Proposed revisions to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance hit a minor stumbling block Wednesday when a Planning Commission subcommittee couldn’t agree on what to change.
Members of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) had worked over a period of years to hammer out a new ordinance, only to run into objections from the Planning Commission, where some members had other notions of what the law should be.
All sides agreed that some aspects of the current law needed revision, particularly when it comes to bringing the ordinance into line with the state Permit Streamlining Act, which mandates that local governments act on building permits within a strict timeline.
Four Planning Commissioners attended the session, including commission Chair Harry Pollack and colleagues Susan Wengraf, Sara Shumer and Helen Burke.
Three LPC members also showed up: Carrie Olson, Leslie Emmington and Fran Packard, as well as former LPC member and Berkeley Daily Planet Executive Editor Becky O’Malley. All had plenty to say, with the exception of Packard.
Under the proposal, all structures 50 years old and older would automatically be submitted to the LPC for review. If deemed significant by the commission or a member of public, a landmarking application could result, setting in motion a process with specific deadlines.
Much of the early part of the session dealt with Planning Director Dan Marks’s description of the “worst case scenario” timeline a developer could face waiting to learn the fate of his application to demolish or alter a potential landmark structure.
Emmington challenged Marks’s term.
“I always cringe when I hear this phrase ‘worst case scenario,’ I am concerned with the importance of this ordinance to community,” she said, objecting to the use of a term with decidedly negative connotations.
“I stand corrected,” said Marks.
Then the planners launched into a discourse about the use of the term “integrity,” prompting a discussion about places where “Mario Savio slept here” and an eventual burst of laughter from O’Malley and more discussion.
In the end, the planners couldn’t agree and voted to accept Burke’s suggestion to send the proposal back to LPC for clarification.
“We’re done,” said Marks. “We haven’t changed any of the past recommendations.”
That left hanging Pollack’s discussions of incorporating the Landmarks Ordinance into the Zoning Ordinance and revision of the process of getting projects through the LPC.
City planning staff will send the ordinance back to the planners with cleanup language in time for the commission’s regular meeting next week.