Neighborhoods Unite to Oppose New Mini‐Dorm Project

From Jacquelyn McCormick, Southside Neighborhood Coalition
Thursday July 10, 2014 - 10:29:00 AM

A coalition of neighborhoods associations in Berkeley’s Southside that have been fighting the proliferation of mini‐dorms have joined together to oppose a new 38‐bedroom mini‐dorm project at 2201 Blake and 2204 Dwight Way. The project is on tonight’s agenda of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board and proposes 38 bedrooms –with an estimated occupancy two to five times what is permitted under the residential density standards in the City’s general plan. SNC submitted a detailed critique of the project and points out flaws in the City’s analysis (attached). 

“I can’t image a worse idea - this property is already at or beyond the maximum density permitted under the General Plan. The City staff should be protecting the quality of life in our low and medium residential neighborhoods and upholding the integrity of our community planning process, rather than doing end runs around the density standards that we all agreed on in the Southside Plan” said Phil Bokovoy, one of the organizers of the Southside Neighborhood Consortium and activist in the Parker/Piedmont neighborhood. 

Laura Watkins who lives next door to the proposed mini‐dorm in the LeConte neighborhood added: “the negative impacts of mini‐dorms can be huge: late night noise, increased traffic and trash, all the logical results of too many people in a small area. Family neighborhoods aren't designed to deal with these problems. Student housing should be focused north of Dwight and in downtown, as the city itself proposes in its general plan.” 

One of the key findings of the SNC’s analysis of the 2201 Blake and 2204 Dwight Way project is that city staff failed to analyze the existing and proposed residential density to determine consistency with the general plan as they did for a recent recently proposed mini dorm project at 2610 Hillegass Avenue that staff recommended not be approved. “It is inappropriate and unprofessional to cherry‐pick standards. All projects should be evaluated in same manner and staff analyses must include a determination of consistency with general plan residential density standards as well as other general plan and zoning development standards” commented Phil Bokovoy. “We hope that the ZAB will use the SNC analysis of the project, along with the facts in a number of letters of opposition, to deny the project.”