Page One

City Council returns to work tonight

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Tuesday September 11, 2001

The City Council gets back to business tonight after being on break since July 24. Some of the issues the council will be considering are finalizing the use permit for the Beth El synagogue and school, increasing funding for the overdue library renovation and a city policy requiring all public and private construction projects to study “green” building options. 


Beth El 

The council will conduct a public hearing on parking issues related to the Beth El proposal to build a synagogue, school and social hall at 1301 Oxford St. Then it will consider overturning the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s denial of a permit to alter a historic landmark, paving the way for it to approve the project’s use permit. 

On July 24, just as the council was preparing to vote on the controversial use permit, a private mediator announced that the Live Oak Codornices Creek Neighborhood Association, which opposed the project, and the Beth El Congregation had reached a tentative compromise.  

Beth El and the LOCCNA have held additional meetings since July 24 and the result has been the submission of revised building plans that reflect the compromise. If both parties are still in agreement the council is expected to approve the revised use permit. 

Some of the compromise plans Beth El agreed to include reducing the gross floor area, scaling down the social hall and moving the Spruce Street exit approximately 50 feet to the south.  


Overdue library renovation 

According to a city manager staff report, the council is being asked to authorize an increase in the loan limit for the renovation of the Central Library.  

The limit would be increased by $1 million raising the estimated cost of the project to $23.5 million.  

The developer of the project, Arnst Builders, is now six months behind schedule and it is unclear when the project will be completed.  

The increase in funding raises the city’s liability to $2.1 million. 

Most of the funding for the project came from the 1996 voter-approved Measure S, which provided $49 million for the Central Library, the renovation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center and other improvements in the downtown area. 


Green buildings 

The council will likely ask the city manager and Energy Commission to study a city policy that would require all major public and private construction and reconstruction in Berkeley be evaluated for green building options.  

If the new policy is instituted, anyone building in Berkeley would be required to have the project analyzed for use of renewable energy sources such as solar electricity, and “green” building options, such as types of building materials. 

The recommendation, submitted by Mayor Shirley Dean, calls for a staff report on the plan in February. The recommendation also asks the city manager to consider technical assistance and a fee credit to “small private owners.” 

“This policy would, over time, substantially contribute to the energy independence of Berkeley and its residents,” Dean wrote in her recommendation. “While such a policy may at first seem onerous or expensive, depending on how the policy is implemented, most improvements in building and health are initially seen in this way, yet are prized at a later date.” 

The City Council will hold an executive session, closed to the public, at 5:30 p.m. at 2180 Milvia in the sixth floor Conference Room, where the city attorney will discuss the status of two lawsuits. Council will also hold a conference with a labor negotiator to discuss the city’s contract with the Berkeley Police Department union. 

There will be 10 minutes allotted for public comment prior to the closed session meeting.