When Nostalgia Impedes Progress

Urban design critic John King urges fellow Berkeley residents to embrace change and growth.

2 minute read

October 12, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Downtown Berkeley, California with Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline in background

Sundry Photography / Berkeley, California

Speaking at a “fireside chat” on October 3, San Francisco Chronicle urban design critic John King, a three-decade resident of Berkeley, called on that city’s residents to avoid letting nostalgia bar badly needed housing construction and other architectural change. Joanne Furio describes the talk for Berkeleyside.

King said some residents’ responses to the new construction will only hinder the creation of the projected 18,000 new housing units the city will need by 2040 to escape a housing crisis that’s caused property and rental prices to climb to stratospheric heights and driven people out of their homes in Berkeley and, in some cases, onto the street.

Despite the common image of Berkeley as an enclave of single-family homes and small buildings, “the real Berkeley, King said, includes other, more contemporary styles, too.” King showed photos of diverse building types, describing his criteria for aesthetically pleasing buildings and answering questions from the audience. “On the subject of opinions, King warned that longtime residents should not resist change just because they might have a nostalgic connection to a certain building or neighborhood.”

According to King, “You shouldn’t not change the landscape because the changes might impinge on your memory.” Change and growth are often necessary. “The larger challenge for Berkeley is how new buildings can be designed in a way that respects the public, the public culture and the public realm, he said.”

Monday, October 10, 2022 in Berkeleyside

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