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Department of Planning & Development
Department of Planning & Development

Land Use and Housing Element



The Southside is one of the most dense, dynamic, and diverse areas in Berkeley.  Geographically, it is a relatively small area, only about 28 city blocks or 2.5% of Berkeley’s land area.  However, it is home to more than 11,000 people including nearly 9,000 UC students, and comprises 10% of the City’s population.  The Southside receives tens of thousands of visitors each year and has thousands of pedestrians on its streets every day.  In addition, it is home to the University of California, one of the largest employers in the City and locus of much of the City’s cultural and intellectual life.

The Southside is a true mixed-use neighborhood offering residents and visitors housing, offices, retail shops, schools, churches, social institutions, parks and open space, recreational facilities, and parking.  The neighborhood is located within walking distance of BART, and is served by seven bus lines and several shuttle services.  The pedestrian scale of the neighborhood allows one to easily walk from a residence to a grocery store, a recreational facility, a museum, the UC Berkeley campus or Downtown Berkeley.  The Existing Conditions section that follows provides background information about the existing land uses in the Southside.  The subsequent land use and housing policy recommendations attempt to address the sometimes conflicting values and needs of different community stakeholders and to facilitate the development of a cohesive blueprint for the future of the Southside.  The land use and housing objectives and policies are organized around the following goals:

  • Encourage creation of additional affordable housing in the Southside for students and for year-round residents, including UC employees and other area employees by the University, the private sector, student cooperatives, non-profits or a combination of these groups working in partnership;
  • Encourage the construction of infill buildings, particularly new housing and mixed-use developments, on currently underutilized sites such as surface parking lots and vacant lots;
  • Protect and conserve the unique physical, historic, and social character of the Southside;
  • Protect and enhance historic and architecturally significant buildings, and ensure that new development complements the existing architectural character of the area through design review; and
  • Encourage reinvestment in deteriorating housing stock to improve the overall physical quality of the neighborhood;
  • Enhance the pedestrian orientation of the Southside.
  • Improve the Bancroft Way corridor as a physical connection and transition between the University and the Southside;
  • Encourage a land use pattern in the Southside which provides for a high density residential and commercial mixed-use edge to the University of California Campus and “spine” along Telegraph Avenue.  The high density edge and spine are filled in with less dense areas which progressively become less dense and more residential in use and provide a buffer and transition to the lower density residential areas to the east and south of the Southside Area.
  • Refine and reinforce the existing land use patterns in the Southside by acknowledging four distinct “subareas” of land uses in the area: two residential subareas, a mixed use subarea, and the commercial subarea. Create specific policies for each subarea.
  • Limit office and institutional development to areas closest to the UC campus and to the Bancroft-Durant transit corridor.  Give preference to housing over new office and institutional development throughout the Southside;
  • Encourage relocation of office and institutional uses from residential subareas to appropriate locations closer to campus and to transit corridors.


The Southside contains a diverse mixture of land uses including: housing, offices, retail shops, religious, cultural and social institutions, schools, parking, and recreational uses.  The physical form of the Southside has evolved over the years, particularly with University acquisition and demolition of buildings in the Southside during the 1950s and 1960s, but historic land use patterns are still discernible.  Many buildings that are significant in the architectural and social history of the City are located in the Southside.  The area has 31 landmark structures, among which are such notable buildings as the First Church of Christ, Scientist (Bernard Maybeck, Architect), the Berkeley Women’s City Club (Julia Morgan, Architect), and the Thorsen House (Greene and Greene, Architects).  The history of the area, which is summarized below, is discussed in detail in the Community Character Element.

The origins of the neighborhood date to the 1850s when the College of California purchased land in then-rural Berkeley.  During the last quarter of the 19th century the Southside area became a residential district, with homes, private student living groups, churches, and some commercial buildings along Telegraph Avenue.  In the early part of the 20th century, the arrival of streetcar lines contributed to rapid development.  The University grew in size and international reputation as well.  During the 1950s the University began a program to acquire land south of Bancroft.  Developments of student residence halls, parking, and other University-related uses altered the urban composition.  Automobiles and bus lines took the place of streetcar lines.  To solve traffic congestion, the City redirected many streets to one-way to move traffic faster.  Older buildings were removed and replaced with new ones.  By the later 1960s some houses had been replaced by apartments for the student market, and other houses were converted to multiple rental units.  By the 1970s the pace of physical change slowed, in part due to community involvement in, and activism around, planning and development issues.  Over the past two decades development has been relatively small-scale infill.  The reader is referred to the Community Character Element, Section II, History of the Neighborhood, for a more complete discussion.

A. Southside Land Use Patterns 

  • The commercial shopping area is concentrated along Telegraph Avenue, Durant Avenue, and Bancroft Way.  Housing is located above approximately one-fifth of the retail shops.  Also, there is a small area of commercial property on the south side of Dwight Way west of Fulton and east of C-SA-zoned properties facing Shattuck.
  • Residential uses are located throughout the Southside and vary in scale.  The smaller-scaled residential uses are primarily concentrated west of Dana Street.  There are many older apartment buildings in this area and many single-family homes that have been converted to apartments and rooming houses.  There are also single-family and two-family houses.  Many medium-scaled residential buildings are located east of College Avenue, where there is a concentration of fraternities, sororities, and student cooperatives and apartment buildings, and along Telegraph Avenue where apartments are located above retail shops.  High-rise residential buildings are located  adjacent to College Avenue (eight nine-story buildings) and east of Dana Street (four nine-story buildings), all of which are UC residence halls.
  • Religious, social, and cultural institutions are located throughout the area, but most are concentrated in the area east of Ellsworth and west of College Avenue, between the distinctly residential areas and the commercial core.
  • Most of the offices in the Southside, many of which are institutional offices, are located in the same general area as the religious and social institutions, east of Ellsworth Street and west of College Avenue.
  • Parking is scattered throughout the area, both on-street and at off-street locations owned by the City, the University and private parties.  Parking garages are concentrated primarily in the commercial core or on the University campus outside the Southside study area, just north of Bancroft Way.
    Map LU-1: Existing Land Uses (PDF 306.48KB) 

B. University Ownership

The University of California owns approximately 30% of the land area in the Southside (excluding streets). All of the land owned by the University in the Southside is currently in use.  The University's property contains a wide variety of land uses including residence halls, academic offices, student support facilities, parking lots, and recreational and cultural facilities.

