Letting Some Sunshine Into Berkeley’s Planning Process: By ZELDA BRONSTEIN

Tuesday November 09, 2004

On Sept. 24 the Daily Planet published my letter wondering why the Berkeley Planning Department’s website no longer lists notices of decision (NODs) resulting from the recent approval or disapproval of use permits by the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB). The department’s website has a heading, “Current Development Projects, Notices of Decision and City Council Appeals,” but neither NODs nor appeals to the City Council are actually posted.  

As I noted in September, public access to NODs is critical to the democratic planning process in Berkeley, since ZAB’s actions can be appealed for only 14 days after the notice of decision for a project has been formally issued.  

Fellow citizens: I just discovered, wholly by chance, that lists of current NODs and appeals to the council can be found on the website agenda of the City Council’s Agenda Committee, under the heading, “Land Use Matters.” Click on the heading to see the lists. As far as I can tell, these items have been posted in this fashion since last March.  

This is better than nothing but still problematic. The Agenda Committee agendas are usually posted by the city clerk on the Thursday afternoon prior to the committee's meeting. That means that an NOD that’s issued on a Friday won’t appear on the website until the following Thursday, eliminating seven precious days in which to prepare an appeal to the council.  

A city planning staff committed to citizen participation in planning decisions would make sure that important notices were widely disseminated in a timely manner. Announcements of NODs and council appeals should be posted on the Planning Department’s website as soon as they’re issued. Instead, these items are being squirreled away in an obscure spot with the public left in the dark. When I called the zoning office last September and asked about the missing NODs, the person who answered the phone said nothing about the Agenda Committee agenda.  

Citizens of Berkeley, supposedly one of the most democratic places on earth, deserve better. The question is, how do we get it?  


Zelda Bronstein is a former chair of the Berkeley Planning Commission. Ä