The City Council gave the final go ahead for a first-of-its-kind disability services center, but not before a last-second scare.
In a unanimous vote the council rejected an appeal of a use permit granted for the Ed Roberts Campus, set to rise at the Ashby BART station along Adeline Street.
In other matters, the council passed a grant application to study the cost of opening up a section of Strawberry Creek, approved a site plan for new athletic fields in West Berkeley and sent a three-inch thick binder full of working agreements between the Berkeley Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to the Police Review Commission for study.
When complete, the Ed Roberts Campus, a two-story, 86,057-square-foot complex, will be home to eight disability service organizations. After receiving its use permit, the consortium will be in a better position to raise additional funds to cover construction costs.
Councilmembers lauded the project, which has been in the planning stages for nine years. The only sliver of concern came from Councilmember Gordon Wozniak. He asked whether an unnamed creek that appeared on a geo-technical report resided within 30 feet of the future building site, placing the property under the city’s restrictive creek ordinance.
Immediately, Planning Manager Mark Rhoades began rifling through his report. Unable to give a quick answer, Rhoades leaned over the press table to find the waiting ear of Ed Roberts representative Caleb Dardick.
“How far is your building from the property line,” he whispered.
“Thirty, forty feet,” Dardick replied.
Since the underground waterway—believed to be a former tributary of Derby Creek—runs outside the property line that was enough distance, Rhoades explained, to shield the project from the creeks law, which prohibits new construction within 30 feet of the centerline of a creek.
The appellates chose not to attend the public hearing. In their appeal of the use permit, granted by the city’s Zoning Adjustment Board, they directed their concerns towards how the planning process unfolded, not the design of the complex.
Strawberry Creek Grant
The council unanimously approved a $953,216 grant application for determining the cost of unearthing one block of Strawberry Creek between Oxford Street and Shattuck Avenue.
The project, which would redirect a portion of the creek’s waterflow from an underground culvert below Allston Way to the open air above Center Street, has long been advocated by supporters of opening up Berkeley’s creeks.
If all goes according to plan, Berkeley will have two new athletic fields by September 2006, but three fewer than originally anticipated.
The council approved a site plan for a new field complex at Gilman Street and Frontage Road. The plan, which must still undergo environmental review, calls for eventually building five fields—two for softball, two all purpose fields and one baseball diamond.
The cost for the full project is estimated at over $6 million, and the East Bay Regional Park District, which owns the site, has raised $3 million. Last year, the park district lost out on a $2.5 million grant, and is now applying for a separate $1 million dollar grant.
If it receives the grant, Doug Fielding, chairperson of the Association of Sports Field Users, said the district would have enough money to build two multi-purpose fields and grade the rest of the property so that more fields can be built when money becomes available.
The parks district bought the property from the Magna Corporation two years ago as part of a deal to keep athletic fields out of Eastshore State Park.
For the first time since 1986, the city will review the Berkeley Police Department’s agreements with other law enforcement agencies. By an 8-0-1 vote (Wozniak abstain) the council sent the issue to the Police Review Commission for review.
Under a voter-approved ordinance, the city is supposed to review the agreements every year, but the obligation has slipped through the cracks over the past 18 years.
Former Police Review Commissioner Jim Chanin brought the matter to city officials last year and threatened to file suit if the council refused to comply.
“My main concern was that this was passed by voters and what right did the city have to ignore it,” Chanin said. He added: “In light of the Patriot Act and the erosion of civil liberties under the Bush Administration, we need to take a look at what the police are doing.”