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Foes of UC Deal Sharply RebukeMayor, Council By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday June 17, 2005

Two weeks after signing a landmark deal with UC, the City Council returned Tuesday to a Bronx cheer. Two or three dozen neighborhood activists, along with a few politicians, filled out the council chambers to slam the deal they see as a sell-out to UC Be rkeley. 

“They gave away the store,” said former Mayor Shirley Dean at a rally outside of Old City Hall. “It’s a bad agreement and the secrecy of it makes it worse.” 

Inside council chambers the protesters dominated the public comment session and directed a smattering of “resign” chants at Mayor Tom Bates. 

The critics insisted the deal, which increases campus payments for city services from approximately $540,000 to $1.2 million a year and commits both sides to draft a new land-use plan for the downtown, offered the city too little money, didn’t address neighborhood concerns and gave the university too much power in the city center. 

Protesters also denounced a confidentiality agreement signed between the parties that kept the deal secret until its appr oval.  

“Of course we couldn’t come before you sold out, because we didn’t know when that was going to be,” Sharon Hudson of Berkeleyans For A Livable University Environment told the council. 

When the council got down to work it agreed on a plan to slightly reduce the number of meetings for 23 city commissions, ordered planning staff to hold off for a week on issuing administrative permits to tear down illegal apartments at a West Berkeley warehouse, raised several city fees, and received news that they would have over $700,000 more to spend next year. 


City Commissions 

With little debate as the clock approached midnight, the council voted 7-1-1 (Worthington, no and Spring, abstain) on a deal to scale back city commissions.  

The new rules, drafted Mond ay by Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli, Darryl Moore and Gordon Wozniak, will combine the Disaster Council and Fire Safety Commission and cut back on meetings from 11 times a year to 10 for 23 commissions. The commissions will be able to petition the counc il to hold extra meetings. 

Design Review Housing Advisory, Landmarks Preservation, Personnel Board, Planning, Police Review and Zoning Adjustments are not affected by the change and will continue to meet on their current schedules. 

The new rules also re quire commission secretaries to inform the council when commissions fail to reach a quorum at consecutive meetings. They must also submit annual reports summarizing how many commissioners attend each meeting, how many members of the public attend, how man y people speak during public comment and how long the meetings last. 

The council chose the plan instead of an alternative proposal from city staff that would have allowed several commissions to experiment with preparing their own agendas and meeting minu tes. City Manager Phil Kamlarz has argued that assigning city staff to Berkeley’s 44 citizen commissions takes too much time away from other duties. 

The council struck from the new plan a section that would have prohibited commissioners from serving on m ore than one board or from serving more than eight years on a commission within 10 years. They are scheduled to reconsider this issue in July. 


The Drayage 

The owner of the East Bay Drayage warehouse will have to wait until at least next week for a permi t to demolish the two dozen live-work units that tenants refuse to leave. 

The council ordered city planning staff to hold off on issuing the permits until it considers next week whether such permits require a hearing before the Zoning Adjustment Board, w hich the tenants have asserted. 

“The notion that a permit to demolish my home could be issued without a public hearing is outrageous to me,” said Maresa Danielsen, who lives in the Drayage. 

The permits are vital for Drayage owner Lawrence White. The cit y is fining him $2,500 a day for failing to evacuate the building, but city law limits his options for evicting the tenants. The demolition permit would give him “good cause” to proceed with evictions without having to invoke a state law that could preven t him from turning the building into condominiums. 

Under Berkeley law, the destruction of residential units requires a use permit issued by the ZAB. However, Berkeley Zoning Officer Mark Rhoades told the council that in the case of the Drayage the permits did not need ZAB approval because the units were built illegally. 

When pressed about a similar case two years ago at 2750 Adeline St. when Rhoades required the owner to go before ZAB to demolish illegal units, the zoning officer replied the cases were different because there was one legal unit at 2750 Adeline St., whereas all the units at Drayage are illegal. 

City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque warned the council that requiring the hearing would set a sweeping precedent. 

“You could not be able to enfor ce the zoning ordinance because once someone built something it would be legal,” she said. 

“This would open up a Pandora’s box,” said Councilmember Wozniak.  

Councilmember Moore, who represents West Berkeley, disagreed, citing the fact that the Fire Dep artment had inspected the warehouse for years without citing it as a safety hazard. Fire Department officials have said they never inspected the individual apartments until this year. 


Fees and Budget 

The council Tuesday passed fee increases for recreati on programs, garbage collection and the Berkeley Marina. Also the council established new fees for environmental inspections and traffic engineering services for developers. 

Fees on parks and traffic engineering also passed unanimously. Wozniak opposed f ees for environmental health, the marina and garbage pick-up, while Councilmember Dona Spring also opposed the marina fee hike. 

Of the fees that passed, only the garbage fee increase of 8 percent received serious scrutiny. When asked why the fee wasn’t m ore in line with inflation, Public Works Director Renee Cardinaux replied, “Unfortunately the majority of costs we have are labor, fuel and equipment and those things aren’t going down.” 

The council postponed until next week discussion—user fees on the B erkeley Farmers’ Markets. The Ecology Center, which runs the markets, voiced concerns about the city’s proposal, which would increase the group’s fees by roughly $3,000 a year. The center protested that the regulations would require it to provide public r estrooms and extra-wide lanes for fire trucks at the markets. 

With under two weeks left to pass a balanced budget, the city announced it has an extra $742,000 to spend from money returned by the state and the city’s tax on property transfers. Councilmembers, however, have requested nearly $1.6 million in spending. The council will revisit the budget next week.