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New Legislation Could Speed Planned Berkeley Development

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) -- A new state law could help fast-track a housing project in Berkeley.

Developers want to build more than 200 units on a parking lot on Fourth Street near University Avenue.

They are hoping to bypass the normal review process.

"It's been a very frustrating five years and millions of dollars of expense trying to bring affordable housing to this parking lot," said Lauren Seaver  of the company West Berkeley Investors.

Seaver is hopeful the new law will help her company cut through years of red tape and force the Berkeley City Council to finally green light a project that would build much-needed affordable housing.

"The new legislation allows us to move forward based on facts," said Seaver. "It has very straightforward criteria that says if the project fits the zoning for the location then the city is required to approve it."

Developers hope that in the not-too-distant future, the land will have 260 brand-new housing units, 130 of them designated as affordable.

The bill's author, State Senator Scott Weiner, tweeted his support. He wrote "senate bill 35 is yielding major benefits for affordable housing. If we push the envelope on housing -- which we did with sb 35 -- good things happen."

Berkeley's Mayor Jesse Arreguin -- who has been an outspoken critic of the bill -- declined multiple requests for an interview Friday.

But did send a prepared statement that read, "Although I have concerns about the state stripping local control over housing from cities -- including municipalities like Berkeley that are doing more than most to add housing --  SB35 is now state law and we must follow it."

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