Zoned out: One woman’s half-century fight to desegregate Berkeley

March 24, 2021

At some point over the past 50 years, people started listening to Walker. Back in 1984, when current California State Senator Nancy Skinner won her first election and took a seat on the Berkeley City Council, she was predisposed to side with conventional wisdom in opposition to market-rate housing. But in 1990, Skinner, a longtime environmentalist, helped start an international association of cities working to fight climate change and, as she worked with these cities, she realized every one of them shared a fundamental problem: Their buildings were spread too far apart, encouraging residents to drive. 

“In every one of those cities, except those in very cold climates dependent on coal, transportation was the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions,” Skinner said. “Then I looked at all these studies showing how the automobile dependence was based on land-use decisions and realized we were never going to be able to tackle city emissions unless we tackled land use.”


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