Density Bonuses, Liquor Licenses on Planning Agenda

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday October 23, 2007

After nearly two years of work, Berkeley planning commissioners Wednesday will finally begin discussions of proposed local rules to govern the application of a controversial state law. 

The state-mandated density bonus—which allows developers to build bigger buildings in exchange for providing apartments or condos for lower-income residents—has served as a political football in the city. 

Because departing City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque has advised that the law allows even bigger projects than a simple reading of the statute might seem to prescribe, neighborhood activists have urged the city to adopt its own regulations to implement the statute. 

Many other cities throughout the state have taken similar actions. 

A joint subcommittee drawing on members of the commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board met for almost two years to hammer out language and tables that would make sense out of the statute. 

Though the panel was directed to end its work early this year, its efforts have languished on the shelf.  

“It’s been too long,” said Commissioner Gene Poschman. 

Commissioners are also scheduled to set the date for the first public hearing on a proposed new ordinance that would allow the city to permanently end the licenses of non-conforming liquor stores which have been closed for more than 90 days. 

The measure would also allow neighbors to file private actions against public nuisances, as well as giving the Zoning Adjustments Board greater flexibility when deciding on liquor license applications. 

The one item up for definitive action is an application to turn six apartments at 1821 Highland Ave. into condos. 

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