The Zoning Adjustments Board will hold a public hearing Thursday night on the controversial Beth El proposal to build a synagogue and school at 1301 Oxford St.
This phase of the process leads to use permits for the project that is to be built. An Environmental Impact Report has already been approved.
Once adopted, the use
permit describes the size and design of the building. It may also impose restrictions on certain activities such as parking and traffic patterns. It could take ZAB months to finalize the permit.
The proposal has faced heated opposition from the Live Oak Codornices Creek Neighborhood Association, which contends the 35,000-square-foot project is too large and will adversely impact traffic and parking in the neighborhood. The group also contends that Codornices Creek will lose any chance of being daylighted from a culvert on the property and that the site, a Berkeley historical landmark, will be irrevocably altered.
Beth El members argue the structure takes up only 29 percent of the site despite current zoning laws which would allow them to build on 40 percent of the property.
Project supporters also claim the project plan is sensitive to the natural and historical elements and that the Final Environmental Impact Report, approved by the ZAB Dec. 14, proves it.
LOCCNA members said the EIR is woefully inadequate and should never have been approved.
Congregation member Marianne Magid said there will be a presentation by project architect Buzz Yudell at the use permit hearing and then commentary from supporters of the project.
LOCCNA spokesperson Juliet Lamont said she is astonished that city agencies have appeared to be rushing the project through. “This is something we’re seeing more and more of in Berkeley,” She said. “Rushing the projects through gives neighborhoods less time to form organized opposition.”
Lamont said LOCCNA is also concerned because so far members believe the process is weighted on the side of Beth El. “Religious institutions are not allowed to, according to the zoning law, build in areas where it is detrimental to the neighborhood,” she said. “This is absolutely detrimental to the neighborhood and so far there has not been one iota of compromise or modification.”
Beth El member, Harry Pollock said the congregation is looking forward to the next phase of the process. “It’s been several years since we decided to purchase the property and began design meetings,” he said. “And now we’re finally nearing the time when we’re hopeful we will obtain a use permit. We’re glad to be at this stage.”