West Berkeley Car Sales Tops Planning Commission Agenda

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday September 25, 2007

Planning commissioners meet Wednesday to hold their second and final vote on the zoning ordinance and plan amendments paving the way for car dealers to set up shop in West Berkeley. 

During their meeting on Sept. 5, members voted for only one of the two areas proposed for new dealerships in areas previously zoned for manufacturing and light industrial uses. 

After critics challenged the original proposal—which would have created two separate areas for new car dealers, one near the Gilman Street freeway interchange and the second south of Ashby Avenue near the freeway—commissioners opted to withdraw the Ashby portion. 

Mayor Tom Bates and the city’s economic development staff pushed the plan and zoning changes because they said they are needed to keep car retailers and their sales tax dollars in the city. 

According to comments by dealers during earlier commission meetings, manufacturers want their dealers concentrated in “freeway-close” clusters. 

The problem with the Ashby parcel was that it consisted largely of the sites of two venerable Berkeley businesses whose owners said they have no desire to leave—Ashby Lumber and Urban Ore. 

The larger parcel, paralleling the freeway on either side of Gilman, also includes one property commissioners have considered exempting—the city’s Transfer Station on Second Street and Gilman, an integral feature of the city’s Zero Waste recycling effort.  

Commissioners are also scheduled to appoint liaisons to the West Berkeley Project Area Committee and its transportation subcommittee for their reviews of the West Berkeley Circulation Master Pan. 

Also scheduled for discussion Wednesday are updates on the environmental reviews of projects at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and on its Long Range Development Plan. 

Commissioners will also discuss comments by the city’s transportation staff on the draft environmental review of AC Transit’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit program. 

While the City Council has yet to endorse the project—one that could carve out dedicated lanes on Telegraph and Shattuck avenues—the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) has given its blessings to the proposal. 

Three planning commissioners sit on DAPAC: Chair James Samuels and members Helen Burke and Gene Poschman. 

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