There are a few sites in the Southside that are zoned C-1 (general commercial), which allows buildings up to four stories.  On the western boundary of the Southside study area a few sites are zoned C-2 (Central Commercial) or C-SA, (South Area Commercial) which applies to the South Shattuck area.  The C-2 zone allows a variety of uses such as retail, office, and residential uses, and allows at that location buildings up to five stories in height under specific conditions.  The C-SA zone allows a variety of uses such as retail, office, and residential uses and, under specific conditions, buildings up to five stories. International House and two parcels just east of it are in the R-5 High Density Residential District, as is the main UC campus north of Bancroft.  Over half of the Southside is zoned R-4, multi-family residential.  This zoning district allows a variety of residential uses including single-family houses, apartments, senior housing, residence halls, rooming housing, fraternities, and sororities.  It also allows offices, hotels, schools, churches, parks, parking lots and parking structures. Buildings may, if a use permit allows it, be up to six stories and 65’ in height.  Parking for new residential buildings must be provided at the rate of one parking space for each 1000 square feet of floor space (or for each apartment in 1-9 unit buildings) or for every five residents of a rooming house or fraternity and sorority.

Map LU-2: Property Owned by the University of California (PDF 336.53KB) 

C. Area Zoning

The following paragraphs summarize the zoning status in the Southside as of the drafting of the Southside Plan.  Virtually all of the Southside is zoned C-T (Telegraph Avenue Commercial), R-4 (Multi-Family Residential) or R-4H (Multi-Family Residential with Hillside overlay). The types of uses that are allowed within these zoning designations and key development standards are described below.  A chart summarizing the zoning development standards for the Southside is included on the last page of this Element.

The C-T zoned commercial area allows ground floor retail uses and housing on the upper floors. This is the only zoning district in Berkeley where new developments are not required to provide parking (except for the blocks located south of Dwight Way) and it is the only commercial district in Berkeley where office uses are not allowed on the upper floors of buildings (unless they are second floor offices directly serving the ground floor retail use).  Retail and housing are the intended land uses in this zoning district.  The maximum height allowed for new or expanded buildings is four stories, with a required fourth floor setback if north of Dwight.  This district’s minimum two story height requirement for new buildings is intended to encourage housing to be built above retail shops.

Much of the Southside is zoned R-4, multi-family residential.  This zoning district allows a variety of residential uses including single-family houses, apartments, residence halls, rooming housing, fraternities and sororities.  It also allows offices, hotels, schools, churches, senior housing, parks, parking lots and parking structures.  Buildings may be up to six stories and 65’ in height.  Parking for new buildings must be provided at a rate of one parking space for each apartment or every five residents of a rooming house, fraternity, or sorority.

The part of R-4 east of College Avenue is combined with the H Hillside Overlay District.  Here the maximum height is limited to three stories and 35', unless an Administrative Use Permit is granted with a finding that a greater height would be consistent with the H District purposes. In addition, the building setbacks can be reduced with an Administrative Use Permit instead of a variance.  Also here, the conversion of existing residential uses to offices is prohibited.

The University as a state agency is exempt under state law from complying with local zoning regulations.  The University does comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and does an internal design review of all new campus developments.  In addition, the University typically brings new development proposals to City commissions such as the Planning Commission, the Design Review Committee and the Landmarks Preservation Commission for input. 

Map LU-3: Existing Zoning (PDF 321.88KB)

Map LU-4: Building Height Allowed by Current City Zoning (PDF 145.85KB) 

D. Residential Land Use

The majority of the land in the Southside, 57% (excluding streets), is used as residential housing, accommodating the more than 11,000 people who live in the neighborhood.  Unlike most of the rest of Berkeley, the vast majority of residential buildings in the Southside are multi-family or group living buildings, which include apartments, residence halls, fraternities, sororities and rooming houses.  The residential areas of the Southside comprise a substantial portion of a ring of high-density housing located on the north, south and west edges of the university campus.

The Southside contains 5,350 dwelling units (every two beds of campus housing and group living quarters is considered, for the purposes of this Plan, one housing unit).  As Table LU-1 indicates, renters occupy 96% of the dwelling units in the Southside, a sharp contrast to the City as a whole, in which renters occupy only 54% of the housing units.  In 1999, only 3.6% of the rental units in the Southside were vacant, according to the Berkeley Rent Board.  Of the approximately 30,000 students attending UC Berkeley each year, nearly 9,000 live in the Southside study area.  Another 12,750 students live elsewhere in Berkeley.  As one recent survey indicates, there is a strong demand for more housing located close to the campus.  According to the 1998 survey conducted by the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), 71% of students who commute to campus would prefer to live within walking distance of campus if additional and affordable housing (based on students surveyed, “affordable” was considered between $340 and $425 per month per person) were available.  However, neither the University nor the for-profit or non-profit private housing sectors can construct housing in that price range without deep subsidies that are currently unavailable.  (Presently, new student housing in the area is renting for $700-900 per month per person. University sponsored housing is at the lower end of this range.)

The density of the residential buildings starts to decrease just outside the Southside study area. The adjacent neighborhoods to the south are zoned primarily R-3, R-2A and R-2, and large apartment buildings and group living facilities are less common in these areas.  The predominant building types in these adjacent neighborhoods are single-family houses and small apartment buildings, similar to the rest of Berkeley.


E. Types of Housing in the Southside 

There are three providers of housing in the Southside: the University, University-affiliated non-profits, and the private sector.  Twelve high-rise residence halls are located in the Southside.  The non-profit UC affiliates, which include the University Students’ Cooperative Association referred to as the co-ops, and the fraternities and sororities, provide housing in group living accommodations and in apartments.  The private sector provides a significant amount of rental housing in the Southside, primarily to the student population.  The University relies on both the University-affiliated housing and the private sector to provide housing for a significant portion of the approximately 30,000 students who attend the University each year.

University Housing 

In 1999, the University provided housing for approximately 3,500 students in the Southside,  53% of the total amount of student housing then provided by the University.

Three high-rise residence hall complexes (referred to as Units 1, 2, and 3) were built in the late 1950s and early 1960s and provide the majority of the University-owned housing in the Southside.


