Affordable Housing Project FAQs

What is this project?

First Church Berkeley is committed to an affordable housing project that will add 100% low-income housing, primarily for families, to our campus in the coming years. We, the Affordable Housing Committee, have developed and will continue to update this FAQ so that all community members are informed on project background, progress, and anticipated impacts.

When and why did this affordable housing initiative start?

The congregation has discussed contributing to affordable housing efforts multiple times over the past several decades, including supporting members’ creation of a nonprofit organization that in 1980 financed, constructed and managed Amistad House (now a SAHA property), a 43-unit affordable senior housing project in Berkeley. There was also discussion of a very large mixed income senior project that would make use of our campus, the Methodist Church across Dana Street, and City Club around 2010 that did not proceed.

This current effort was sparked by the September 2016 church fire, which led to congregational visioning of adding housing as a possible use of our campus.

When and how was the decision made to move forward with this project?

In May 2020, the congregation voted to move forward with exploration of affordable housing development on the northwest corner of the campus and charged the Affordable Housing Committee with exploring the options. In February 2021, the Church received grant funds from Local Initiatives Support Corp (LISC) and Alameda County to evaluate potential for affordable housing. The Affordable Housing Committee developed a Request for Qualifications for housing developer proposals, which was released in late 2021. After evaluating several well-qualified candidates, the committee chose EBALDC as their development partner in June 2022. 

Links to Past Affordable Housing Committee Updates:
December 2023
Fall 2023
May 2023
December 2022
June 2022
Fall 2021

What is FCCB’s role and responsibility at each stage of this project?

Until the building is completed and occupied, the FCCB community can accelerate this project’s success by engaging in advocacy for measures to support more funding for affordable housing (per our Vision!). 

FCCB, as represented by the Affordable Housing Committee members, will be partners in the planning process. The Committee will continue to provide community updates at regular intervals, and put key decisions to congregational vote when necessary. When building is complete and residents have moved in, we will have opportunities to befriend, support, and invite them to our community or offer specific programming that meets their needs and interests. 

The Church will receive substantial, dependable revenue from the development to help support our community and the church operating budget.

How and why did we choose this developer and architecture team?

The Affordable Housing Team chose EBALDC because, in addition to their stellar reputation as an affordable housing developer in the East Bay, we were inspired by their “Healthy Neighborhoods” approach, which recognizes affordable housing as part of a larger matrix important to resident and neighborhood success, including access to economic opportunity, education and health care, for example.

EBALDC made the final decision to hire Yes Duffy and David Baker Architects as the Architecture team, after sharing applications with us and inviting a committee member to sit in on the interviews and ask questions important to us. EBALDC and Yes Duffy/David Baker Architects already have a productive working relationship, and are currently collaborating on the development of affordable housing on the North Berkeley BART parking lot.

What do we know (so far) about what’s being proposed to be built?

We are still at the very preliminary stages of project design. The guiding principles that were communicated to EBALDC and the architects include:

1. Serves as a high quality building that is a good neighbor and a source of pride for our community and the City of Berkeley. 
2. Adheres to the highest standards for sustainability in both the building and its operations.
Incorporates innovative design and construction techniques. 

From this, the architecture team presented initial programmatic leanings in the form of two possible orientations at the December 2023 community forum [link to presentation]. The most likely design route will be an approximately six story L-shaped building containing a total of 70 units fronting onto Durant Street. The majority of the unit mix is expected to be three and two bedrooms to best fit the needs of families. The design will also incorporate communal spaces for residents, a new play yard for both our community and the East Bay School for Boys (EBSB), landscaping, and church parking. 

What is the current expected timeline for the project?

Winter 2023 / Spring 2024: Working with our selected developer EBALDC to negotiate a joint development agreement (JDA). This will include a financial agreement between FCCB and EBALDC that enables EBALDC to build on the church-owned property at the northwest corner of our campus (current Durant parking lot entrance and Durant House). EBALDC is also aligning funding sources to finance the project. 

Later 2024: EBALDC begins the entitlements (government approval) process. Design work begins in earnest.

2025: Project financing obtained, construction commences.

2026: Construction complete, residency begins late in the year.

Who will live in these units?

EBALDC will open and evaluate applications for residents, with a preference for families. All residents will have to be income-qualified, based on the rules of the funding sources EBALDC secures for the construction of the project. Residents in EBALDC’s other properties represent a wide range of affordability, including formerly homeless and workforce employees.

Who will manage the building and its residents and provide support services for them?

One of the reasons EBALDC is well-suited to this project is the comprehensive services they will provide even after the building is developed. They will manage the building, provide social and financial services, guidance and assistance to the residents, and proactively foster links between residents and the wider community.

Why is there no parking planned for them?

The City of Berkeley does not require a specific amount of parking with affordable housing developments. This policy serves two goals: 1) it prioritizes housing for people over parking for cars, 2) it is consistent with the City’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promote environmentally sustainable forms of transportation such as walking, biking and the use of public transportation.  

Our location also has access to abundant and frequent transit and is also quite walkable (see below). Residents of affordable housing are also less than half as likely to have private vehicles as more affluent residents.

Will they have convenient access to grocery stores and other amenities?

Yes! Our church property is blessed to be centrally located and perfect for car-free living. We boast a 99/100 walk score and a 93/100 bike score, meaning that for most people daily errands can be accomplished without a car.  

How will parking be affected, during construction and thereafter?

The impacts to parking will be dependent on timing. If, as we expect, the community building (on the site of the 2016 fire) will be completed prior to the start of construction on this new project, there will likely be limited parking available on the Channing Way side of the property. 

Once the building is complete, we reasonably expect to have almost as many parking slots for the congregation as we have now during the construction of the community building. In addition, the Church is interested in exploring ways of providing reliable transportation for Church members who may need it, in order to keep our community whole.

What is the anticipated shadow the building will cast? Will it impact light in the sanctuary?

The proposed L shape design and use of open space separates the church from the building, mitigating any shadow effect in the sanctuary. Shadows would be most likely in the late afternoon, a time of day when the sanctuary is not typically in use, and only in summer months.

Will there be noise from the building that could impact our worship time?

We should not expect the development and its residents to add significantly to noise in our neighborhood, which, because of its urban location, already experiences noise from traffic, emergency vehicles, the large student dormitories near our property, and other sources of noise.

What will happen to the redwood tree currently in the parking lot?

While we are saddened that the redwood tree currently at the corner of Durant House will need to be cut down to enable this project, we are exploring creative solutions to give the tree’s materials a prominent role in our community. The design team and Affordable Housing team will provide updates as we get closer to the relevant project stage. 

How will the East Bay School for Boys (EBSB) be involved and impacted?

The EBSB has been and will continue to be kept apprised of key developments in this project. While they may experience some minor disruption during construction, the most likely outcome is that they will have a new, larger play yard as a result of this project.

Who is on the Affordable Housing Committee?

Scott Sporte and Kera Binns are co-chairs of the committee, with Sophia DeWitt, Lorenzo Llanillo, Alice Clark, and Rev. Molly Baskette serving as committee members.

Whom should I contact if I have further questions?

You may contact any of the members of the committee directly, or simply email [email protected] and we’ll forward your query to members of the committee.