Flash: Council Approves First Reading of LPO Revision

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday December 05, 2006

The Berkeley City Council, in a 6-3 vote, approved the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday which preservationists contend will make landmarking historical sites and structures more difficult and will make it easier for developers to demolish older buildings. 

Voting in opposition were Councilmembers Betty Olds, Kriss Worthington and 

Dona Spring. 

About two dozen opponents of the revised ordinance attended the meeting, many of whom had fought the new law at the ballot box with Measure J, an unsuccessful attempt to extend the current Landmarks Preservation Ordinance with minor changes. Some said that they were infuriated when they saw that the ordinance posted on the city web site on Thursday had been revised three times over the weekend in order to add a new clause saying that the ordinance is not “severable”: that if any part of it were struck down the whole law would be considered repealed. 

For those preservation activists who have promised to start gathering signatures for a referendum on the ordinance once the second reading is approved on Dec. 12, this change means that they will be forced to challenge the entire ordinance, instead of just asking the voters to reject the parts of it they dislike.  

Proponents of the new law include the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Political 

Action Committee, which spent about $100,000 to defeat Measure J in order to 

ease restrictions on private property development.