(The high-rise buildings at these complexes were retrofitted in the late 1980s and early 1990s at a cost of $75 million.) Combined, the Units currently house more than 2,800 students.  A four-story residence hall built in 1992, Beverly Cleary Residence Hall on Channing Way, provides housing for approximately 177 students. International House, which is affiliated with the University Regents but not operated by the UC Berkeley Housing, Dining and Child Care division, houses 580 students and visiting scholars each year.  The average monthly rent in a UC residence hall, excluding food, was $535 per month in 1999.  Additional student housing is provided just outside the Southside study area at the Clark Kerr Campus.

As part of the Underhill Area Projects, the University is significantly expanding its southside housing supply (see Intro, Section D, above).  As of July 2003, additional infill housing at Units 1 and 2 that will house up to 871 students is under construction; housing is under construction at Channing and Bowditch that will house approximately 228 students; and an apartment building constructed at College and Durant, housing 120 students, was completed in 2002.

The University also provides family student housing and faculty housing located just outside the Southside study area. Seventy-four units of family student housing are located at Smyth Fernwald at the eastern end of Dwight Way and 26 faculty apartments at Clark Kerr Campus. Each of these developments is located near the southeast corner of the Southside study area. 

Map LU-5: New University Housing Under Development (PDF 227.68KB) 

Plans for Additional University Housing 

Under the 2020 Long Range Development Plan for UC Berkeley, currently under development, the campus expects to further increase its housing supply.  Some potential housing projects would be within the southside planning area, and would be informed by the objectives and guidelines established in the Southside Plan.

University Affiliated Housing 

The University Students’ Cooperative Association (USCA, referred to as the co-ops) provides housing for 624 students in the Southside in nine buildings.  Much of the housing provided by the USCA in the Southside has been made possible by the sale or lease of University buildings and land to the USCA.  The University and the USCA have pursued a collaborative relationship to increase the supply of student housing.

The co-ops offer group living facilities where resident students do the cooking and the upkeep and share the duties of the household.  The co-ops also offer some apartments which are similar to private market apartments with 2-4 bedroom units and include a kitchen and living room and cost more per person than the cooperative group living accommodations.  Co-op housing is more affordable than either residence halls or market rate housing, ranging from $195 to $410 per month per person (depending on the type of unit, excluding food).  The co-ops generally operate at full capacity with few vacancies and long waiting lists.  The co-ops have no current plans to expand but they continue to look for opportunities to provide more student housing in and around the Southside.

Fraternities and sororities, which are clustered east of Bowditch Street, provide housing for 1,775 students.  Non-profit corporations formed by the alumni of the fraternities and sororities own and operate these houses.  Students must be a member of the fraternity or sorority to be eligible to live in the fraternities and sororities during the academic year, though some are available to non-members during the summer.  The average monthly rent, excluding food, is $268 per month per person.  The fraternities and sororities had a 27% vacancy rate in 1998, suggesting approximately 480 beds went vacant that year. The Greek system has no current plans to expand its housing stock.

Table LU-3:  Average Rents in Berkeley, 1993 - 1999









Single Room


One Bedroom

Two Bedroom

Three Bedroom







1998-99 YTD










































Source:  University of California, Berkeley, Community Housing Division


Private Sector Housing

The housing stock in the Southside includes many building ages and types, including pre-WW II wood frame housing, pre-WW II apartment buildings, and post-war apartment buildings, often with 2or 3 stories of housing over parking.  Single family residences, with some duplexes, were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the Southside.  These structures were generally wood frame construction, of one, two, or three stories.  Some are still used as originally constructed, while many have been converted to multiple-unit buildings.  Apartment buildings built during the first half of the 20th century were often built with little or no on-site parking, as automobile ownership was not the norm for apartment residents.  These buildings were often of wood-frame construction, with stucco exterior.  Apartment buildings built in the postwar era responded to the increase in demand.   New apartment buildings were designed with parking as cars replaced use of public transit.  Many buildings of the period have a full or partial floor of parking on the ground floor, with two or three stories of dwelling units above.  This was an efficient way to build at the time.  However, it is now known that the lack of lateral bracing on the ground floor makes these buildings very prone to serious damage or collapse in case of a major earthquake.

There are approximately 2,530 privately-owned housing units in the Southside, the vast majority of which are rental apartments or rooming houses.  Ninety-four percent of the private-sector residential buildings in the Southside are multi-family and 63% were built before 1950.

Rent for private sector housing varies greatly depending on housing type and the number of people per dwelling unit, as shown on Table LU-3.  The issue of finding available rental housing has become acute in the extremely tight housing market of the Bay Area.  The 1999 vacancy rate in the Southside was 3.6% according to the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, a factor which makes finding rental housing particularly difficult for students who are often looking for housing during a concentrated period of time at the beginning of each semester.  With the vacancy decontrol changes in the rent control laws which went into effect in January, 1999, the price of rental housing has increased rapidly.  Increased rents combined with low rental housing vacancy rates have caused an increasing number of students to look for housing in communities farther from campus, or to crowd into existing apartments and residence halls.

Despite the low vacancy rate and high rents, very few units of new housing have been built in the Southside in the last 20 years.  The City has several regulations in place which require the retention of existing residential units and existing buildings.  The Zoning Ordinance requires the replacement of units lost to demolition or the conversion of a building which contains dwelling units to another use.  The Zoning Ordinance also requires that a Use Permit be secured before a non-residential building more than 40 years old can be demolished.  The quality of the rental housing stock in the Southside is generally perceived to be poor.  The advanced age of the housing stock may be one reason for this.  As in the City of Berkeley as a whole, as Table LU-4 indicates, more than half of the housing structures (55%) in the Southside were built prior to 1939.  Only 8% of the area’s structures were built after 1970.  Standard physical problems generally range from poor quality roofs, windows, and doors to problems with plumbing, security or lighting and heat.

According to the 1990 Census, the Southside has the highest percentage of inadequate fuel, kitchen and plumbing facilities.  Considering the high percentage of substandard housing in the Southside, it is surprising that there is no significant difference between the percent of housing units cited for code violations in the Southside and Berkeley as a whole.  There were a total of 132 reported housing code violations in the Southside from January 1995 to February 1999, pertaining to 1.23% of the housing stock.  At the citywide level for the same time period, there were 3,747 code violations, affecting 1.14% of the housing stock.

