Council May Ask University to Preserve Oaks Near Stadium

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday November 14, 2006

Councilmember Dona Spring quotes from an old Joni Mitchell song: 


They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.  

They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum.  

And they charged all the people 

A dollar and a half just to see 'em.  


Spring says the UC Berkeley must change its tune. At tonight’s (Tuesday) council meeting, Spring and Councilmember Betty Olds will ask the council to support a resolution calling on UC to protect the Coast Live Oaks near Memorial Stadium slated for destruction. 

In other council business, the council will discuss cultural uses at the Gaia Building, allowing electric-vehicle dealerships to open businesses on South Shattuck Avenue, the status of the Solano Avenue Business Improvement District and more. 


Coast Live Oaks threatened 

As part of its southeast building project the university is planning to cut down 40 Coast Live Oaks between 40 and 300 years old to construct a 912-space parking lot and athletic training facility adjacent to a rebuilt Memorial Stadium. 

These trees are part of the city’s watershed system, Spring said. If they are destroyed, there will be erosion of the hillside and flooding, she said. 

While Coast Live Oaks are protected by the city’s “Coast Live Oak Moratorium,” UC is exempt from local laws. Organizations opposing the tree removal include the California Native Plant Society and the Sierra Club. 

Councilmember Betty Olds said she thinks community outrage will cause the university to re-think its plans. 

“The university doesn’t want to have a black mark against it. They want the citizens of Berkeley to like them,” she said.  

When asked for the university’s response, Jennifer Ward, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, told the Daily Planet: “No comment.” 


Cultural use at Gaia 

When Patrick Kennedy developed the Gaia building at 2116 Allston Way, the city allowed him two additional residential stories in exchange for providing cultural uses on the first two floors. But the definition of “cultural uses” and the extent to which the space must be used for culture remains in dispute. 

The council will be asked tonight to approve the staff’s interpretation of an agreement made between Kennedy and former Planning Director Carol D. Barrett. 

That interpretation says that the Gaia Building should devote 30 percent of the days of the year to performances defined as live theatrical productions, literature readings, non-commercial film showings and educational uses related to culture. (Rehearsal time and set-up are not to be included in the 30 percent.)  

Cultural uses should have priority, the report says, but non-cultural uses are otherwise permitted.  

But Anna de Leon, who owns Anna’s Jazz Island located in the Gaia building, says staff has distorted the meaning of the agreement. The 30 percent use of the first two floors for performances means that live performances must be 30 percent of the cultural uses, but cultural uses must be 100 percent of the total use. 

“The use permit mandates exclusive cultural use,” De Leon said by phone on Monday. 

Solano Avenue Business Improvement District 

The City Council is being asked to approve a business improvement district (BID), which is usually routine, but two businesses are protesting the operation of the Solano Avenue BID. 

Businesses that belong to a BID contribute to it in order to receive benefits, but Susan Powning of By Hand says the BID has not been effective in street cleaning or advertising, and James Slaten of Jim’s Sewing Machine Service writes that the sidewalks are dirty and that the BID has not helped him increase business. 


Zoning for small-scale electric vehicle dealerships 

A resolution by Councilmember Dona Spring calls on the zoning board to change its rules so that small-scale electric vehicle dealerships can operate on south Shattuck Avenue. While there are automobile dealerships there, current zoning prohibits new automobile dealerships in the area. 

Overruns at the Oxford Plaza/Brower Center development are also on the council agenda. 

At 5 p.m. the council will hold a workshop on updating the status of the city budget. 


Housing Authority 

The Housing Authority will meet at 6:20 p.m. to rescind allocation of Section 8 vouchers for Prince Hall Arms at 3132 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Hillegass Apartments at 2500 Hillegass Ave. and Allston House at 2121 Seventh St. HUD disqualified all three projects, which means that these projects will have to find alternative sources of funding, according to a staff report released Monday. 

The Housing Authority will also discuss alternatives to the present structure in which the City Council sits as the authority.