Editors, Daily Planet:
Peter Levitt’s defense of the proposed Seagate Building (Letters, Daily Planet, Jan. 14) doesn’t hold water. This structure should not receive City Council approval and should not be built.
The proposal clearly violates the Downto wn Plan by trying to jam a nine-story building onto a block of Center Street that’s zoned for five. It violates the spirit, if not the letter, of its two-floor “affordable housing” bonus by ghettoizing its affordable units on lower floors. And it should c ertainly not be built as a condo palace (Mr. Levitt’s preference).
But the fishiest thing about Seagate washed up in your Jan. 14 news story: City staff first granted the developers a two-floor “arts bonus,” based on some promised theater space. Then the y granted an “affordable housing” bonus of 25 percent—which state law requires—based on the resulting seven floors.
But compounding bonuses like this was a procedural mistake. First, the City Council has never formally enacted an “arts bonus.” Second, the promised theater space never received a required use permit. So the affordability bonus should have been 25 percent of five floors—that is, one additional floor.
Even if the compounding were valid, staff’ s arithmetic would be off. Twenty-five percent of seven floors isn’t two floors (which staff granted). It’s 1.75 floors, which is what they should have granted.
(Anyone who’s seen the great movie Being John Malkovich knows how much architectural creativity such fractional floors can unleash.)
City C ouncilmembers should undo staff’s multiple errors by rejecting Seagate. Dam it.
Editors, Daily Planet:
There are a lot of reasons for community opposition to the Seagate project as it is now proposed. Here is one of them:
The city works fo r us, the residents of Berkeley who elect our officials and pay the taxes. The city does not work for the developers. It’s awfully generous of the Planning Department staff to void the Downtown Plan in order to maximize the developer’s profits, but that’s not their job. Their job is to ensure that developments conform to existing regulations and plans and to provide the residents (current and future) with appropriate, legal housing and business development. As far as I know, our city government didn’t tur n into a subsidiary of Darryl de Tienne’s company (the developer of the Seagate project) over the winter break, so it should still be answerable to the people, not the developers.
Ignoring the Downtown Plan’s very clear height limits shows the Planning D epartment’s (and apparently some of the City Council’s) contempt for the people they’re hired to serve. I hope our elected officials send the flawed Seagate proposal back to the Zoning Adjustments Board for serious revision.