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Berkeley councilmember Lori Droste works to propose affordable housing

Lori Droste (above) hopes her parking plan will spread to Oakland. (Courtesy of Lori Droste)
Lori Droste (above) hopes her parking plan will spread to Oakland. (Courtesy of Lori Droste)

Berkeley councilmember and Mills alumna Lori Droste has been working to build affordable housing for the city of Berkeley by permitting developers to create less parking spaces in new buildings.

On Oct. 6, Droste’s proposal, called the Green Affordable Housing Package was placed on the Berkeley City Council’s agenda for discussion. According to Berkeleysidethe package is composed of two parts: placing more importance on housing instead of parking, reducing “parking requirements in new developments that are near transit, include car-share spots or meet other criteria,” (according to the article) and modernizing Berkeley’s review process for new buildings. Her proposal requests to create resolutions based on these ideas by Sept. 1, 2016.

“I’ve heard that it [the Green Affordable Housing Package] is one of its kind,” Droste said. “I hope that it inspires people, and that Oakland really needs to step up to the plate.”

Droste’s inspiration for her proposal is the housing crisis currently taking place in Berkeley, particularly considering the high cost of housing and limited parking. According to her proposal, Droste notes that it costs about a million dollars to build twenty parking spaces, money that could be used to construct affordable housing.

“It’s an enormous problem,” Droste said. “We have a housing crisis now.”

Although Droste acknowledges people’s nervousness about the proposal, she stresses modernizing the policies for parking to build affordable housing. She also has expressed confidence in the proposal’s passing and potential for cities in the East Bay, particularly Oakland.

“We can’t wait two and a half [or] three years for a 100 percent affordable project; we just can’t,” Droste said. “The two things would dramatically and beneficially affect affordability in Berkeley.”

Droste’s proposal has received support from climate change experts and transportation and urban planning experts, according to the East Bay Express. Rebecca Saltzman, the BART director of District 3, expressed her approval for the ordinance.

“The Bay Area is experiencing a housing affordability crisis,” Saltzman said. “Much of Berkeley is well served by BART and AC Transit so many people can live there without a car, or with fewer cars per household. Developers should be given the flexibility to build less parking and to invest in affordable housing.”

Ann Cheng, former mayor of El Cerrito and current program director of GreenTrip which is a certification program that advocates for efficient driving and affordable parking and housing, believes that Droste’s proposal holds progressiveness for its intentions. Cheng’s work falls alongside TransForm, an award-winning nonprofit organization for transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“In general, [we] are looking for city parking policies that are considering the location of the development, existing transit and importantly considering the occupants,” Cheng said. “In our research, we find the income levels of housing is strongly predicted by vehicle ownership and driving.”

Although Cheng has awareness about the process of passing proposals, such as the Green Affordable Housing Package, she expresses hope for a consideration in affordable housing with Droste’s proposal.

“Our hope is that there will just be a consideration of affordable housing for reducing parking requirements,” Cheng said.