Plans to Build in Berkeley Spark Familiar Fights

As California’s housing crisis spiraled out of control in the 2010s, with rates of homelessness soaring and even affluent families struggling to buy Bay Area homes, a pro-housing movement was born.

The State Legislature has since passed a raft of new laws aimed at removing obstacles to construction and making housing more affordable, including statewide rent control and a dismantling of single-family zoning. Last year, the state’s housing supply grew by 0.85 percent, the fastest rate in more than a decade.

This housing trend, of course, has its opponents. You’ve probably heard of NIMBYs, those who say “not in my backyard” to new projects, and their adversaries, YIMBYs, who respond with a firm “yes” instead.

In his recent article for the California issue of The New York Times Magazine, Daniel Duane explored this housing debate in a nuanced way that reflected the humanity on each side.

Daniel wrote about his parents, who raised him in Berkeley in the 1960s and ’70s and now worry that new apartment buildings and other development might change the character of the neighborhoods that they cherish. His mother and father have long harbored an old left-wing suspicion of real estate developers that has deep roots in the Bay Area, tracing back to when real estate development was seen as destroying nature and enabling racist housing practices.

But he also explored his own concerns about the state’s out-of-control housing market: that his college-age daughters may never be able to afford to live in the region where they grew up, and might be forced to move far from nearly everyone they know.

“I had been really raised and was deeply sympathetic to a view that real estate development is always wrong, always speculative, always venal,” Daniel told me. “So when I started to follow the YIMBY arguments, I became interested in what a political and ideological inversion it was, on this really key point, from the values in which I had been raised.”

He said writing the article was an important way “for me to simultaneously keep my heart open to what it all really meant to my parents and their neighbors, while keeping my mind alive to what the stakes are for me and my kids, and everybody else’s kids — and the nature of the society we’re building, or not building.”

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Today’s tip comes from Jo Baldwin:

“One of our favorite places to stop as we travel from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara is Ventura. A beautiful vibrant place with peace and walks and serenity, but also bustle and arcades and great eateries. The canals there are a joy to drink in and walk around, choosing the house we would live in. Super friendly and easy to park. There was a crazy fair last time we were there with people dressed up in any kind of gear you could imagine, lots of fun for big and little kids.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

We’re almost halfway through 2023! What are the best things that have happened to you so far this year? What have been your wins? Or your unexpected joys, big or small?

Tell me at [email protected]. Please include your full name and the city where you live.

As a young child some 75 years ago, Brenda Kennedy saw elephants at a circus in Los Angeles and fell in love with the creatures. In the decades that followed, she always made a beeline for the elephants whenever she visited a zoo.

“God made us all different, and he made them different, too,” Kennedy told The Mercury News. “You stand by one and say, ‘My gosh, it is different from this guy.’”

But it wasn’t until recently that Kennedy, now 83, was able to see elephants up close, and in a more natural environment. The Elderly Wish Foundation, based in the Bay Area, arranged a trip for her to see the animals at a sanctuary in Gold Country last month.

“It was an absolutely fabulous day,” Kennedy told The Mercury News.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Briana Scalia and Johnna Margalotti contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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