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Council decision likely on San Pablo project

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Tuesday May 08, 2001

The City Council will likely make a decision on the use permit appeal of a controversial proposal for a mixed-use building at 2700 San Pablo Ave. at its meeting tonight. 

The council held a public hearing in April on the appeal by the developers of the proposed building. The Zoning Adjustments Board denied an  

application for a use permit in November, saying that the  

four-story project was too tall and too dense.  

The developers, Panoramic Interests and the nonprofit Jubilee Restoration, appealed the decision to the City Council, which agreed to hear the appeal. Three weeks before the scheduled public hearing, the developers submitted new design plans for a project that is the same height but the number of units has been reduced from 48 to 39. Seven of the units will be reserved for low-income tenants. 

Neighbors continue to oppose the plan because of the height of the building, which they say in out of context with the one and two story homes that surround the site. 

The sudden reduction of the number of units was a surprise to some ZAB members because the developer refused to reduce the size of the project during the months the ZAB was reviewing the use permit. If the City Council supports the appeal and approves the project, it will be without the ZAB having reviewed the new design. 


Community Development Block Grants 

The council is expected to approve grants totaling $7.2 million for 80 nonprofit organizations that provide homeless, housing and health services.  

The grants are a combination of federal and city funds. 

The council held a public hearing during which it heard accounts of the value of the services the nonprofits provide the community. There were also some comments from organizations that felt they did not receive enough funding, such as the Multi-Agency Service Center, a project of the nonprofit Building Opportunities for Self-sufficiency or the Family Development Center at Rosa Parks School, which wasn’t funded at all. 

The grants were reviewed by three city commissions, which sent their recommendations to the City Manager’s Office for review. In years past, the city manager and the commissions have often disagreed about which organizations to fund and how much to grant them. This year there was very little disagreement.  

The council is expected to make some slight adjustments to the grant funding but no major changes are expected before it approves the recommendations. 


Sunshine Ordinance 

The Sunshine Ordinance is back on the agenda after being pulled from the consent calendar on March 27. The ordinance will make it easier for the public to obtain city government information. 

The recommendation, sponsored by Councilmember Kriss Worthington, would set a timeline to establish an index of city records on the web. The records would include all public records, documents and digital files including e-mails. 

The ordinance would also encourage law enforcement agencies to make police logs and records available to the public and the press. 

The recommendation was pulled from the consent calendar, where resolutions are passed unanimously and without discussion, by Councilmember Polly Armstrong, because she wanted to make sure the ordinance was needed. She said implementing the ordinance could be an expensive project and provide services that already exist. 


Taxi Scrip 

The City Council will consider suggestions tonight from the Commission on Aging on ways to salvage a faltering subsidized taxi service for the elderly and disabled.  

According to the COA and the Commission on Disability, cab drivers are increasingly refusing to pick up elderly and disabled fares. Commissioners said it’s because the city’s paratransit program doesn’t pay full fare and because elderly and disabled passengers can require more work. 

The council is expected to raise the taxi scrip fares so taxi drivers are paid their full fare rates and also arrange for the cab companies to be paid for their vouchers twice a month instead of once a month. 


Moratorium in the MULI 

Another issue will be a moratorium on new office development in west Berkeley. The Planning Commission recommended the council enact a one-year moratorium on office development in the Mixed Use-Light Industrial District, also known as the MULI, in west Berkeley. 

The staff report on the recommendation says the moratorium should remain in effect until the impact of the growing number of offices on blue-collar jobs, and on artists and artisans can be determined. 

Another concern is increased traffic congestion posed by more offices. 

The council report, approved by Planning Commission Chair Rob Wrenn, said that about 349,000 square feet of office space has been developed in the MULI in the last three years. 


City-Schools Meeting 

The City Council will meet in joint session with the Board of Education to discuss earthquake preparedness. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. 


The City Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The council will break at 8:30 p.m. for its meeting with the school board, then resume its regular meeting after the special meeting has ended. The meetings will be televised on Cable B-TV Ch-25 and broadcast on KPFB 89.3.