Council Addressed Developer Fees, ‘Accidental’ Demolition

By Judith Scherr
Friday July 28, 2006

The Berkeley City Council debated a proposal to initiate transportation service fees Tuesday evening which was touted by some as a tool to stop global warming and condemned by others as a fee that would hurt the business climate 

The council made no decision but voted unanimously to continue the discussion with a workshop Oct. 10. 

Other issues the council considered on its 42-item agenda included the fate of 2104 Sixth St., a grant to Kitchen Democracy and support of workers at the new West Berkeley Bowl. 


Transportation fees 

If the tranportation fees are adopted, developers would pay them proportional to the traffic their new business or housing would be expected to bring.  

Speaking at a public hearing in favor of the fee, Transportation Commissioner Nathan Landau said without the fees, taxpayers would bear the cost of new traffic. 

“It’s not a radical anti-business measure,” Landau said, pointing to Contra Costa County, which has regional transportation fees in the Antioch-Pittsburg area and the Richmond-El Cerrito area. 

But Roland Peterson, Telegraph Business Improvement District executive director, said he feared the fee would keep businesses from locating in Berkeley. 

“It’s the wrong fee at the wrong time,” he said.  

Many said the way the fee would be calculated is confusing. And some said some kinds of new development-- such as neighborhood-serving business or people making a short trip to the new Berkeley Trader Joe’s rather than driving to El Cerrito or Emeryville—would actually cut down car trips. 

With some humor, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak opined that people should get a credit when they go out of business and no longer generate traffic. 

“Fund the programs out of the General Fund,” Wozniak said. “Putting it all on the developer is the wrong way to do it.” 

2104 Sixth St.  

The City Council will hold a public hearing in September on a structure under renovation at 2104 Sixth St. in the Ocean View-Sisterna Historic District that was “accidentally” demolished. The council voted 7-2 to hold the hearing with Wozniak and Councilmember Betty Olds voting in opposition. 

“It’s boggling that it happened by accident,” said Councilmember Darryl Moore. “The neighborhood deserves vetting of this.” 

Wozniak argued that no purpose would be served by holding a public hearing, as the developer had offered to restore the building and that the question had already been discussed by the Zoning Adjustments Board and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  


Kitchen Democracy 

Wozniak’s proposed $3,000 gift from his city-funded office account to Kitchen Democracy, a website that polls people on questions related to city policy, drew unusual scrutiny. Such donations must now be approved by the full council, due to a new state law. 

The council approved the donation unanimously after Worthington received assurances from Wozniak and Robert Vogel, Kitchen Democracy founder, that Vogel would use the funds to “help diversify participation” in the site. Worthington had criticized Kitchen Democracy for its heavy focus on the southeast hills, where its founders live in Wozniak’s District 8. 


Other matters 

The council also unanimously approved: 

• Support of an “expeditious and open process” regarding unionization of the West Berkeley Bowl; 

• Removing the new motorcycle parking spaces on Telegraph and replacing them with the automobile parking that was there originally at a cost of $65,000.  

• Asking the city manager to report back on the question of citywide wireless Internet.