Ward Street neighbors flocked to the City Council meeting Tuesday night to oppose plans for 18 antennas atop the UC Storage building at Ward and Shattuck Avenue.
But other concerns with the building owned by developer Patrick Kennedy—questions of parking and loading docks—as well as concerns about the antennas caused city staff to recommend, and council to agree, that the entire project go back to the Zoning Adjustments Board for review.
At the meeting, the council also considered funding a neighborhood crime watch program near UC Berkeley, and gave approval after the fact for an inadvertent partial demolition of a historic building, as well as delaying a decision on a controversial commercial-residential project at San Pablo Avenue and Harrison Street.
In the end, it wasn’t the Ward Street neighbors’ objections to the cell phone antennas that got planning staff attention.
“We need to straighten out parking and loading issues,” Planning Manager Mark Rhoades told the council, calling for concerns associated with the building to be sorted by the Zoning Adjustments Commission.
“It’s an old legal non-conforming building,” he said.
Asked to explain the issues, Rhoades told the Daily Planet there was a question of how many parking spaces and loading doors can be situated on Ward Street. The cell phone antennas issue will continue to be on the table, he said.
Ward Street neighbors had other questions as well, which ZAB may consider. Writing to the council, Suzanne Masuret and Jim Hultman said they are concerned with double parking on Ward Street, placement of a “giant” billboard atop the building, the use of a large, noisy generator as early as 6 a.m. and continuing, at times, all night and “non-stop” work going on in the building, without the neighbors having been alerted.
During the time set aside for public comment at the meeting—and before staff asked to remand the project to ZAB—nearby neighbors spoke against installation of the 18 cell phone antennas.
“South Berkeley is a neighborhood,” said Ellen McGovern, who lives close to the building.
She said that when ZAB made its decision to approve the project, the board considered the antennas as if they were not intended for a residential neighborhood. She argued that there has been no seismic review of the building and no independent third-party assessment of “need” for the antennas.
Nextel and Verizon, the two carriers proposing the project, argued in letters to ZAB that the companies needed the antennas in order to fill “holes” in their system.
Bo Schonberger, also a UC Storage neighbor, contended: “City staff failed to verify the need. They accepted the (Nextel and Verizon) information at face value.”
He described a study he had done independently, making 150 calls with Nextel phones and 150 with Verizon from “all over Berkeley.”
“There’s not one area with no service,” he said.
Harrison Street and San Pablo ruling delayed
Neighbors of a proposed project at Harrison Street and San Pablo Avenue have been before the City Council a few times before, arguing that the project is too high and too dense to fit into the adjoining neighborhood.
Developers had proposed modified plans at the Sept. 19 council meeting and made further changes before the Tuesday meeting, causing the council to vote 7-1-1 to hold review of the project over until Oct. 10, with Councilmember Betty Olds in opposition and Councilmember Gordon Wozniak abstaining.
Campus watch considered
A campus neighborhood watch program, to target the high rate of property crime in the campus area, proposed by Councilmember Kriss Worthington at a cost of $7,500, will come back to the council at its Oct. 10 meeting.
The program, which would include students and permanent residents, will have a trash pick-up component to address the annual dumping of mattresses and other belongings as students move out of their temporary homes.
Councilmember Betty Olds pointed out that the other neighborhood watch groups operate without city funding. “It’s done by volunteers,” she said. “That’s what’s good about it.”
Pointing to a preliminary budget offered by students from the ASUC that included $1,600 for refreshments, Olds advised: “Just bake brownies.”
UC Berkeley students who had come to the council to pitch the program said the ASUC would put $6,000 into the program, which would include 15-20 blocks, much larger than a normal residential crime watch program. It would also offer classes in self-defense and emergency preparedness.
The 8-1 vote, with Olds dissenting, approved a resolution calling on the city manager to meet with the students to help refine their budget and to look at what in-kind assistance the city could offer. Mayor Tom Bates will write a letter to UC Berkeley asking for matching funds.
Sixth Street project gets OK
Neighbors of a condominium project at 2104 Sixth St. did not get the council to agree on a complete environmental review of the project, as they had hoped.
The owner, Gary Feiner, and his representatives, along with the handful of neighbors that came to the Tuesday evening public hearing, said that removal of a roof and trimming of a historic building at 2104 Sixth St. had been a mistake.
“This is the 23rd public hearing on the matter,” said the owner’s attorney John Gutierrez. Feiner had agreed to replace what had been removed with similar materials and needed the council nod to finish work on the project.
Speaking for the appellants, Jano Bogg, who lives next door to the site, called unsuccessfully for a complete environmental review that would have included addressing problems with backyard parking, a fence that had been destroyed, raising the level of the backyard and questions around how the development—two renovated homes that would probably be sold as four condominiums—fits into the Oceanview-Sisterna Historical District.
In the end the council voted 8-3 to reject the neighbors’ appeal and to allow the project to move forward. Councilmembers Darryl Moore, Kriss Worthington and Linda Maio voted in opposition.