ZAB continues Alta Bates debate to April 25 meeting

By Jia-Rui Chong Daily Planet staff
Thursday April 04, 2002

In a switch of votes after three role call votes were completed on Tuesday night, the Zoning Adjustments Board finally decided 5-3 to continue discussion of the renovation plans for the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.  

The ZAB will take up the project again April 25, which is also the last day for the group to act on the use permit according to the Permit Streamlining Act. Continuance was given for the hospital and the neighbors to work out the remaining traffic circulation issues. 

“Usually a project is shuttled through in one to two meetings,” said ZAB member Andy Katz, who made the initial motion to continue the discussion. “But this one hasn’t come to a resolution in that time. It would be great if we could have a resolution.” 

The neighbors had submitted a last-minute proposal that the cul-de-sac on Colby Street be moved northward to create more of a buffer between hospital traffic and the neighborhood. Alta Bates officials and neighbors had talked about the proposal about a week ago, but it was not part of the proposal before the ZAB on Tuesday. 

“We’re very pleased because this is what we were asking for,” said Debbie Leveen, of the Interneighborhood Hospital Review Committee. 

“I think the ZAB was heartened by the element of compromise in the plan. They thought we could reach an agreement, so they gave us time to reach an agreement.” 

“We’re very disappointed because we’ve taken every step we’ve been required to take to get approval on this process,” said Debbie Pitts, spokesperson for Alta Bates.  

Pitts said that attempting to incorporate the cul-de-sac into their current plans, which were approved by the Design Review Committee in January, will set them back months. They will have to create new site plans for the driveways as well as initiate another process for “street vacation.”  

Because Colby Street is a city-owned street, the decision to change it would have to go through other city departments such as Public Works. 

The hospital now has to scramble to re-submit the plan for the April 18 DRC meeting. Though the deadline for submitting materials for that meeting was yesterday, said Margaret Kavanaugh-Lynch, Senior Planner for the city of Berkeley, the deadline has been waived. 

“It’s going to be really tight turnaround, but we’re doing what we can,” said Kavanaugh-Lynch.  

Alta Bates and the city will have one day to incorporate the DRC input in order to meet the April 19 deadline for submissions to the April 25 ZAB packet is April 19. 

“I don’t know how we’re going to do it,” said Pitts. 

She suggested that if the city allows the hospital to get started on the first phase of their renovation, then they could work on the street vacation in the mean time. 

“It will take at least nine months for us to do our radiology department, which will have no external impacts. I’m told that the street vacation could take six to nine months,” said Pitts. 

Kavanaugh-Lynch, whose job it is to bring both sides to the table, said she is going to coordinate one or two meetings in the next week. 

Because there was no majority in any of the role call votes, the motion would have been tabled by the chair. But some members, who are allowed to change their votes afterwards, changed them in order to carry a motion. 

Leveen said she is looking forward to further discussions with the hospital because there are still two other issues that the neighborhood would like to see addressed: the confusing access to the emergency department for people in private cars and the overall circulation in the Webster-Colby area. 

But, she added, “I’ll be glad when this is over.” 



Contact reporter Jia-Rui Chong at: chong@berkeleydailyplanet.net.