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DAPAC Gives OK to Downtown Proposals

By Richard Brenneman
Friday April 20, 2007

DAPAC members finally adopted recommendations for developing UC Berkeley-owned property in downtown Berkeley Wednesday, but it took more than three hours, and one key element remains to be decided. 

The marathon session of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee didn’t deal with the second major item on their agenda—adoption of the sustainabilty element, the cornerstone of the new downtown plan they’re formulating. 

Chair Will Travis began the meeting with an announcement that the city had defeated the lawsuit challenging the court settlement that provided for the creation of the new downtown plan DAPAC is formulating. 

“We can move forward with total confidence that we are a legitimate body,” he said. 

When one committee member expressed doubt, Travis said, “There are still people who don’t believe in global warming and even Galileo had trouble convincing everybody.” 

While an Alameda County Superior Court judge decided against the litigation filed by activists including Anne Wagley, Berkeley Daily Planet arts and entertainment editor, attorney Stephan Volker said he will appeal on behalf of his clients. 

That suit challenged earlier litigation filed by the city over the university’s Long Range Develop-ment Plan 2020’s plans to add an additional 800,000 square feet of construction off campus in the city center, plus the creation of at least 1,000 new parking spaces. 

Wednesday night’s DAPAC meeting focused on a report by a joint DAPAC-UC Berkeley subcommittee tasked with providing recommendations for how and where the university implements its expansion plans for the heart of Berkeley. 

Before subcommittee chair Dorothy Walker began describing each of the subcommittee recommendations, DAPAC member Billy Keys warned that “the whole plan won’t be finished” by the November deadline if work continues at its present pace. 

But members wanted to go through and vote on the items individually. 

Many of the recommendations had come directly from the Downtown Berkeley Association and its economic development consultant, Deena Belzer, who presented recommendations she said would help revitalize the city center. 

“The thinking is that you have to have a tight core that is very walkable,” Walker said, and once customers are happy with that, retail can expand to surrounding areas. 

The recommendation adopted by DAPAC calls for concentrating initially on Shattuck Avenue from Center Street to University Avenue, and University Avenue, Addison and Center streets between Shattuck and Oxford Street. 

Much of the discussion focused on the university’s plans for the old state Department of Health Services highrise between Berkeley Way and Hearst Avenue and Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street. 

The university plans to demolish the existing buildings and transform the site into a public health campus, with clinics, an optometry clinic/ shop and functions that will serve the community as well as the campus. 

DAPAC members want a 100-foot depth of frontage along Shattuck to be devoted to retail. Developer Ali Kashani, filling in for the absent Mim Hawley, said that unless parking was provided, 100 feet would be a minimum depth needed to attract successful retail. 

Another recommendation calls for development of a parking structure on the city’s existing surface lot on Berkeley Way west of Shattuck, but discussion and a vote on that proposal was delayed at the request of Rob Wrenn. 

Several members, starting with architect Jim Novosel, were concerned that a recommendation that the university acquire additional property, including the old Purcell Paint Co. site. 

“If the university expands downtown and is taking property off the tax rolls, there should be overarching language that the city be paid” for what services it provides as well as any loss of resources, said DAPAC Chair Will Travis. 

Novosel said he also wanted to see the university devote the ground floors of new development for either retail or public outreach functions to provide a livelier atmosphere on the street. 

While there was support for university development of the site of the landmark University Garage at 1920 Oxford St., members voted to adopt a resolution by Novosel asking for the university to preserve a meaningful portion of the building’s facade and frontage. 

Members turned down a proposal to urge the university to relocate the Student Athlete High Performance Center on the site of the university’s Tang Center lot at Fulton Street and Bancroft Way in the event the university is blocked from building at the planned site west of Memorial Stadium.