Sign in / Join

California Today: The Housing Crisis Hits Berkeley

Good morning. Today’s introduction comes from Conor Dougherty, who reports on economics from the Bay Area.

(Want to get California Today by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Everyone in California agrees that housing costs too much. But that’s about where the agreement stops. Throughout the state, debates are going on about where and how to build more housing.

Berkeley has been at the center of this, with a spate of recent proposals intended to give the city more control over what kind of housing gets built – something that many say will make the housing problem worse by slowing the pace of new construction. We caught up with Jesse Arreguín, Berkeley’s 32-year-old mayor. Responses have been edited for clarity.

How does the Bay Area solve its housing problem?

We need to build, clearly, but we need to build not just housing for those that can afford $6,000-a-month rents but people at the middle- and low-income level. There is a whole missing middle that isn’t served by our affordable housing. So we need to build more housing, but we need to find a way to incentivize the construction of middle- and low-income housing as well.

Are you worried that local control is being threatened? There have been some lawsuits against you and others for violating the Housing Accountability Act, which requires cities to approve projects that meet certain local development standards.

It is to some extent. We are in a statewide housing crisis and the State Legislature is just as concerned as the city of Berkeley. Part of it is making sure that whatever comes down from Sacramento, we still have the flexibility to look at projects and shape projects.

What about people who say that there is too much regulation that slows down building and makes the problem worse?

Certainly that is the case in cities like Palo Alto and other suburban communities where the process blocks the housing. Berkeley has encouraged a lot of development over the past few years. We have 4,000 apartments in the pipeline and have modified zoning regulations to encourage greater density downtown.

The issue is we haven’t built enough historically in our city and we’re in a crisis. That’s the reality. We are working as fast as we can but we can’t build 30 years of housing overnight.

(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)

• Three people were fatally shot and two were wounded when a co-worker opened fire inside a United Parcel Service complex in San Francisco. The gunman then killed himself. [The New York Times]

• The police were digging into the past of the shooter, Jimmy Lam, 38, of San Francisco. [San Francisco Chronicle]

• Members of Congress from the central San Joaquin Valley said that the shooting of their colleague, Steve Scalise, has given the House of Representatives an opportunity to focus on what unites them. [The Fresno Bee]

• The district attorney of Contra Costa County pleaded no contest to a felony perjury charge and promptly resigned after being charged with taking more than $66,000 in campaign funds for personal use. [Los Angeles Times]

• The fight to succeed Jerry Brown is likely to be the most unpredictable California governor’s race since at least 1998. [Los Angeles Times]

California lawmakers are scheduled to vote on a budget that increases spending on education and social services. [Associated Press]

• Berkeley has created a team of outreach workers focused on getting chronically homeless, mentally ill individuals off the streets. [Berkeleyside]

• Why do companies like Uber get away with bad behavior? [Opinion | The New York Times]

• Gwyneth Paltrow’s company Goop staged a Comic-Con for the wellness set. [The New York Times]

• San Francisco arts officials are committed to developing Treasure Island as a major cultural destination and are releasing an “arts master plan” this week. [The New York Times]

• Kyle Shanahan, who was hired as the San Francisco 49ers’ coach the day after the Super Bowl, is looking forward to his first break in nearly 11 months. [Associated Press]

If you were to become a multimillionaire overnight, how long would it take you to claim your winnings?

The question was prompted after a winning lottery ticket for a $447.8 million jackpot, the seventh largest in Powerball history, was sold at a convenience store in Menifee. The drawing was Saturday night. As of Wednesday evening, the winner had yet to come forward.

California lottery officials say that while it may be counterintuitive, winners often take their time before claiming the money.

Marvin and Mae Acosta, who won a share of a record $1.586 billion purse last year, took more than six months to come forward. And Mike Bond, a spokesman for the California lottery, pointed to another winner, in February 2014, who took almost two months to claim a prize of $425.3 million.

A little patience can be healthy. But winners cannot rest on their laurels for too long.

“You have one year to claim and if you miss it by a day then you’re out of luck,” Mr. Bond said. “Which is kind of like an oxymoron. You’d go from being the luckiest person on earth to being the unluckiest person on the planet to miss it by a day.”

Want to submit a photo for possible publication? You can do it here.

California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see:

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.