Council to Discuss Yard Parking, Bowl, Budget

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday June 13, 2006

The question of whether property owners should be allowed to put parking on side or back yards “by right”—with a simple across-the-counter permit—or whether they should have to obtain Administrative Use Permits, which kicks in a process to alert neighbors of a project, is among the more thorny questions before the City Council tonight (Tuesday). 

Also before the council is the question of whether the Berkeley Bowl should get a use permit and be allowed to move forward with its proposed West Berkeley store. The question of a unionized workforce and traffic concerns are likely to be under consideration. 



Planning staff argued, in a June 13 report to the council on the question of allowing back and side yard parking, that few parcels would be affected “because there are relatively few lots on which such new parking can be accommodated.”  

“That’s complete nonsense,” responded citizen activist Robert Lauriston in a phone interview Monday. He said that structures on many of Berkeley’s small property lots could be built higher if under the new ordinance owners were permitted to pave over the backyard to accommodate parking. 

“There are literally hundreds of lots that would be affected,” he said. 

Lauriston further argued that commercial establishments that back up on residential neighborhoods must now have a 10-foot landscaped barrier between parking and the residence. That buffer would be eliminated under the new ordinance, he said. 

City staff claimed in its report that requiring an administrative use permit would slow projects, add to homeowner frustration and increase demand on planning staff time. 



The council will also be reviewing a UC Berkeley draft environmental impact report that includes Memorial Stadium. 

The staff report on the project was not available before the Daily Planet deadline on Monday. 

Also on the agenda, but not available to the press and public until late Monday afternoon, is the city attorney’s report on why public financing of elections will not make the November ballot. 

The council’s 2006-2007 budget update was also not available. 


Budget questions 

While the City Council is not slated to vote on its 2006-2007 budget until June 27, councilmembers are proposing to add a number of expenditures to the growing list. An affirmative council vote does not approve the item, but allows it to go to the next stage of consideration. A public hearing on the budget will be held June 20. 

The council will consider a $1 million request by councilmembers Betty Olds and Gordon Wozniak to restore funding to the Fire Department. (The Fire Department had asked for $800,000-$900,000, according to Assistant Chief David Orth.) 

When cuts were made last year, the department eliminated its overtime expenses by introducing a system they call “brown-outs,” which means that when there were absences, staff did not work overtime, but was shifted away from a station. (The department began with brown-outs at two stations, found it impacted service and, with $300,000 from the council, continued with brown-outs at one station only.)  

“At this point, no incident delay in response time has cropped up,” Orth said, noting that, in the beginning, firefighters were so conscious of doing things more quickly—such as getting into firefighting gear—that the response time was actually quicker. 

Other budget requests include: 

• $60,000 to implement and monitor an ordinance whereby the city avoids purchasing goods made in sweatshops; 

• $10,000 for the West Berkeley Neighborhood Corporation, $6,000 of which is for the 2007 International Food Festival and $4,000 is for the corporation’s operating budget; 

• $120,000 to restore funding for staffing the Office of Emergency Services; 

• $10,000 to restore funding to the Center for Accessible Technology, cut from $20,000 in the 2004-2005 budget. The center provides computer technology and training for people with disabilities. 

• $50,000 to create and staff a Public Safety Commission to focus on reducing crime. 


Crime report 

At 5 p.m., preceding the 7 p.m. council meeting, the police chief will present a report on the status of crime and crime-reduction strategies in the city.