Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Less Expensive Ways to Make Better Housing

From Berkeley Design Advocates:

Less Expensive Ways to Make Better Housing
SPUR’s Affordable by Design Proposals

Please join us for breakfast on Wednesday April 2 at 730 AM at The Vault to hear a presentation on the revolutionary idea that we can build middle income housing without public subsidy. The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association has recently issued its Affordable by Design proposal that advocates changes in both planning criteria and building codes that together can drastically reduce the cost to produce new multifamily housing. Perhaps Berkeley can consider these thoughtful recommendations; they certainly differ from the proposals advocated by the Density Bonus Joint Subcommittee.

Our presenters will be SPUR Task Force members George Williams, BDA member and Anne Torney, AIA of WRT Solomon ETC.

The SPUR report makes six key recommendation:
1. Regulate building density by height, bulk and setback requirements, not by limits on the number of units allowed.

2. Stop requiring new parking in new buildings.

3. Stop regulating bedroom counts.

4. Allow flexibility in the code to facilitate an additional story of housing in wood-frame buildings – suggesting five stories of wood frame above a concrete podium level with a 65-foot height limit – 15 feet on the ground floor, and five 10-foot high stories. SPUR notes that San Diego and Seattle have both adopted code standards to make such construction possible, and in Oakland the Forest City Uptown Development is building five stories of wood frame.

5. Allow developers to fulfill their on-site inclusionary housing requirements by providing more units at middle-income price points, rather than fewer units at moderate-income price points.

6. Modify requirements for courtyard widths and rear-yard setbacks to allow for greater design flexibility in locating common open space.

The full report is available on the SPUR website at:


This is sure to be an exciting topic for BDA members, and has great applicability to Berkeley’s current debates on downtown development (where the fringes of downtown are proposed for 65 foot heights), as well as the on-going density bonus discussions.

George Williams is the former deputy Director of the San Francisco Department of City Planning and a longtime SPUR and BDA member. Anne Torney AIA is Principal and Director of Housing at WRT/Solomon E.T.C., an architecture, urban design, planning and landscape architecture firm, and designers of both the Fine Arts building and the David Brower Center/Oxford Plaza, now under construction. Her 20 years' experience as an architect have focused on urban and mixed-use projects, and, in particular, affordable housing for non-profit clients and City agencies.

All breakfast presentations at The Vault, 3250 Adeline St, near Alcatraz.

For more information: berkeleydesignadvocates@yahoo.com

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