Planning Commission OKs Condos, Delays Action on Other Issues By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday September 30, 2005

Berkeley planning commissioners looked at three thorny issues Wednesday night and decided they didn’t have enough information to make a decision. 

They did, however, give unanimous approval to a map that authorizes developers of a planned four-story residential building at 2025 Channing Way to market their 30 residential units as condominiums. 

But things bogged down when it came time for hearings on three other issues: home occupation permits for teaching, zoning ordinance amendments governing elimination of so-called accessory dwelling units and other amendments governing the definition of “yards” and where and how cars may be parked in yards. 

The home teaching issue was dropped in the commission’s lap by the City Council, which directed it to consider making it easier for teachers and tutors to ply their craft at home. 

While all the commissioners agreed that piano teachers and others shouldn’t have to pay the $1,1441.70 fee usually charged for home occupations in residential districts, they were reluctant to eliminate all restrictions on home teaching activities. 

“Home occupations have always been a bone of contention,” said commissioner Gene Poschman, who said he was hesitant to approve a process that would grant permits without notifying neighbors “because the impact could be quite heavy.” 

While the proposal before the commission would limit students to a maximum of four at a time, the measure didn’t make any restrictions on the hours teachers could bring in students—which prompted concerns about what might happen in neighborhoods where street parking is scarce. 

Commission Chair Harry Pollack said that home teaching would continue without lower fees, but a lot more teachers would probably seek permits if the permit costs were lower. 

The commission took a similar stand on a proposed ordinance to regulate conversions of accessory dwelling units back to their original uses as garages, basements and storage buildings. 

The issue of parking in rear and side yards proved even thornier. 

Poschman described it as a law that affects people in the flatlands because people who live in the hills often have plenty of on-street parking and don’t need to park in the rear and side yards. 

Sara Shumer said she was particularly concerned about the impacts that paved rear yards have on runoff and recommended that when parking is allowed there, the surfaces should be water-permeable to avoid an excess of runoff in the city’s already taxed storm drainage system. 

Several commissioners worried that backyard parking would adversely impact neighbors. 

In the end, the commission tabled the issue until the Nov. 30 meeting.