Table LU-4:  Number of Private Housing Units in Structure and Year Structure Built










Surrounding Neighborhood*

City of Berkeley



% of Total


% of Total


% of Total

Units in Structure







One unit, detached







One unit, attached







Two units







Three or four units







Five to nine units







Ten to 19 units







20 to 49 units







Fifty or more units







Mobile home, trailer, or other units





















Year Structure Built







1989 to March 1990







1980 to 1988







1970 to 1979







1960 to 1969







1950 to 1959







1940 to 1949







1939 or before







Source:  1990 Census














*Note:  For purposes of this analysis, the surrounding neighborhood includes the area from Dwight Way to Derby Street from Fulton Street to Belrose Avenue/Claremeont Blvd.














In addition to the housing deficiencies discussed above, the Southside has numerous “soft-story” buildings, which have open or irregular structural designs that lack lateral strength.  Examples are the residential buildings designed with parking below multi-unit buildings typical of mid-twentieth century development.  These structures have a greater risk of being damaged or destroyed in an earthquake than buildings with adequate lateral bracing.

F. Commercial Uses

Retail Uses 

Retail uses occupy about 12% of the land area of the Southside (excluding streets) and are concentrated along Telegraph Avenue, Bancroft Way, and Durant Avenue.  This shopping area serves the residents of the Southside, the larger University population who attend classes and work in the area, residents of other areas of Berkeley, visitors to the campus, and shoppers from throughout the region.  In addition to strictly retail uses, many of the existing buildings are multi-story and mixed use with residential units above ground floor retail shops.  The Telegraph commercial area contains more than 200 businesses in addition to the 20 to 40 street artists located on the public sidewalks who sell their handmade crafts on a typical day.  The Economic Development Element contains more detailed information on the Telegraph commercial district.  In addition, there is a small commercial area on the south side of Dwight Way, between Fulton and the C-SA zoned properties on Shattuck Avenue.  This is considered a peninsula of commercial that relates more to the Shattuck Avenue commercial land uses than to the commercial areas farther to the east.

Map LU-6: Generalized Commercial Areas (PDF 321.60KB) 

Office Uses 

There are office uses in various locations in the Southside, primarily University academic and student support offices, religious facility offices and a small number of general office buildings.  These uses, which occupy 5.5% of the land area of the Southside, are located primarily west of Bowditch Street and east of Atherton Street and are housed in 1-3 story buildings, many of which resemble neighboring residential structures.  University offices in the Southside are generally student support offices, administrative offices, and offices for University-affiliated research groups.

G. Religious, Social, and Cultural Institutions and Sports Facilities 

Another major land use in the Southside is institutional, which includes the religious, social, and cultural institutions and the sports facilities that attract the public to the Southside.  Sixteen religious institutions are located in the Southside, plus several social facilities including the YMCA, YWCA and the Berkeley City Club.  Many cultural institutions and sports facilities are located on the campus adjacent to the Southside, along with several facilities located in the Southside.  All of these facilities add a social and cultural vitality to the area.  They attract many visitors who shop and use the restaurants in the Southside, as well as bring many occasional visitors to the Southside.

The religious, social and cultural institutions, which comprise about 10% of the land area of the Southside, use their property for many different functions.  These facilities are used for religious services and religious education; offices; community service and social service facilities; schools, including two private high schools and one private graduate school, day care and pre-school facilities; performances; events; parking; and other, associated ancillary uses.  Many of these facilities attract users from across the East Bay as well as UC students and local residents.

Map LU-7: Religious, Social, Cultural Institutions and Sports Facilities (PDF 346.16KB) 

H. Parking

Parking lots and parking structures occupy about 12% of the land area in the Southside (excluding parking garages located below retail buildings, parking structures located on the central campus adjacent to Bancroft Way or parking on residential lots).  In addition to parking lots and parking structures, on-street parking which is located along both sides of most streets in the Southside occupies approximately 10% of the total area of the Southside.

The majority of the off-street parking in the Southside is owned by the University, area churches and other institutions.  The City of Berkeley owns and operates the Sather Gate Garage and is responsible for all on-street parking in the area.  Parking in the Southside is used by many people including students and employees coming to the campus, shoppers and employees coming to the commercial area, people coming to the institutions to visit or work, and by residents living in or near the area.

The Southside has the lowest car ownership rate in the City of Berkeley; less than half of Southside households (48%) own cars compared to 81% of households in Berkeley.  Given that group living quarters, such as dormitories, are not considered households by the U.S.  Census, the rate of car ownership in the Southside is actually substantially lower than 48%.  Students living in residence halls are not permitted to bring cars to campus.  Please see the Transportation Element for a more detailed discussion and further information about parking uses and issues in the Southside.

Map LU-8: Public and University Parking Areas (PDF 330.13KB) 

I. Open Space and Recreational Facilities 

Open space accounts for 3.5% of the land area in the Southside.  However, there are also open space and recreational facilities located on campus and in surrounding neighborhoods, that serve Southside residents.

Map LU-9: Open Space and Recreational Facilities (PDF 331.58KB) 

People’s Park 

As of December 2001, People’s Park is both owned and managed by the University.  The People’s Park Community Advisory Board provides input to the University and City about various programs and issues at the park.  The People’s Park Recreation office, with two full time employees plus part-time and seasonal staff, organizes and oversees recreation programs in the park.  In 1999, summer programs offered to the public included a summer recreation program for more than 30 children and a community gardening program .

Despite numerous efforts to cooperatively upgrade maintenance in the park and increase its usage, many area residents believe that the park does not function well as a community park.  There is widespread community perception that the park is unsafe and not welcoming to all types of users.

City-Owned Parks

There are two city parks located within walking distance of the Southside: Civic Center Park at Milvia and Center Streets, and Willard Park at Derby Street and Hillegass Avenues.

University-Owned Recreational Facilities

Several recreational facilities exist in or near the Southside. Eight University-owned tennis courts are located atop the Ellsworth parking lot and six are atop the Bancroft parking lot. These courts are available for public use.  The Recreational Sports Facility and Hearst Memorial Gymnasium, both located along Bancroft Way, are available for public use with a fee.  The Golden Bear running track at the Clark Kerr campus is available for public use without a fee. Prior to 1993, there were sports fields for student and intramural use atop the Underhill parking structure.  It was demolished for seismic safety in 1993.  These fields had been intensely used by students and other residents seven days a week well into the evening.  Prior to 1999, Hearst Field, located on the campus west of the Hearst Gym, also provided sports fields for student use. A temporary academic building was built on the field in 1999 for use while seismic repair of UC buildings is underway.

