FYI on the MOU & CAG

More details about the MOU and the CAG being considered on the City Council's Dec 10th agenda

First off, a reassurance: tonight's vote is just one step of many that will have to happen before the city and BART decide on what type of development may be built on the BART-owned properties at North Berkeley and Ashby stations.

On the Dec 10th agenda, this is item #31, "Approval of a Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] between the City of Berkeley and BART on Implementation of State Law AB 2923 at the Ashby and North Berkeley BART Stations and Establishment of a Community Advisory Group [CAG]"

Back in May 2019, the city council unanimously adopted a set of goals and objectives for North Berkeley. Over the past six-plus months, many city officials, including the Mayor and Councilmembers Kesharwani and Bartlett, met with BART officials to hammer out the MOU and how the CAG would work. The text of the MOU going in front of the council is the same text that the BART Board will consider in January (before Berkeley has another council meeting). So any attempt to wordsmith the MOU would re-open those negotiations and risk undermining the whole process. And the MOU and the CAG must be approved together, as the MOU sets December 2019 as the deadline for the city initiating the CAG.

What is the MOU?

The purpose of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to lay out HOW the city and BART will work together to develop on the BART parking lots. It leaves lots of details about WHAT the development will be until after the public has weighed in through the CAG. That's good! There will be lots more opportunities for public input about WHAT we want to build.

The MOU also sets a timeline for WHEN key parts of the process have to be done: when BART has to create guidelines for how it will implement AB 2923, when the city has to identify how much money it will set aside for affordable housing at the stations, when the city has to complete zoning. These are all important steps, and there will be public input on all of them too.

Who is the CAG and what will it do?

The Community Advisory Group (CAG) will be 15 people appointed by the Mayor and Councilmembers Kesharwani and Bartlett. There will be an application process to identify those CAG members. Then the CAG will have a series of meetings (hopefully mostly in 2020) to give input about how zoning rules should be written. The Planning Commission and the City Council will take that input, have more public meetings, and set the zoning rules by June of 2021.

For more info, see Mayor Arreguin's website or Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani's website.

Myths & Facts

  • Myth: Signing the MOU will give away all the city’s rights to influence the process, and BART can do whatever it wants.
    • Fact: the MOU commits the city and BART to work together over the next 18 months-plus, to develop all the plans and rules for how development will proceed. ALL of those plans and rules will go through extensive community process. The MOU is the *start* of the process. There will be many more times for community input, including by the Community Advisory Group.
  • Myth: The process is rushed.
    • Fact: City and BART officials have been discussing these stations for 18 months, and they spent the past 6-plus months negotiating the MOU. That’s why Mayor Arreguin wrote an opinion piece about the importance of moving forward.
  • Myth: The community was not consulted about the process.
    • Fact: Dozens of neighbors here tonight, from both North and South Berkeley, participated in the process, encouraging the city to move ahead with this MOU, holding public events and community meetings to get BART and the city to make an agreement on how to move forward with homes at the BART station parking lots.
  • Myth: This is a good deal for BART, but not the city.
    • Fact: Signing the MOU gives the city more control than not signing it. If the city doesn’t sign this MOU, state law allows BART to develop without the city’s involvement. No one wants that.
  • Myth: BART will be subsidizing market-rate units with public dollars.
    • Fact: The market rate units subsidize the below-market rate units; the use of public land allows BART to build more affordable housing (35% or more!) than most developers can.
  • Myth: BART will take away parking and provide no alternatives.
    • Fact: BART has a comprehensive Station Access Policy, now reinforced by state law, that requires BART to complete a station access study to consider parking replacement needs, identify the many different ways people can get to BART stations - including driving, buses, shuttles, ride-hails, taxis, biking, walking, and more, and ensure new development increases people’s choices in how to get to BART.