Planners Choose 24 Panelists To Probe UC Hotel Proposal

Friday February 06, 2004

Ignoring Mayor Tom Bates’ request to “hold off on the formal creation of a [UC Hotel Complex] task force for a month or so until a permit process is negotiated with the university,” a four-member planning commission subcommittee moved forward with the immediate creation of the UC Hotel Complex Task Force this week, including compiling a list of 24 members to be presented to the Berkeley Planning Commission at their Feb. 11 meeting and scheduling a Saturday morning walking tour of the proposed hotel site. 

The task force, which was formed at the request of both Mayor Bates and the city council, is expected to make recommendations to the council in early May on a wide range of issues surrounding the proposed hotel complex, from financial mitigations to architectural design to traffic effects to the possible daylighting of Strawberry Creek and a proposal to turn the block of Center Street in front of the hotel into a pedestrian mall. 

A hotel and conference center complex has long been envisioned for the downtown block bordered by Shattuck Avenue, Center Street, Oxford Street, and Addison Street, a block which currently houses a Bank of America branch and several UC properties. The estimated $150-200 million project began to take shape last year when it was taken up by the University of California itself. The college is proposing putting a hotel and a conference center on the site, as well as relocating several university-owned museums. UC is currently in negotiations with the Bank of America to purchase its property on the block, as well as with Mayor Bates’ office over tax and zoning issues.  

The 24-member task force includes: Rob Wrenn, Zelda Bronstein, Susan Wengraf, and Gene Poschman (all members of the four-person Planning Commission Hotel Complex Subcommittee), Wendy Alfsen (Transportation Commission), Deborah Bahdia (Downtown Berkeley Association), Helen Burke (Sierra Club), John English (planner), Austene Hall (Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association), Barbara Hillman (Convention and Visitors Bureau), Liz Hinckle (East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy), Bonnie Hughes (Civic Arts Commission), Charles Kahn (architect), Juliet Lamont (Urban Creeks Council), Nathan Landau (AC Transit staff), Kirstin Miller (Eco City Builders), Claire Risley (Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition), John Roberts (landscape architect), Rachel Rupert (Berkeley Chamber of Commerce), Peter Selz (founder, UC Art Museum), Burton Edwards (design review), Soheyl Moderassi (downtown business owner), and Sara Shumer (Public Works Commission). All of the above members have agreed to serve on the task force. While downtown architect Marvin Buchanan was also nominated for the task force, he has not yet been formally contacted. A spot on the task force was also left for a member affiliated with the Pacific Film Archive, which is one of the museums which may move to the downtown site. 

Rob Wrenn, chair of the subcommittee which will now be absorbed into the task force, says that while there may be a role for the hotel task force following the presentation of its recommendations to the city council in May, it is possible that the group “may not be continued past that date. Right now, that’s in limbo.”