City Council Tackles Creeks Issue Again

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday November 28, 2006

While the City Council passed an updated Creeks Ordinance in concept Nov 14, approval is back before the council tonight (Tuesday), so the body can vote on the formal ordinance, said City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. 

That could, however, re-open deliberation on a matter that has been under discussion for two years. 

Also before the council is the re-appointment of a library trustee, an appeal of a landmarked property at 2411 Fifth St., and a hearing for Vijay Lakireddy’s nonpayment of rental property inspection fees. 



After the approval of the ordinance two weeks ago, Capitelli, who abstained on the matter, sent a letter to his council colleagues criticizing them for their “rush to approve the CTF [Creeks Task Force] recommendations….” Capitelli argued that at the meeting there were several council members “not given the opportunity to fully comment, ask questions and explore the possibilities of unintended consequences.”  

While approval of the formal ordinance is on tonight’s council consent calendar—a list of routine items the council generally passes without discussion—Capitelli said he plans to “pull” the Creeks Ordinance revision, allowing opportunity for further discussion.  

Among the issues still outstanding for Capitelli is whether culverts and creeks should be regulated together as they are in the revised Creeks Ordinance rather than addressing culverts separately as part of the city’s storm-drain system.  


Library trustees 

The normally routine reappointment of a library trustee is before council tonight.  

There are five trustees. Four of them are selected by the existing trustees. A councilmember selected by the council also sits as a trustee. 

But in recent years, the public has called for greater input into the library. Recently, the library staff’s conflict with the previous director in part caused her resignation. And the community has been vocal over library decisions made with minimal public input, particularly around the controversial radio frequency identification markers placed in books for easy checkout. 

“Selection by internal nomination (can be) a recipe for an institution well insulated from outside influences,” Jim Fisher of Berkeleyans Organized for Library Defense (SuperBOLD) said in an e-mail to the Planet. “If the Board’s philosophy could be articulated, I think it would be that the public interest is best served when the public itself is kept at a measurable distance from policy-making.” 

Fisher concludes that the answer could be a new way of selecting the trustees, something that would have to be instituted through a charter change: “Would the public be better served by an elected board or one directly nominated by City Council members? It’s an issue on which the public really should speak up.” 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he intends to pull the item from the consent calendar. He said he didn’t want to target trustee Terry Powell, who is up for re-nomination, but “we definitely need fresh perspectives,” he said. 


Landmarks designation at 2411 Fifth St. 

In August, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated 2411 Fifth St. a structure of merit.  

Under current law, a structure of merit is a fully recognized historic building, which, while altered, still reflects fundamental elements of the original structure and is considered worthy of preservation. 

The owner of the Queen Ann Victorian Cottage-style structure, Laura Fletcher, is appealing the landmark designation. She says the house is in such poor condition that it is too expensive for her to renovate. She wants to sell it and has advertised that the sale would be a good investment to a developer who would “rebuild it or begin anew.” 

Fletcher argues in a letter to the council that by designating the house a structure of merit, “…the Commission not only made it all but impossible to develop the property in accordance with the zoning for this area, but also greatly devalued my property.” 

Sixty-six neighbors have petitioned the council to uphold the designation. Architect Erick Mikiten, writing to the council, says that the structure of merit designation “essentially requires the front of the building to remain, but allows raising it up, relocating it, removing the garage, and changing the stairs …. It is possible with almost any 115-year-old historical resource to nit-pick and find details that have been replaced or repaired. But the overall historic character and quality of this building is still intact.”  


Hearing: Lakireddy lien for nonpayment of housing inspection fees 

To recuperate $7,800 in Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP) inspection fees owed the city, the housing department wants to put a lien on 2033 Haste St., owned by Lakireddy Bali Reddy.  

Reddy’s son Vijay Lakireddy is appealing the fees. 

The RHSP was initiated in 2001 to respond to tenant complaints and to randomly inspect buildings where violations have been frequent. The Haste Street property was inspected because of frequent past violations. 

“The inspection found one or more housing code violations in the common area as well as 47 of the 60 rental units,” a report by Housing Director Steve Barton says. Most the violations were fixed but 13 had to be inspected twice. One violation remains outstanding, according to city reports. 

Reddy owns numerous apartments in Berkeley. In 1999, Chanti Jyotsna Devi Prattipati died in one of his apartments at 2020 Bancroft Way from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a blocked wall heater vent. The death was ruled accidental but led to the revelation that Reddy and his sons were involved in bringing minor girls to the U.S. for sex and work. The elder Reddy is serving a seven-year prison sentence. Vijay Lakireddy served a two-year sentence for conspiracy to commit visa fraud. 

The council will also discuss traffic-calming and parking enforcement policies.