Joint Panel to Consider Downtown Landmarks

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday August 15, 2006

Members of two city panels will gather tonight (Tuesday) in an effort to resolve issues surrounding the role of historic buildings in the future of downtown Berkeley. 

Four members each from the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) will meet at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center at 1901 Hearst Ave. 

The issue at hand represents the newest front in the long-running struggle being waged between pro-development interests and preservationists. 

Tonight’s meeting will focus on the survey of historic resources and structures to be carried out in conjunction with the creation of a new plan for an expanded area of downtown Berkeley. 

That plan was mandated in the settlement of the city’s lawsuit that challenged elements of UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan covering expansion plans for the university campus and pro-jects planned for the city center. 

Members of the two bodies will hear a presentation by the Architectural Resources Group (ARG), a San Francisco architecture and consulting firm retained to help city staff prepare the survey of downtown historic assets. 

The ARG team is scheduled to present an overview of state and federal criteria for historic resources, to describe criteria used by other California communities and to present an overview of the survey process. 

Chair Robert Johnson and fellow commissioners Lesley Emmington, Jill Korte and Steven Winkel will represent the LPC, while Wendy Alfsen, Patti Dacey, Carole Kennerly and Raudel Wilson will represent DAPAC. 

Dacey served on the LPC until earlier this year, when she was removed from the post by City Councilmember Max Anderson. She and Emmington were the commission’s most ardent preservationists, while Korte was more closely aligned with them than with Johnson and Winkel, if past votes are any guideline. 

Several DAPAC members, most notably Dorothy Walker, a former UCB official, have called for the demolition of some historic structures to make way for larger, new structures. 

The subcommittee will carry out its work during the run-up to the November elections, when Berkeley voters will decided on a ballot initiative that would keep—with minor changes—the city’s tough landmarks law. 

If that measure fails, the City Council could then enact a rival measure from Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Laurie Capitelli that preservationists contend represents a threat to the city’s historic character. 

Pro-development activists contend the current law blocks creation of needed affordable housing, and that the Bates/Capitelli measure protects developers and property-owners from NIMBY responses to individual projects.