Public Comment

Why Should BART Be Offered Zoning Power?

Zelda Bronstein
Saturday August 25, 2018 - 05:07:00 PM

In recent weeks, I’ve asked why Mayor Arreguín hasn’t vocally opposed Assembly Bill 2923, the state legislation that would remove zoning authority over BART stations in Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco counties from the host cities and give it to BART. On May 29, he voted with the council majority to oppose the bill and staunchly defended community say in land use. But his name was missing from the strong letter of opposition signed by ten other mayors and published on August 4 in the East Bay Times. He’s continued to remain silent, leaving Berkeleyans to speculate on the reasons for his reticence. 

I think I’ve stumbled over a clue. On May 22, Arreguín sent an email to Housing Advisory Commissioners Darrell Owens and Igor Tregub, members of the HAC Subcommittee on North Berkeley BART. Here’s the revealing passage: 

“Any development on this site must be done in partnership with BART, as it is their property. We must work with them and [be] consistent with their TOD Guidelines to develop any implementing zoning.” 

If I read this correctly, first, Arreguín thinks that when it comes to land use policy, property-owners are equal partners with municipal authorities; and second, in this case, that the City of Berkeley must defer to BART—a special use district agency—and follow its TOD [Transit-Oriented Development] Guidelines. 

The first supposition is troubling. Zoning is the proper prerogative of cities and counties, not special use district agencies. Arreguín must know that. 

The second supposition is also disquieting. If AB 2923 becomes state law, Berkeley and other Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco cities with BART stations will indeed have to follow BART’s TOD Guidelines. But AB 2923 has yet to be enacted. In this coming week, it will either pass on the Assembly floor or die. Apparently Arreguín’s silence on the bill reflects his assumption that it’s going to pass, which means he’s sucking up to BART. 

To those who, like myself, supported his mayoral campaign in hopes of boldly democratic leadership in the Berkeley Mayor’s office, this pandering is a big disappointment.