Quitting The Quotas

City Affairs: The city of Berkeley's longstanding practice of enforcing quotas for business types is stifling the local economy.

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From Telegraph Avenue to the Solano Shopping District, empty storefronts are an omnipresent element of Berkeley's business community. As we have stated in the past, we firmly believe that city administrators need to take action to ensure that the city provides the most attractive climate possible for business owners. We have previously called for a review of often-lengthy permit process and the expedited improvement of local zoning laws.

Recently, city councilmembers and local business leaders have focused on another factor contributing to the slow economic recovery: quotas on local business categories. Four business districts have had quotas in place since the 1980s limiting the number of types of establishments, such as restaurants, to increase business variety and control area rents.

However, with vacancies dotting the city - Solano Avenue alone has about 70,000 square feet in vacancies, according to Solano Avenue Association executive director Allen Cain - we believe the city can no longer afford to be so discriminatory about who can or cannot take the available space.

There have been steps in the right direction. In December, Councilmember Laurie Capitelli proposed suspending quotas on Solano Avenue for two to three years, and the Southside Plan would abolish the quota on the Telegraph district's full-service restaurants.

We believe that the city council should go further and finally get rid of quotas. Though critics contend that this would decrease the diversity of businesses, we believe that it is up to the residents of each district to determine which businesses are worthy of their support. Businesses that are superfluous would not survive. While Councilmember Kriss Worthington believes that the removal of quotas would lead to higher rent, we believe that rents will ultimately arrive at their market-determined value.

No one change will help the city's businesses get back on track. But by considering every option for improvement, the city can ensure that it is putting forth a full effort to revitalize Berkeley's economy.






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