Daily Planet Staff
Tonight, the City Council will meet to sift through as many of the 56 items piled onto its agenda as it can. It’s the last meeting before the council’s annual three-week spring break, so any decisions not made tonight will come ‘round again in May.
One issue on the to-discuss list, guaranteed to generate lively conversation, is a proposed ballot measure aimed at protecting seniors, the disabled and ill people from owner move-in evictions. As the law currently stands, owners are permitted to move into one of their units and displace the current resident. San Francisco voters amended their rent control ordinance last year to include a provision similar to the one that is proposed.
Another hot button issue is the landmarking of 801 Grayson St. While the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted March 6 to certify the 80-year-old structures as a city landmark, the Bayer Corporation has appealed the decision. It owns the property and wants to demolish the structures on it. Once the structures have landmark status, demolition of structures on the property has to go through the Landmarks Commission.
The commission says the property, where Epsom salt was once refined, should be designated as a structure of merit.
“Philadelphia Quartz is one in a row of early 20th century industrial plants along the southwest Berkeley waterfront...(that was) part of a period of intense industrial expansion in the Bay Area around World War I...” says a commission report.
But the landmarks staff contends the structure lacks architectural merit and is similar to many existing late-19th and early 20th century industrial complexes and therefore does not merit the designation.
Another controversial issue on the agenda is the city’s 170-foot communication tower, cemented into place next to the new Public Safety Building a few weeks ago. Neighbors of the tower say the city broke faith with them when they installed the giant tower without first advising them. Top city officials argue, however, that the tower was in the city’s plans and that it is critical for emergency operations.
Councilmember Dona Spring is asking staff to report on alternatives to the tower.
Also tonight, Spring will ask her colleagues to support building an annex to the Civic Center Building, where the old public safety site sits today. That building is slated for demolition.
Spring wants the council to go to the voters in November to ask them to tax themselves for an $11 million project that will include replacing parking lost by construction of the new Public Safety Building and building a new user-friendly council chambers. The current chambers lacks comfortable accessibility for people who use wheelchairs and wheelchair accessible bathrooms; it also lacks good access for councilmembers who use wheelchairs; and it is too small for meetings on controversial topics. Spring wants to build a modern council chambers where the audience can better hear what’s going on. Part of the project could be paid for in savings from leases the city has for private office space, she said.
The council will also consider banning smoking in tot lots, enforcing term limits for commissioners, purchasing a microphone and recording device for General Plan and Southside Plan meetings, adding Councilmember Betty Olds to the council subcommittee on the city manager’s evaluation, and more.
The complete agenda is on the Internet at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ and at city offices at 1900 Addison St. The council will meet in closed session at 5:30 p.m. on the third floor at 1900 Addison to discuss possible litigation by Metromedia Fiber Network, Inc., a telecommunication company that has applied for an encroachment permit to construct fiber optic lines under various streets in Berkeley.
The regular council meeting is at 7 p.m. at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way and will be broadcast on KPFB, 89.3-FM and B-TV, Channel 25.