With battles still raging over new development in Berkeley, the three newly elected Berkeley City Councilmembers are facing plenty of scrutiny as they prepare to name members to commissions that have a big say on the future face of the city.
Their appointments, which can come as early as Dec. 1, could affect the balance of power on the Planning Commission, which recommends land-use policy, the Zoning Adjustment Board, which hears permit applications for the city’s most controversial new developments, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has authority over exterior alterations to buildings designated as historically significant.
Already, those who support constructing smaller buildings and conserving older structures are putting the pressure on councilmembers-elect Darryl Moore from District 2 and Max Anderson from District 3. Having found themselves in the minority on all three boards, those in favor of slower growth want the two new progressive councilmembers to appoint commissioners more skeptical of new developments than several of the commissioners selected by their predecessors, Margaret Breland and Maudelle Shirek.
“People will be very disappointed if there isn’t at least a different Planning Commission,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington who has traditionally appointed commissioners who favor tighter controls on new developments.
On the opposing side, members of Livable Berkeley, a pro-development group, have suggested preferred candidates for commission appointments.
Each councilmember is entitled to appoint a commissioner to each of the city’s 45 citizen commissions, but could also leave current commissioners in place.
Earlier this year, proponents of more city development seized a majority on the Planning Commission when Councilmember Breland sacked Commissioner John Curl, and replaced him with the more development-minded Tim Perry.
Over the next few months, the commission is scheduled to review parking requirements for commercial businesses and finalize a land use plan for a section of town just south of the UC Berkeley campus.
Moore was out of the country Monday and unavailable to comment on Perry’s future as a commissioner.
Anderson said that it was “very likely” he would quickly replace Jerome Wiggins, who was appointed to the commission by Shirek and has not been directly affiliated with either of the two factions. Anderson, who declined to comment on any other commission posts, also left open the possibility that his appointment to the Planning Commission could come from outside South Berkeley’s District 3. The commission, on which seven of the nine members hail from north of University Avenue, has been criticized recently for not being geographically representative of the city.
Councilmember-Elect Laurie Capitelli said he hadn’t settled on any appointments to key commissions. On Planning, he is expected to either retain David Tabb, appointed by his predecessor in North Berkeley’s District 5, Miriam Hawley, or to choose a like-minded pro-development commissioner.
The Zoning Adjustment Board (ZAB), which has had a solid pro-development majority for several years, could also see power shift. Capitelli, soon to be a former board member, will have to quickly appoint a successor. If Moore and Anderson chose to appoint new commissioners the ZAB could be a more harrowing place for developers. Currently, three members of the nine-member board—David Blake, appointed by Worthington, Carrie Sprague, appointed by Spring, and Dean Metzger, appointed by Councilmember Gordon Wozniak—have consistently opposed constructing larger buildings and demolishing older structures.
Both Moore and Anderson inherit ZAB commissioners who have favored most new developments, but neither of them faces pressure to make a quick change. Moore inherits Deborah Matthews, who, unlike Perry lives in District 2, and chose not to challenge Moore for the council seat. Anderson inherits Jesse Anthony, a close friend of his predecessor Maudelle Shirek.
On the Landmarks Preservation Commission, those favoring stronger city intervention to protect historic buildings have often found themselves narrowly outnumbered on key items. Capitelli and Moore inherit pro-development commissioners James Samuels and Aran Kaufer, who works for developer Patrick Kennedy. Anderson inherits Patricia Dacey, who has frequently sided with preservationists.
If new commissioners are appointed to the LPC this week they will get to participate in next Monday’s meeting and could vote on landmarking Brennan’s, a longtime West Berkeley restaurant and pub.
Anderson and Capitelli will both also have to appoint new members to the Police Review Commission (PRC). Jackie DeBose, appointed by Shirek, and Lucienne Sanchez-Resnik, appointed by Hawley, have both submitted resignation papers, PRC Secretary Barbara Attard said.