Mayor Tom Bates

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle reports that Berkeley mayor Tom Bates has a new plan to cut the Gordian knot of the city’s planning process:

How do you persuade developers to hire local workers, pay fair wages and build ecofriendly structures with housing for the poor in downtown Berkeley?

The mayor proposes giving them a carrot that’s particularly enticing in Berkeley: shortcuts through the city’s notorious red tape.

According to the Chronicle, developers could have a fast-track planning process provided they employed at least 30% local workers and included affordable housing in their projects.

The proposal comes partly as a response to the deadlocked debate over the future of Downtown. The City Council-approved Downtown Area Plan could be shelved by a referendum scheduled for June. Bates is quoted as determined to end Berkeley’s planning “gridlock” by putting his new measure on the ballot this year if necessary.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...