Due to loss of recreational open space, additional athletic and recreational fields for students are needed to meet the high demand for student recreational use.  However, there are very few sites in the Southside large enough to accommodate recreational fields.

Passive Open Space and Public Gathering Areas

One of the most significant open space resources near the Southside is the UC campus which many people enjoy as passive open space.  The campus has several public gathering spaces and public plazas, including Upper and Lower Sproul Plaza, Kroeber Plaza (at the College Avenue entrance to the campus) and Dwinelle Plaza.  The University is planning to undertake a major redesign of Lower Sproul Plaza to make it a more inviting and heavily used space.  In addition, there are grassy lawns and knolls throughout the campus that the public can use.

Vacant Land

There is only one vacant site in the Southside.  It is located at the northeast corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street where the Berkeley Inn, a landmark building, was destroyed by fire in the late 1980s.


A. Opportunities for Development 

This Plan assumes that most of the existing buildings will remain in their current use for the foreseeable future, based on strong demand for their current uses and existing City land use and zoning regulations.  This continuity in the built environment lends physical stability to the neighborhood and provides the basis for many of the land use and housing policies contained in this Plan.  While the Southside is almost entirely built out with the various land uses described previously and illustrated on the existing land use map LU-1, there are still opportunities for appropriate new development (particularly housing) in the Southside.

The following types of properties are considered “opportunity sites” in the Southside:

  • Sites which contain surface parking lots.  The existing parking may need to be retained either on-site, in association with new buildings, or relocated into new or expanded parking structures elsewhere.
  • Sites which contain existing one story, architecturally and historically insignificant buildings. Some sites could receive building additions, could accommodate additional buildings on the lot, or could potentially be demolished and new buildings built in their place.
  • Sites that are currently vacant.  With only two vacant sites in the Southside, most change will occur on sites that contain existing uses.
  • Sites which contain seismically hazardous buildings which are prohibitively expensive to retrofit.  These properties could be redeveloped, with proper incentives, to create higher quality housing stock and improve the overall quality of the neighborhood.  The sites with potentially hazardous buildings are of two categories:  “unreinforced masonry buildings” (“URM”) and “soft-story buildings”.  These terms are explained, and the hazards associated with structural deficiencies are described, in the Safety Element, Section V.B. 
    The development “opportunity” presented by the sites that meet the above criteria is subjective.  “Opportunity” is defined as “A favorable or advantageous circumstance or combination of circumstances”.  In addition to the physical characteristics (some objective, some subjective) identified in the above list, a site is only an opportunity site if there is a willing property owner, the land use entitlements can be obtained, and the development is justified financially.  The physical characteristics identified in the list above are intended to identify sites where there is potential for added development potential that may be sufficient to drive a profitable development decision.  The characteristics are also intended to be a guideline to show characteristics of properties where new or additional development may assist in realizing public policy goals.  The City emphasizes that no expectation of any given outcome to a development permit process can be assumed for any site, simply because it has met one or more of the above criteria.   No pre-judgement about the outcome of a development proposal is implied.  Potential opportunity sites in the Southside are listed in Appendix A

The Southside area, although largely built out, offers opportunities for environmentally sensitive and sustainable design in new buildings and in projects involving expanding or updating existing buildings.  The City of Berkeley supports environmentally responsive practices, termed “Green Building” practices, in response to the high rates of consumption and waste found in traditional building design and construction.  Buildings consume 40% of the world’s total energy and materials, 25% of the wood harvested, and 17% of the potable water.  “Green” building practices can reduce these environmental and human health problems.  A green building is sited, designed, constructed and operated to enhance the well being of its occupants, and to minimize the negative impacts on the community and the natural environment.  In recent years, Berkeley has developed a Green Building Initiative, which seeks to make building green the “business as usual” choice for new construction and major remodel projects in Berkeley.  Specific “Green Building” policies in the General Plan apply throughout the City, and are not duplicated within the Southside Plan.  Relevant General Plan policies are:  UD-33, Sustainable Design, EM-4, Green Building Certification, EM-5, “Green” Buildings, EM-8 Building Re-Use and Construction Waste, EM-26 Water Conservation, EM-35 Energy Efficient Design, and EM-36 Energy Conservation.

B. Development Constraints 

While opportunities for development exist in the Southside, there are many constraints to development that must be acknowledged.  The objectives and policies in this Element address these constraints.

Private Sector Development Constraints 

Many factors affect the private sector and the institutions which might undertake development projects in the Southside, including:

  • Concern regarding time and cost spent in order to receive project approval.
  • The City’s zoning regulations, and in particular, the development standards, which are too restrictive to allow financially feasible development.
  • Concern that the quota system in the Telegraph zoning district acts as a constraint to obtaining financing for new construction because of reduced flexibility in the use of ground floor retail spaces.

University Development Constraints 

The University's Housing, Dining, and Child Care Services Division, which provides UC-owned housing, is required by state law to be self-supporting and operate without state funding.  Therefore, in order for UC to build more student housing, Housing, Dining and Child Care Services must be able to ensure that the housing will be fully used and in demand for the 30 years that it will take to pay off the construction loan.

Map LU-10: Proposed Zoning (PDF 139.15KB) 

IV.  Objectives and policies 

The land use and housing policies recommended in this Plan are intended to guide new development and land use changes in the Southside in a manner that is sensitive to the existing land use patterns while meeting the expansion and development needs of its many property owners.  The policies are informed by a recognition of the diverse mix of land uses that exist and will continue to exist in the Southside, the need for new housing near the University, the desirability of infill development, and the many public comments received during this planning process.

