Today’s (Tuesday) Berkeley City Council meeting will meet in closed session for a continued discussion of the lawsuits that caused the city attorney to suspend all Police Review Commission hearings on complaints against Berkeley police officers.
The discussion will be closed to the public, although the community can speak at a comment period beginning at 5 p.m. The meeting is on the sixth floor of the city administration building at 2180 Milvia St.
Gaia cultural use
On its regular agenda, which starts at 7 p.m., the council will address the controversy around cultural uses at the Gaia Building, 2116 Allston Way. The city allowed Gaia developer Patrick Kennedy to build two stories higher than normally permitted in exchange for promising cultural uses at the building.
Questions have arisen, however, around the definition of “culture use,” the number of cultural uses mandated and how many cultural events must be held on weekends.
City planning staff is calling on the council to legalize work performed on the building without permits and to accept a defined time that must be reserved for performances, and the number of performance days that must be allocated for weekends.
The staff report concludes: “Non-cultural uses are allowed provided the performance standards are met and cultural performances have priority in scheduling.”
Anna De Leon, owner of Anna’s Jazz Island, located in the Gaia building, argues that Kennedy is being permitted to report various events as cultural uses which should not qualify, such as church services and dinners for UC Berkeley’s journalism and business schools.
“It’s absurd,” De Leon said, in a phone interview. “It’s asking the fox to look over the chickens.”
In a letter to De Leon, Gaia arts manager Gloria Atherstone argues that the church meeting on the premises is “open to the public” and “incorporates music, literature and spiritual regeneration to the community at large.” It further argues that De Leon “incorrectly classifies several functions as private, when in fact they are cultural (including) … educational seminars, non-profit meetings, non-profit fundraisers…”
The council will also discuss:
• Approving permits for construction of a commercial-residential structure at Harrison Street and San Pablo Avenue, opposed by a number of neighbors.
• The outline and elements of a sunshine ordinance—an ordinance to expand state laws opening community participation in local government.
• Funding a campus neighborhood watch program.
• Appropriating funds for the winter shelter program.
• Approving nine traffic circles including one at Mathews and Oregon streets, one at California and Fairview streets and one at Ellis and Fairview streets.
• Waiving permit fees for installation of solar panels as a local incentive to solarization.
• A resolution calling on California’s congressional representatives “to not violate the U.S. Constitution by ignoring the U.S.-signed 1994 International Convention Against Torture.”
The City Council will meet as the Berkeley Housing Authority at 6:20 p.m. It will focus on the status of the agency whose deficiencies have been cited by the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD).
The council meeting and the Housing Authority meeting will take place in the council chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.