Downtown Landmarks Debate Revived

By Richard Brenneman
Friday August 10, 2007

Members of the two city citizen panels hammering out policy guidelines for the new downtown plan will meet Monday night to finalize a key section of the document. 

The joint subcommittee is comprised of members from the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). 

Monday night’s meeting marks their 13th session, and at least one more meeting is planned for Aug. 27. 

Recent meetings of the subcommittee have moved forward in a harmony relatively rare to the process of shaping a new downtown plan, which DAPAC members must complete in a rudimentary form by Nov. 30. 

One-time members Raudell Wilson and Carole Kennerly from DAPAC had provided what dissent had existed in the subcommittee, but since their replacements by Jesse Arreguin and Jim Novosel, the subcommittee has functioned with an almost unprecedented unanimity. 

But internal harmony doesn’t mean their plan will sail through the DAPAC process unscathed—as indicated in an earlier vote on the first version of the chapter on Historic Preservation and Urban Design. 

DAPAC Chair Will Travis, Planning Commission Chair Jim Samuels and retired UC Berkeley development chief Dorothy Walker attended the last meeting to argue for revisions that face stiff opposition from the subcommittee. 

Key questions to be resolved focus on the role historic buildings will play in the new downtown plan being drafted in response to the university’s push for 800,000 square feet of new off-campus construction in the city center—about 27 percent of the total floor space of the Empire State Building. 

Of equal importance to the Travis faction is whether or not a strongly preservationist panel should draft the element of the plan that governs new construction and the downtown streetscape. 

At least two subcommittee members say that they also want to draft language that will provide the means for implementing the policies in city law—a move discouraged by Travis and city planning staff. 

Monday night’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. at Martin Luther King Jr. Way.