A.  Land Use Subareas in the Southside 

The Land Use and Housing Element divides the Southside into five subareas in order to assign land use policies based on the distinct character of each area.  The sub areas are:

1. A Residential Medium Density Subarea applying to areas that are predominantly medium density residential in use and character including areas of fraternities, sororities, miscellaneous residential buildings, and single-family homes;

2. A Residential High Density Subarea applying to areas that are predominately high density residential in use and character and located in close proximity to the University of California;

3. A Residential Mixed Use Subarea applying to areas containing a mix of University, office and institutional uses as well as multi-family housing and small scale neighborhood serving commercial uses; and

4. A Commercial Subarea applying to the retail district on Telegraph and adjacent portions of Bancroft and Durant (Telegraph Commercial Subarea).

5. A Commercial Subarea applying to the commercial area on the south side of Dwight Way west of Fulton and east of the C-SA zoned properties on Shattuck (Dwight Way Commercial Subarea).

While the Element states preferred land uses for the subareas as part of its policy recommendations, a priority of the Element is to establish policies that encourage new housing development at appropriate locations throughout the Southside.

The specific subarea policies are included below under Objective LU-F, following most of the land use objectives and policies that apply generally to the Southside.

Map LU-11: Subareas (PDF 163.55KB) 

Objective LU-A:  Increase the amount of housing and housing types in the Southside for UC students, faculty and staff, year-round residents, and employees of Southside businesses, by encouraging new housing, encouraging preservation and maintenance of existing housing, discouraging loss of existing housing to non-residential uses.

Policy LU-A1:  Provide incentives to encourage development of a variety of different housing types that are affordable to students, University employees, and employees of Southside businesses.

A.Encourage a variety of housing types to be built in the Southside, including houses, condominiums, townhouses, apartment buildings, group living quarters, and loft-style housing, and encourage owner-occupied housing, rental housing, cooperatives and co-housing.

B.Require that new housing developments include units that are affordable to households that qualify as low income through the City’s inclusionary housing ordinance or other regulatory mechanism.

C.    Provide density bonuses in most subareas in the form of an extra story or stories of housing for housing projects that provide a greater percentage of affordable housing units than required by the inclusionary housing ordinance or for projects that provide a deeper subsidy for the “inclusionary units” making them more affordable to households with lower incomes.  Up to one additional floor above the zoning base height limit may be provided for projects that meet the Government Code 65915 et seq. (State Density Bonus law) thresholds for a density bonus, and up to two additional floors may be provided for residential projects that significantly exceed the State Density Bonus law affordability standards.  (Specific standards, incentive priorities, and thresholds shall be developed in the Zoning Ordinance recommendations.) In other sub areas, provide density concessions through other means, such as increased lot coverage or reduced parking requirements.

D.    Annually review housing production in the Southside as part of the General Plan Annual review and affordable housing bonus standards established by the Plan to determine if these standards have been successful in encouraging the production of more affordable housing.  Consider modifying standards if review suggests that change could result in production of more affordable housing.

E.    Adopt zoning regulations for new R-SMU and R-S zoning districts with relaxed standards pertaining to parking, open space, lot coverage, and setbacks to encourage additional housing development.

F.    Revise zoning regulations for the C-T commercial zoning district to reduce parking requirements and raise height limits to encourage additional housing development.

G.    Improve the discretionary review process for projects that comply with the recommendations of this Plan to increase certainty for neighbors and project developers.  Create an improved, comprehensive notification process.  Provide all land-use requirements to developers upon filing of Preliminary Application.  Encourage developers' early-stage notification of and discussion with neighbors of proposed projects prior to filing of formal application.


Policy LU-A2:  Housing and mixed-use projects with housing should be the University of California’s highest priority for the use of University-owned opportunity sites in the Southside except those with frontage on Bancroft.

A.    Encourage partnerships between the University and non-profit housing developers, student co-ops and other private developers to build additional housing.

B.    Encourage the University to build apartment style housing units for 
        undergraduates, graduate students, junior faculty, and staff.


Policy LU-A3:  Maintain the current supply of housing in the Southside.


A.    Continue to enforce the City’s zoning regulations that discourage the conversion of dwelling units to non-residential uses.

B.     Preserve group living facilities.  Do not allow conversion of group living facilities to institutional and non-residential uses.

C.Discourage demolition of existing housing that meets current seismic safety, fire and habitability standards, especially older wood frame houses and apartment buildings that contribute to the area’s character.  Encourage retrofitting rather than demolition where financially feasible.

D.Within the R-3 Zoning District, allow soft story buildings and other buildings which seek to rebuild after an earthquake or fire has destroyed them, to do so without a variance provided that they are the same height and other dimensions as previously.

E.Allow and encourage preventive retrofitting in similar structures.  Residential buildings shall be allowed to remove parking spaces if found necessary by the Building Official to perform mandatory seismic strengthening.


Policy LU-A4:  Encourage and promote the rehabilitation and maintenance of existing housing in the area, especially older buildings with architectural and/or historic merit.  (See also Community Character policies under Objective CC-D, relating to preservation of historic resources.)

A.Promote the City’s existing programs to assist property owners in maintaining their property.

B.Promote the City’s existing incentives for owners to seismically improve their buildings.

C.Promote and encourage use of the State Historical Building Code and the Mills Act as means to preserve and rehabilitate historic architectural resources in the Southside.

Objective LU-B:  Increase the amount of open space in the Southside for both students and year-round residents.

Policy LU-B1:  Consider opportunities to provide open space as part of potential future housing at sites such as the Ellsworth parking lot and other large scale development projects.

Policy LU-B2:  Continue to use weekend street closures for special events, festivals, outdoor public markets, cultural events, and public recreational opportunities.

Policy LU-B3:  Retain People’s Park as a public open space “commons” for the Southside.

A.    Improve People’s Park to be a user friendly and safe  public park.

B.     Improve and possibly relocate the bathrooms and maintenance facilities.  Ensure that public restrooms are useable by persons with disabilities, and are safe and clean.

C.    Increase lighting in the park and on surrounding streets.

D.    Continue to explore ways in which People’s Park can better serve the Southside neighborhood as open space. (See also Community Character Policy CC-F6);

E.     Encourage strong physical connections between the Park and the adjacent land uses:

1.   Encourage infill buildings on sites around the park to create more “eyes on the Park".

2.   Consider the Haste Street frontage of the Anna Head parking lot as a UC housing site to create a residential constituency who could use the Park, as recommended by the University’s 1990 Long Range Development Plan.

