Planning Commission, DAPAC to Meet

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday November 28, 2006

Two city land use meetings are scheduled for Wednesday night, both at the same time—7 p.m.—and in the same building—the North Berkeley Senior Center. 

The Planning Commission, which meets on the ground floor, has three hearings scheduled, including two that concern tweaks to the ordinance governing the Design Review Committee. 

The legislation would eliminate the requirement for the chair of the Zoning Adjustments Board to sit on the committee, reduce number of lay members and eliminate appeals to the city council of final design review findings. 

The other legislative change eliminates legal conflicts in the city attorney’s office in hearings on nuisance abatements. As currently drafted, the process requires two attorneys, who are then barred from communicating with each other; the proposed change would eliminate the conflict and allow the process to be handled by a single lawyer. 

The commission will also hear a report on the methods used by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to prepare the Regional Housing Needs Assessment for 2007-14.  

As a regional agency, ABAG can impose standards on municipalities within its jurisdiction, and the housing assessment has been a controversial issue because of the way UC Berkeley students are considered in assessing the demands placed on the city for creating new housing. 

Also up for discussion—but not action—is the City Council’s Nov. 14 directive to the commission to create zoning amendments to allow small dealerships for electric cars to open in the central Shattuck Avenue business district. 

The change is needed because currently the addition of any new car dealerships is barred by city ordinance, and the council wants to support electric car sales. 


Downtown landmarks 

The second meeting focuses on the role of historical buildings in the upcoming new downtown plan, now being prepared by city staff working with the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC). 

Comprised of four members each from DAPAC and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the panel will meet upstairs at the senior center. 

The committee is slated to review drafts of historical context statements prepared by the Architectural Resources Group consultants hired by the city to assist in preparing the historical building sections of the new plan. 

The statements concern patterns of history in the downtown as reflected in the architecture of existing buildings in the area. 

The new downtown plan, which covers a larger area than the current 1990 plan, was mandated in the settlement of last year’s city lawsuit challenging UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan 2020. 

DAPAC was created to advise the city on the plan, and the subcommittee was created after landmarks commissioners insisted they be given a role in the planning process, citing city and state legislation.