Setbacks are not necessary
I was amazed to hear that a member of the Zoning Board want the proposed hotel on Milvia and Bancroft to be set back from the sidewalk, making it impossible to include retail.
The best way to create interesting, pedestrian-friendly streets is by building retail right at the sidewalk. Berkeley has actually required developers to do this in some places -- an example is Cafe Expresso at Shattuck and Hearst -- and it has made the street much more inviting. It is the storefronts facing the sidewalk that make traditional shopping streets, such as College Ave., so inviting.
The rule that requires this developer to get a use permit to build to the sidewalk is a relic of 1950s suburban design. Many cities now have zoning codes that require developers to build to the sidewalk in downtowns and on commercial corridors. New Urbanist planners, such as Andres Duany and Victor Dover, made these codes popular, and now they are spreading widely.
Berkeley should catch up by changing its zoning laws so developers in downtown and on major commercial corridors must build to the sidewalk unless they show they have a special reason for needing a setback. I hope this hotel is approved without a setback and with retail facing the sidewalk. It is badly needed to enliven a bleak and dull part of downtown.