Press Release
March 14, 2018

Holland & Knight Represents First Developer to Invoke New California Law Streamlining Local Environmental Review Process for Affordable Housing Projects

SAN FRANCISCO (March 14, 2018) –  Holland & Knight is advising real estate developer West Berkeley Investors (WBI) in its filing of an application with the City of Berkeley for streamlined approval of a 260-unit multifamily project at 1900 Fourth Street, half of which will be reserved for low-income families. This is the first application to be filed under recently enacted state law SB 35, which allows residential developers to bypass municipal environmental review processes in exchange for providing more affordable units. The application was filed on March 8.

Effective January 2018, SB 35 establishes a streamlined, ministerial review process for certain multifamily affordable housing projects that are proposed in local jurisdictions that have not met regional housing needs. Projects that comply with the law’s requirements are entitled to be approved within 180 days. According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, Berkeley has permitted only 4 percent (17 units) of its low-income housing requirement in the current Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) cycle.

WBI has spent the past five years seeking approval for different versions of the development, which has faced local opposition from those who argue that the site should remain parking lot because of concerns that it could contain historical or cultural resources, despite conducting an extensive archeological investigation confirming that the site was marshland never inhabited by humans and consulting with project opponents to explore a solution.

“Every infill location in Berkeley that is suitable for housing has opponents, which is why the city and the vast majority of other jurisdictions in the Bay Area have fallen far behind in approving enough housing that’s actually affordable to people who work here,” said Jennifer Hernandez, the head of the Holland & Knight team representing WBI and the head of the firm’s West Coast Land Use and Environmental Group. “My client’s proposed project meets all requirements under SB 35, including the requirement that the project meet the city’s objective zoning standards. We respect the passion of the opponents, but it’s time for Berkeley to comply with state and local laws and approve this badly needed housing.”

In addition to Ms. Hernandez, Holland & Knight Associate Daniel Golub represents WBI on this project. Miles Imwalle of Morrison & Foerster also is a member of the legal team.

WBI is an affiliate of Blake Griggs Properties.

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