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Downtown Area Plan Committee Takes Shape With New Appointments By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday October 21, 2005

A Planning Commission majority, against the outspoken wishes of Chair Harry Pollack, Wednesday night elected the panel’s three representatives to the panel that will create a new plan for an enlarged downtown district. 

The Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) was formed in response to the settlement agreement reached after the city sued UC Berkeley, challenging the school’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) outlining expansion plans through 2020. 

By a five-four vote, commissioners Gene Poschman, Helen Burke and Susan Wengraf were elected to the 21-member committee over the strenuous objections of Chair Harry Pollack. 

Wengraf joined with Pollack, David Stoloff and James Samuels to oppose the motion by Commissioner Rob Wrenn, but they were outvoted by Wrenn, Poschman, Burke, Sara Shumer and Mike Sheen. 

Discussion of appointments was the last item of business, and Pollack opened by saying he planned to make the appointments at the commission’s next meeting, to which Burke replied, “What will change?” 

“I’m asking for one more week,” replied Pollack. “More than three of you have asked to be on it.” 

“Very few people have been appointed,” Wengraf said. “Linda Maio appointed two who are totally unknown to me (Winston Burton and Victoria Eisen). Betty Olds has appointed two (Jenny Wenk and Dorothy Walker), and Laurie Capitelli appointed one (Mim Hawley),” she said, referring to the two appointments each city councilmember is allowed to make. “I have no clue at all about what the community wants. We don’t have to do it tonight.” 

“We have three appointments, three out of nine” planning commissioners. “If anyone is juggling the balance, it should be the council,” added Shumer. 

“I prefer to do it tonight,” said Wrenn, adding that “it should be the three members with the most experience in downtown planning issues—Susan, Gene and myself, but I don’t want it myself.” 

“The chair has the authority to make appointments,” said Stoloff. 

“I’m only asking that we wait a week,” said Pollack. 

“Aren’t you going to be appointed by a councilperson?” Wengraf asked Wrenn. 

“There are rumors to that effect,” Wrenn answered. “And if there are five planning commissioners appointed, one will have to go. I don’t want to be [one of the three] because I’m hoping to be on the Planning Commission not that much longer. I’m in favor of Gene, Susan and Helen,” he said, moving their appointment. 

The second came from Shumer. 

“I have a different opinion,” Pollack declared. “It’s unfortunate you don’t have the courtesy to wait. James Samuels certainly brings a lot of experience. He’s an architect and he served on the landmarks commission for a long time. He has at least as much experience as David and me,” he said, adding, “Your criteria are suspect.” 

“It’s the tradition of the commission to respect the wishes of the chair,” said Wengraf. “I can’t remember a time when we didn’t. We can wait a week and we may have more information.” 

Stoloff objected too, but when the vote was called, Wrenn and his allies carried the day. 

“This is an unfortunate precedent,” declared Pollack. 

“Does that mean I’m on?” asked Wengraf. 

“If you want to resign, we’ll have to pick someone else at our next meeting,” said Poschman. 

Then Wengraf suggested that Burke might not want to serve because she’s already chairing the city’s Creeks Task Force and serving on two other committees—but Burke said nothing. 

Wengraf then tried another gambit, suggesting that, with Kriss Worthington calling for more diversity on city commissions, Sheen, an Asian, might be a more appropriate appointment—but Sheen said nothing. 

The two alternatives suggested by Pollack and Wengraf were also the commission’s newest members. 

With the addition of the three commissioners, the 8 of the DAPAC’s 21 slots have been filled. All the remaining appointments will be the choices, two each, of city councilmembers, with one remaining for Capitelli. Councilmembers have to make their appointment by Halloween, the deadline they imposed. 

As the title acknowledges, DAPAC serves only in an advisory capacity, and it is the planning commission itself which is responsible for producing the document itself. 

The committee is charged with completing its work by November 2007, and the resulting plan, after more work by city and university planners must be presented to the City Council by May 25, 2009. 


Home teaching permits 

At the direction of the City Council, commissioners tackled the issue of people who teach and tutor pupils in the own home. 

Under existing codes, music teachers, math tutors and others who offer instruction at their own residences are required to pay $2,200 for their fees, and when told of the number, they walk away, said Planning Manager Mark Rhoades. The figure was set in 1999 with the strong backing of then-Mayor Shirley Dean. 

In January, the commission had recommended that home teaching be placed under an administrative use permit (AUP), which requires city staff time and notice to neighbors, to which they can raise objections and concerns about issues such as noise and parking. 

AUPs in residential neighborhoods, however, cost $1,362.70—a number councilmembers said was too high when they sent the issue back to the Planning Commission. 

Assistant Planner Fatema Crane presented the commission with a proposal that would recoup 75 percent of staff time costs, which would have brought the cost of the permit, with various other fees, to $826.50. 

Rhoades acknowledged that even the lesser figure wouldn’t result in any lines at the Planning Department’s Milvia Street office, adding, “The council wants to legitimize them. The bar to entry is far too high process-wise and fee-wise. 

Poschman said he wanted to keep the applications under the AUP process so that neighbors were notified, and Burke moved to keep the AUP but lower the fee for home teaching to $100. 

Wengraf offered a substitute motion that kept the $100 fee but lowered the permit to a zoning certificate, which doesn’t require notification. Stoloff seconded the motion, only to see it defeated. 

AUPs, unlike zoning certificates, can be appealed to the Zoning Adjustments Board. 

Burke’s motion carried the day, with Pollack, Wengraf and Samuels in opposition. 

In other business, commissioners got their first look at proposed fees for appeals of decisions by the Planning and Landmarks Preservation commissions and for the Zoning Adjustments Board. The issue will come up for formal consideration at a later meeting. 

Commissioners also got a first look at proposed transportation services fees to be paid by developers of new projects in the city and designed to fund alternative transit and other transportation modes that will reduce their motor vehicle traffic. 

The decision on the fees will be left up to the city Transportation Commission.