limit on buildings. 

“There’s extremely low height limits for such a central commercial district,” said Worthington. “If we can get an extra twenty feet - that's two more stories added on top of the zone.”

Worthington also wants to pull back on restrictions that prohibit commercial land from being zoned residential to allow more housing units to be built. 

“We could get a whole bunch of space that’s already built as office space that’s sitting there empty that could be converted into housing,” Worthington said. “There are specific people who want to do that because they’re sick of having vacant space.”

Ethan Elkind studies urban planning at U.C. Berkeley Center for Law, Energy and the Environment.

He said that several parts of the plan drive at the key issues that would help provide more housing for students. 

“What that really speaks to is how local government as sort of over-managed how development happens because commercial and when you have retail establishment below apartments - that might sound good in theory but it doesn't always pencil out,” Elkind said.

In addition, Worthington thinks that the rule that requires developers to also make additional parking space needs to be updated because many students wouldn’t have vehicles. 

“Its prime opportunity site to build more housing and building it closer to campus means they can walk or bike to school and not have to drive,” said the District 7 councilman.

Worthington is hoping to have his ideas before the council in the coming weeks or months in the ongoing effort to provide more housing for UC Berkeley students.

“It' really tragic. We should be providing homes for students. They have a heavy burden in terms of the tuition that they're paying, said Elkind. 

University of California created a task force in 2016 that preliminarily identified sites for potential development for student housing.