F.     Continue the existing maintenance program to improve park lighting and landscaping.

G.    Continue recreational programs, festivals, and weekend activities designed to bring a broader group of users to the park, particularly students and neighborhood residents.

H.    Support efforts to publicize the history of People’s Park and the surrounding buildings.

Objective LU-C Encourage development consistent with the objectives of the Southside Plan on suitable underutilized sites in the Southside
Policy LU-C1:  Suitable sites that are the highest priority for redevelopment and reuse in the Southside, in order of priority, include:

A.Vacant properties
B.Surface parking lots and single-level parking garages on Bancroft, Durant, and Telegraph Avenue
C.Underutilized lots with single-story structures that are not historically significant resources on Bancroft, Durant, and Telegraph
D.Surface parking lots and single-level parking lots on all other streets
E.Underutilized lots with single-story structures that are not historically significant resources on all other streets

Objective LU-D:  Improve the Bancroft Way corridor as a transition and seam between the University and the Southside. (See also Community Character Element).

Policy LU-D1:  Encourage development of infill buildings along the south side of Bancroft Way so that it becomes a more vital corridor serving students and other users of the Southside.

A.    Encourage mixed-use buildings. See Residential -Mixed Use Subarea and Commercial Subarea policy sections (under Objective LU-F) for recommended zoning changes and preferred land uses.

B.     Encourage pedestrian-oriented uses on ground floor street frontages.

C.    Screen parking from view.

Policy LU-D2:  Encourage the University to consider modifications to some of the existing campus buildings and facilities along Bancroft Way to create a better connection between the campus and the Southside, such as:

A.     Develop retail and pedestrian spaces along the north side of Bancroft, between Telegraph Avenue and Dana Street.

B.     Provide a more inviting entrance to Zellerbach Hall along Bancroft.

C.    As the University contemplates changes to the Recreational Sports Facility (RSF) on Bancroft Way, consider ways to make the building more street friendly, such as locating the existing cafe along the street frontage and adding windows to make interior uses visible from the street.

D.    Improve the connection between Upper and Lower Sproul Plaza and Bancroft Way as part of the University’s seismic upgrade program and related studies.

E.     Study potential modifications to the MLK Student Union Building and the CAL Student Store to bring pedestrian-oriented and retail uses closer to Bancroft Way.

F.     Consider relocating the food vendor carts to attractive kiosks, to create an inviting main entry to the campus at Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft.

G.    Develop a signage program for the facilities located along Bancroft including the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, the Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Zellerbach Hall, and the Haas Pavilion.

H.    Design street and on-campus improvements along Bancroft west of Telegraph to conveniently accommodate passenger loading/unloading from transit, including campus shuttles, conventional buses, and future options for bus rapid transit or light rail.

Policy LU-D3:  Improve the pedestrian environment along Bancroft Way with better bus stops, wider sidewalks wherever possible, sidewalk lighting, additional street trees, and other streetscape amenities.  (See the Community Character and Transportation Elements for more specific policies.)    

Policy LU-D4:  Make the entries to all public buildings and public parking along Bancroft Way more visible from the street.  (See Community Character Element for more specific policies.)

Objective LU-E:  Maintain and locate neighborhood services in the Southside so residents can meet their needs without increasing auto trips to and from the area. (Also see Transportation and Community Character policies.)

Policy LU-E1:  Support neighborhood services by encouraging development of new housing at suitable locations within walking distance of the UC Campus and as part of mixed-use developments in theTelegraph Commercial District and Downtown Berkeley.

Policy LU-E2:  Encourage development of neighborhood serving commercial uses, such as cafes, small grocery and convenience stores, laundromats, shoe repairs, and dry cleaners.

A.    Revise residential zoning restrictions to allow limited neighborhood serving commercial uses in the mixed use (R-SMU) district.

Policy LU-E3:  The specific location of land uses and the design of new buildings in each subarea should reinforce the pedestrian, bicycle, and transit orientation of the Southside.  (See Community Character Element for more specific policies)

Objective LU-F:  Designate four land use subareas in the Southside and modify the City of Berkeley Zoning Ordinance accordingly:

  • Residential Medium Density (R-3) Subarea
  • Residential High Density (R-S) Subarea
  • Residential  Mixed Use (R-SMU) Subarea
  • Commercial (C-T) Subarea
    See Map LU-11 for subarea locations.  Implement the following policies for each subarea in order to refine and reinforce existing land use patterns in the Southside.

Residential Subareas

Two areas in the Southside shall be designated as Residential Subareas.  Housing is currently the predominant land use in these areas and their existing residential character should be retained and reinforced.  The Residential High Density Subarea is located close to the University of California Campus and Telegraph Avenue and is generally characterized by existing higher density housing and dormitories.  The Residential Medium Density Subarea is generally located at the eastern and southern edges of the Southside area furthest from the campus and adjacent to the neighboring lower density residential neighborhoods outside the Southside area. It is generally characterized by a mix of housing types including fraternities, sororities, apartment buildings and single family homes.

A major purpose  of the new Residential High Density Subarea is to encourage the development of new housing that serves a variety of housing needs, is compatible with the height and bulk of existing buildings, and complements the existing architectural character of this subarea.  An additional purpose is to conserve the existing supply of housing.

Policies for the Residential Subareas 

Policy LU-F1:  Housing is the recommended land use in the Residential Subareas and is the preferred land use for all opportunity sites in these subareas.

Policy LU-F2:  A variety of building types are recommended, including houses, condominiums, townhouses, apartment buildings, group living facilities, and loft-style housing that would serve a variety of populations including students, families, UC staff and faculty, and others who desire to live in this vibrant, easily-accessible neighborhood.

Policy LU-F3:  Conserve, rehabilitate, and improve the maintenance of existing housing in the Residential Subareas.

Policy LU-F4:  Encourage new residential development in the R-S residential High Density Subarea.

A.    Create new R-S zoning regulations, including development standards to encourage construction of new housing, prohibit new office uses, reduce parking requirements for residential uses, and increase allowable lot coverage.

Policy LU-F5: Encourage housing to be built on surface parking lots in the Residential Subareas.

A.    Support development of housing on University-owned and other surface parking lots in the Residential Subareas.

B.    To the extent that replacement for parking on surface lots is needed, whenever feasible, relocate parking into consolidated parking sites in the Residential Mixed Use Subarea when new housing is proposed for parking lot sites in the Commercial or Residential Subareas.  Some of the existing parking may need to be retained on or underneath these sites.

