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Planners Look at Density Bonus, Landmarks Law :By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday October 15, 2004

Berkeley Planning Commissioners got their first look Wednesday at new state legislation that increases density bonuses on affordable units in apartment and condominium projects from 20 to 35 percent starting Jan. 1. 

“The consensus was that we figure most developers will pull back their pending projects until the law becomes effective on Jan. 1,” said commissioner Gene Poschman, who predicted the law will have “horrendous impacts” on the size of future Berkeley developments. 

The so-called inclusionary bonus has been used to increase the height of new downtown developments from the five-floor limit mandated in the Downtown Plan to seven floors in the case of the Gaia Building and nine for the planned Seagate Building on Center Street. 

Zoning Adjustments Board member David Blake said an additional complication is the city attorney’s office interpretation of the existing state density bonus law. 

“The law says you can increase the density, but only in Berkeley has the law been interpreted to mean you can increase the size of the project,” said Blake. 

Planning Commissioners also rejected the pleas of Landmarks Preservation Commissioners and decided to hold a workshop on proposed changes to the city’s landmarks ordinance, which had been revised by landmarks commissioners in a lengthy four-year process in cooperation with the City Attorney’s office. 

Planning Commission members will submit their recommendations for topics to be considered at the workshop to city staff members, who will report back to the panel at their first November meeting. 

Harry Pollack, commission chair, said the workshop itself will be conducted during one of the commission’s two December meetings. 

While the first December meeting will be held as scheduled on the 8th, the second session has been rescheduled from the 22nd to the 15th to accommodate the holidays, Pollack said. 

Commissioners also discussed city staff suggestions for the upcoming Oct. 27 hearing on commercial parking requirements as raised by Mayor Tom Bates’ Task Force on Permitting and Development. 

The hearing will look at two issues, a recommendation that would allow reductions in parking requirements through a use permit or an administrative use permit and another that would allow grandfathered nonconforming parking for a transition from office to retail use. 

“It would apply when an office had either had no parking or a reduced allocation and there was no way for the new user to add parking,” Poschman said. ›