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Council approves Underhill resolution

John GeluardiDaily Planet Staff
Thursday November 16, 2000

After a contentious exchange Tuesday, the City Council narrowly adopted a resolution to send the University of California Regents a letter calling for less parking and more housing in the Underhill Area Master Plan. They further asked the Regents to put off their decision on the project. 

The resolution, written by Councilmember Kriss Worthington, was approved by a 4-5 vote. Mayor Shirley Dean and Councilmembers Betty Olds, Polly Armstrong and Diane Woolley voted no. The resolution was sent to the UC Regents in Los Angeles Wednesday where they are currently meeting.  

The regents are expected to approve the Final Environmental Impact Report, and to approve designs for two Underhill structures today. 

The Underhill Area Master Plan is a series of structures in a five-block area just south of the UC Berkeley campus. It includes a dining center and office building, a playing field, a 1,400-space parking garage and three residence halls that will provide housing for 870 students. 

The resolution requests the regents postpone approving the plan until  

residents, businesses, students, environmentalists and city officials have an  

opportunity to thoroughly examine the FEIR and to address the regents. The resolution also asks that the plan be altered to provide less parking and more housing. 

University officials said if the plans are approved by the regents today, they expect to begin work on the dinning center and office building in January. 

Councilmember Polly Armstrong strongly disagreed with the wording of the letter and said Worthington misrepresented the project. “Mr. Worthington is the master of the half-truths and manipulation,” Armstrong said on Wednesday. “One councilmember crafts a statement and the other eight councilmembers are expected to sign it.” 

Worthington has been critical of the Underhill Plan because of a one-block area that does not have any housing planned.  

The garage is planned on the same block and Worthington said the university is putting a lower priority on student housing than parking, which he said will increase traffic in neighborhoods and encourage more people to drive rather than choose alternate modes of transportation. 

Armstrong said the university is already building housing for 870 students and to build more would concentrate students in one area. “We need to decide how to spread students around for a mix in housing,” Armstrong said on Wednesday. “It makes for more of a city and less of a student ghetto.” 

Worthington said to build student housing in other areas would be very difficult because most neighborhood groups would oppose student residence halls. Worthington said he was certain Armstrong wouldn’t volunteer her neighborhood for a student housing development. 

He added the south side already has a high percentage of student housing and students have said they support more housing in the area. “Here we have an entire city block and the surrounding area is primarily students who support more housing. Why go to another area and fight with neighbors?” 

Armstrong said to build less parking would be shortsighted and unfair. She said transportation programs would have to be in place before people would seriously consider not using their automobiles.  

“It makes you feel good to say everyone should drive less but this is not a perfect world so we have to be thoughtful,” she said. 

The City Council also voted to uphold a decision by the Zoning Adjustments Board to approve two, three-story buildings at 1608 Fourth St. The decision was being appealed by a neighborhood group who claimed the site, the former location of a aeronautic paint factory, was filled with toxins.