Berkeley votes to end single-family zoning

Bay Area

BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) — The city of Berkeley ended a rule that has segregated its community for over 100 years.

A resolution passed unanimously Tuesday night to stop single-family zoning, a 1916 rule which prohibited constructing multi-family units. Berkeley was the first city in the U.S. to enact the exclusionary zoning.

Vice Mayor Lori Droste explained why she and council members Ben Bartlett, Rigel Robinson and Terry Taplin introduced the legislation back on Feb. 4, 2021. “The plain truth lies in the fact that it is fundamentally unfair to ban certain types of homes in certain neighborhoods in Berkeley,” she said in a Twitter thread.

The officials said the zoning regulation hurts low-income people. And combined with racially-restrictive property deeds, the officials said the rules have largely prevented Black, Indigenous and other people of color from buying or leasing property in east Berkeley.

The resolution cites UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project, saying: Where there is total restricted single-family zoning, the population was over 60% white; while Black people, Hispanics and Asians all represented less than 20% of the population.

In a statement about the passage, Bartlett said: “We cannot ignore that from the onset, zoning’s sole purpose was to segregate by race… even after the racist part was outlawed, it kept working because racism is inherent in the design. People found a way for race zoning to legally continue under a different name: Single Family Zoning.”

The resolution also notes research from the U.S. Census American Community Survey, which found that single-family homes, no matter what year built, are inhabited exclusively by higher income residents.

According to Robinson, the city expects to completely eliminate exclusionary zoning before 2023.

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