Landmarks Law, West Campus Top Land Use Agendas By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday May 10, 2005

The ever-controversial density bonus, proposed revisions to the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Ordinance and South Berkeley’s “Flying Cottage” top the agendas of the city’s land use panels this week. 

Meanwhile, a Berkeley Unified School District-sponso red meeting will consider the draft plan for the old Berkeley High West Campus complex. 

Landmarks Preservation Commissioners discussed proposed Planning Commission revisions to the landmarks ordinance Monday night, and the planning panel could take final action as early as their Wednesday night meeting. 

That session begins at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 

Several Planning Commissioners have indicated their willingness to severely curtail the activities of the Landmarks Pr eservation Commission (LPC)—which has roused considerable opposition from the majority of landmarks commissioners. 

A formal report from Planning Commissioners Helen Burke (an appointee of Councilmember Linda Maio) and Susan Wengraf (a Betty Olds appointe e), both members of a subcommittee assigned to evaluate the proposed ordinance and recommend changes, was issued Friday. 

The report calls for the ordinance to require strict adherence to federal structural integrity standards as set forth by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior—a point rejected by the LPC in their draft ordinance—and for the LPC to be required to tell property owners on request if their buildings are historic resources. 

LPC commissioners and supporters dominated the dais during a hearing of the proposed revisions during the Planning Commission’s last meeting. Almost all told the planners that granting all owner requests for determination would place a massive burden on the LPC. Landmark applications are detailed documents investigating the history of buildings which are now researched and written by commissioners and citizen volunteers. Speakers pointed out that required on-demand determinations would be totally impractical at a time when the city is trying to cut staff time and resour ces for city commissions. 

Three hours before the planners’ meeting, a special subcommittee of the Zoning Adjustments Board will convene a 4 p.m. session in the city Planning and Development Department, 2120 Milvia St. 

Long-standing disputes over the int erpretation of the bonus—mandated by state law to reward developers who include low-cost housing in their projects—have dominated recent ZAB meetings, resulting in the creation of a four-member panel at the last ZAB session two weeks ago. 

Major questions involve the city staff’s interpretation of the ordinance, most notably in the case of the proposed Seagate Building on Center Street. In that case, the city Housing Department declared that the developer was entitled to build a 14-story building—twice th e height permitted in the Downtown Plan. 

ZAB itself meets Thursday night at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Junior Way. 

The hottest item before ZAB will be a continuation of their hearing on the so-called “Flyi ng Cottage” at 3045 Shattuck Ave. 

Developer Christina Sun raised a single-story cottage by two additional floors before the city stopped further construction because the interior design was that of a group home or rooming house, and not the apartment building she said she was creating. 

Now that the interior floor plan has been resolved to the satisfaction of city staff, serious questions remain about the exterior design and parking. 

Neither ZAB nor the Design Review Committee indicated any willingness to approve the current plans, and outspoken neighborhood opponents can be expected to turn out, as well as their lawyer, Rena Rickles. 

The school district’s West Campus meeting should be testy as well, considering that a shouting match erupted during the last session. 

Besides their concerns about a potentially major set of new buildings rising in their neighborhood, critics have also faulted the school district for choosing a controversial figure as their consultant for the project. 

Besides his role as the head of his Design, Community & Environment consulting firm, David Early is also the head of Livable Berkeley, a group that advocates strongly for the sort of “infill” development that has proved a hot potato in the community. 

Thursday night’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria at the West Campus site just off the north side of Addison Way between Bonar and Browning streets. 

Early and his project coordinator Tom Ford will present the plan draft during the first part of the meeting, followed by a 90-minute public discussion period. 

For more information, see the district’s project web site at www.busd.us/westcampus.html.›t