Measure R is about environmentalism but it is also about understanding how planning and development work to improve communities
Residents in the City of Berkeley will be asked this November to vote on the direction of their Downtown… again. Like most issues in Berkeley, this measure is the subject of some controversy.
The fight between environmentalists and their opponents over how to plan the development of Downtown Berkeley has gone on for years, with affordable housing and the height of future buildings being two subjects of contention.
On one side, supporters of Measure R include environmental groups like the Sierra Club and The League of Conservation Voters, 7 of the 9 City Council members, as well as organized labor and a range of planners and economists, including former Labor Secretary to the Clinton Administration, Robert Reich. Supporters argue that Measure R is the greenest direction for Downtown Berkeley and that by increasing Downtown’s density, it will help achieve Berkeley’s Climate Action plan passed last year.
On the other side you have the opposition–which includes two council members, The Berkeley Daily Planet—a local news website, and the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, argue that Measure R is too vague and doesn’t go far enough to ensure affordable housing. They also protest the increased height limits.
To understand why Measure R is on the ballot, you need only know that this measure repeats a part of the Downtown Plan the Berkeley City Council had approved last year. This plan was later rescinded after Councilmen Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington–the only council members who voted no on the original plan–led a controversial, though successful, signature gathering campaign to place the council’s decision on the ballot. As a result, the City Council scrapped the original plan and are now tasked to create a new one. It comes as no surprise that both Arreguin and Worthington are the only two council members opposing Measure R and actively seeking its defeat this November.
In the end, whether Measure R is good or bad comes down to density, environmentalism and an understanding of how planning and development works.