C.    Additional, new parking lots and parking structures should not be located in the Residential sub areas, unless located behind an existing use.

Policy LU-F6: Ensure high quality architectural design for new construction in the Residential Subareas.

A.      Require project conformance with the Southside Design Guidelines to ensure that new buildings are compatible with the architectural character in these subareas.

B.      Amend the Design Review Ordinance to require design review for all new buildings or major alterations in the Residential Subareas.

Policy LU-F7:  In efforts to seek the best re-use option for the Anna Head complex, office use may continue as a use in the Anna Head buildings.

Residential Mixed Use (R-SMU) Subarea

Two portions of the Southside, a large one west of the Telegraph Commercial Subarea and a smaller area to the east, shall be designated as the Residential Mixed Use Subarea (See Map LU-10).  This is the subarea where the greatest diversity of land uses currently exists, including housing, offices, religious facilities, schools, social institutions, parking lots, cultural facilities, a hotel, and several retail uses.  This subarea also contains much University property, including a wide range of academic and student serving uses and administrative offices.

The intentions for this subarea include: allowing a wider variety of land uses than is allowed in other subareas in order to maintain the existing diversity of land uses; meeting the future needs of the many different users and property owners in this subarea; and reducing pressure to locate non-residential or non-retail uses in the other three subareas.

A broad variety of land uses are recommended for this subarea, including: housing, University academic facilities and offices, religious facilities, schools, social institutions, parking, cultural facilities, hotel uses, and retail uses when they are ancillary to the primary use of a building.  Mixed-use developments that include housing are a preferred use.

The Residential Mixed Use Subarea contains many of the sites where development is possible: on surface parking lots, as additions to existing buildings, and on sites that contain single story buildings with no architectural or historic merit.

Residential  Mixed Use Subarea Policies

Policy LU-F7:  Allow in the Residential Mixed Use Subarea a variety of different land uses including housing; university facilities, offices and student support services; religious, social and cultural institutions with associated offices, facilities and ancillary uses; educational uses; recreation facilities; hotels; appropriate neighborhood-serving retail uses and parking garages.  Mixed-use developments that include housing are the preferred use.

Policy LU-F8:  Encourage new infill development in the Residential Mixed Use Subarea.

A.    Adopt zoning and development standards for the R-SMU District to encourage new infill development.


Policy LU-F9:  Encourage mixed-use buildings in the Residential Mixed Use Subarea that combine two or more of the allowed land uses.


Policy LU-F10:  Encourage infill buildings on surface parking lots in the Residential Mixed Use Subarea.

A.    New or replacement parking should be placed inside or underneath new buildings, or in consolidated parking garages, and serve multiple users whenever possible.

B.     Prohibit new public surface parking lots or expansion of existing public surface parking lots.

Policy LU-F11:  Conserve and rehabilitate the existing architectural and historic resources in the Residential Mixed Use Subarea.  See Community Character Element for more specific policies.

Policy LU-F12:  Utilize the Southside Plan design guidelines  to ensure that the design of new buildings is compatible with existing buildings in the Residential Mixed Use Subarea and will not detract from the significance of nearby landmark and historically significant buildings and sites. (See Community Character Element.)

A.    Require review under the Design Review Ordinance for new buildings built in this subarea.

Commercial Subareas

Two areas in the Southside shall be designated as Commercial Sub areas.  Commercial use is currently the predominant land use in these areas.  The Telegraph Commercial (C-T) subarea is the designation for the existing commercial core of the Southside centered along Telegraph Avenue.  The Dwight Way Commercial (C-SA) subarea is the designation for the small commercial area on the south side of Dwight Way, between Fulton Street and the C-SA zoned properties on Shattuck Avenue.  Mixed-use buildings, with housing above retail, are the preferred use for the Telegraph Commercial (C-T) subarea.  Land uses consistent with C-SA zoning are the preferred uses for the Dwight way Commercial (C-SA) subarea.

Telegraph Commercial (CT) Subarea

The existing commercial core of the Southside shall be designated as the Telegraph Commercial (CT) Subarea.  Mixed-use buildings, with housing above retail, are the preferred use for this subarea.  (See the Economic Development Element for further policies regarding improvements to this district.)

Dwight Way Commercial (C-SA) Subarea 

The commercial area on the south side of Dwight Way west of Fulton and east of the C-SA zoned properties on Shattuck is called the Dwight Way Commercial (C-SA) Subarea.  The C-SA refers to the zoning district recommended for this area).

Telegraph Commercial (CT) Subarea Policies

Policy LU-F13: Mixed-use buildings with housing above retail uses are the preferred land use throughout this subarea.

A.    Revise the C-T zoning to encourage the construction of new mixed-use buildings or additions   to existing buildings.

Policy LU-F14:  Employ Southside Design Guidelines to ensure that new buildings are compatible with existing buildings in the Telegraph Commercial (CT) Subarea and do not detract from the significance of existing landmark and historically significant buildings.  (See Community Character Element for additional policies.

Dwight Way Commercial (C-SA) Subarea Policy

Policy LU-F15:  Rezone the properties within the Dwight Way Commercial (C-SA) Subarea to C-SA.

Policy LU-F16:  Employ Southside Design Guidelines to ensure that new buildings are compatible with existing buildings in the Dwight Way Commercial (C-SA) Subarea and do not detract from the significance of  existing landmark and historically significant  buildings.  (See Community Character Element for additional policies.)

Parking and Transportation Policies for Multiple Subareas

Policy LU-F17:  Encourage and support transit and other alternatives to automobile use in the Southside.

A.    Amend the Zoning Ordinance to eliminate residential parking requirements in the Car- Free Housing Overlay area shown on Map LU-10.

B.     Residents of new housing that is constructed without parking in the Car-Free Overlay area shall not be eligible for Residential Parking Permits.

C.    In the C-T, R-SMU and R-S subareas, new development shall pay a Transportation Services Fee (TSF) that will be used to fund transit, pedestrian and bicycle related programs needed for the mobility of new residents and employees of the area.

D.    Consider having attended bicycle parking near campus and/or at other locations in the Southside.

Table LU-6: Zoning Comparison Table (PDF 199.74KB) 


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