To The Editor:
Developers have been clever in jumping on the “smart growth/density near transit” fad because it suits their purposes just fine. Some of us are clear that it’s the same old bad development in sheep’s clothing, and in 10 years it will be viewed in the same light as “urban renewal” – a really stupid idea that was trendy at one time. Anyone who believes that allowing dense out-of-scale buildings in Berkeley will somehow prevent some other developer from paving over farmland in the Central Valley is delusional. Developers are concerned only with making money – they don’t become developers out of the goodness of their hearts.
When many of Berkeley’s flatland neighborhoods were upzoned in the 1960s and beyond, the excuse was “we need more housing.” Once pleasant and historic single-family neighborhoods were ruined by the intrusion of badly designed, cheaply built multi-unit apartments, which are still a blight on the neighborhoods in which they stand. “We need more housing” makes a great excuse, because the need for housing will be endless as long as we refuse to address the issues of population growth and uncontrolled immigration.
It’s unfortunate that the height initiative didn’t pass. I’m sure the developers will take that as some kind of mandate, although all it really proves is that you can buy the outcome you desire if you are able to spend enough money. The citizens of Berkeley don’t have that kind of cash. Developers don’t even need to buy the politicians (though they do), because everyone from the politicians to the planning department has embraced “smart growth” like they were French-kissing Jennifer Lopez. It’s just a planning fad, folks, like urban renewal, downtown pedestrian malls, festival marketplaces, aquariums, and downtown baseball stadiums.