City Council Will Discuss Gaia Building, Backyard Parking and Bus Service

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday April 25, 2006

The Berkeley City Council will begin its meeting tonight (Tuesday) with a Disaster Training Workshop at 5 p.m. An executive session meeting on the threat of a lawsuit be developer Patrick Kennedy will by held at 6 p.m. The council will begin its regular meeting at 7 p.m. 

The lawsuit threat to be discussed in closed session concerns the Gaia Building at 2116 Allston Way which Kennedy built and now owns. The city allowed Kennedy to build two floors higher than normal downtown limits as a trade-off for the promise of cultural uses on the ground floor and mezzanine. 

An open-session discussion on the Gaia Arts Center use permit is also on the regular council agenda. 


Yard parking considered 

A proposed ordinance on the agenda would permit parking in yards—back yards and side yards—of residences without going through a use-permit process and thereby notifying neighbors of the possible change in land use in the dwelling next to them. 

In a memo to the council, city resident Robert Lauriston writes: “Allowing parking in required yards by right would allow developers to convert the entirety of a rear yard into a parking lot and result in the proliferation of incongruous “pop-up” projects similar to 3045 Shattuck and 2901 Otis.” 

In recommending the ordinance, Land-Use Planning Manager Mark Rhoades wrote in the council report that he believes the change to be minor: “Given the fact that the city is mostly built out and many of the city’s parcels already have off-street parking, staff does not expect many new spaces in rear or side yards to be created.” 

The requirement of an administrative use permit would unfairly burden these few property owners who are making a change in their existing parking arrangements, such as having torn down a garage, Rhodes wrote. 


Creek ordinance delayed 

An ordinance aimed at preserving Berkeley’s creeks has been in the works for more than a year. The Creeks Task Force was to have presented an ordinance to the council this month for adoption, but final language for the revised creeks law is yet to be written. 

The planning staff is recommending that the council adopt draft ordinance language in July and final language in September. 


Rapid transit cuts addressed 

While AC Transit is gearing up for enhanced rapid service from International Boulevard to Telegraph Avenue, it is considering cuts on the 43 and 40 line in Berkeley, which will impact bus riders on Shattuck Avenue. 

The council is asking the city manager to write a letter to AC Transit to delay a hearing on the cuts until the Berkeley City Council can make a formal recommendation on them. 


Storm system demystified 

Acting Public Works Director Claudette Ford will make a presentation to the council on the city’s complex storm-drain system.  


Consent calendar matters 

The consent calendar, which council can adopt without discussion if no councilmember chooses to pull off the item for debate, includes the following: 

• The council will vote to create a committee to look at the process of assessing historical resources in the downtown area. The committee will be made up of members of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. 

• The Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advisory Coalition has outlined new policies for the city to reduce alcohol sales venues that become neighborhood nuisances. The council will be asked to hold a workshop in July on the proposals and then adopt them in ordinance form at a later date. 

• The city will also accept a $23,000 grant from the California Family Health Council to participate in an assessment of contraceptive gel users and their partners. ›