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Berkeley Bids the Garage Goodbye

Bring the housing. Leave the parking lot.


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Every year, Berkeley grows by an average of 1,000 new residents, upping its population by roughly 1 percent—and they all need housing. Unfortunately, occupants of new housing typically come with cars—cars that push onto already jammed thoroughfares, grab scarce parking, and attract bad mojo from Berkeley’s bike-loving, greener-than-green crowd. Which is precisely why Garden Village, a large residential complex that was specifically engineered to create zero traffic, received a unanimous stamp of approval from Berkeley’s zoning board.

Set to open in 2016 at Dwight Way and Fulton Street, just a few blocks from the UC Berkeley campus, Garden Village has 77 units—but not one parking space. To compensate, the complex is bending over backward to furnish residents with alternate ways to get around: free membership in a car-share program (the planned 78th unit has become a car-share garage), 90 percent discounts on transit passes, and an onsite manager to help residents arrange transit plans.

Berkeley used to have a law against new units without parking, but decided a few years ago that it was just making things worse. “We needed more student housing,” says former Berkeley planning commissioner Rob Wrenn, who developed the city’s Southside Plan, “but in those days a lot of our conversations were about the negative effects of cars in cities. We figured a lot of students can’t afford to drive anyway, with the cost of UC these days, so those requirements for parking weren’t needed. And people who do have cars are more likely to leave them back home with Mom and Dad if you don’t give them parking. The Garden Village developers can charge lower rents because the building cost is lower, and they’re giving us more affordable units to earn the parking waiver. This car-free development is exactly what we wanted to get out of that plan.


Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco

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