To the Editor:
I and many other neighbors for whom San Pablo Avenue is our main street, support additional housing and new development along the avenue, but differ with the scale implicit in Mr. Freeman's letter (Forum, Sept. 28). He appears to misunderstand neighborhood concerns about 2700 San Pablo Ave., civic planning and the vision of Berkeley’s height initiative.
The city’s General Plan's first goal is to “preserve Berkeley's unique character and quality of life.” It notes that to “preserve Berkeley's character, it is essential that in-fill development be sensitively designed and thoughtfully planned to fit in with the existing built environment.” While quality of life can certainly be polished along San Pablo Avenue, the avenue's character is low-rise, not mid-rise.
Citizens have already articulated their expectations for San Pablo Avenue in the West Berkeley Area Plan (1993), which specifically foresaw “eight housing development sites with 152 units in three-story mixed-use buildings on San Pablo.” This three-story scale is at the “high” end of the scale of buildings along the avenue, but a reasonable scale nonetheless. The plan also sketched out a design concept for the avenue that focused greater building intensity at major intersections, designated as ‘nodes.” The city neglected to implement this design in ordinance. The University Avenue Strategic Plan (1996) went on to elaborate on this same concept – a plan the city entirely forgot to implement.
Measure P, the height initiative, seeks to establish heights that would, through the encouragement of affordable inclusionary housing, promote buildings of 3-4 stories along major avenues in keeping with their individual character.