Posted on February 27, 2021

Berkeley Passes Resolution to Eliminate Historically Racist Single-Family Zoning

John Ramos, KPIX 5, February 24, 2021

A new plan to revamp Berkeley neighborhoods enacted by the city council this week updates zoning laws to end past policies of housing discrimination.

Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to ban single-family zoning, a restriction that is coming under increased scrutiny across the country as a cause of racial segregation in housing.

“We’re known for our progressive history but we have a couple skeletons in the closet,” said Berkeley resident and housing-equity activist Darrell Owens.


“This is the city that originated single-family zoning for racist and classist reasons that spread nationwide, particularly after WWII,” said Owens.

Single-family zoning known as “R-1” is common throughout the Bay Area and across America and prohibits the building of multi-unit housing. It prevents people who cannot afford to buy a home from living in the neighborhood.

In 1916, it was introduced to the world in Berkeley as a way of intentionally excluding lower-income people of color.


Clearly, that is not the intention of everyone living there now. But the policy remains and it is being pointed to as a reason for the high degree of racial separation in housing.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Berkeley City Council voted to ban “R-1” within the city limits. {snip}