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DAPAC Approves Economic, Housing Chapters

By Richard Brenneman
Friday November 02, 2007

While Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee members have waged prolonged struggles over landmarks and tall buildings, they voted unanimously twice Monday night, approving two more chapters of the new downtown plan. 

With minor changes, DAPAC gave the green light to chapters on Economic Development and Housing and Community Health and Service. 

Joining the committee as it rushes toward its mandated Nov. 30 shutdown was Erin Banks, named by City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli to replace his former council colleague Mim Hawley, who stepped down from the committee. 

Banks, who filled in for Hawley during DAPAC’s last session, is the spouse of former city Land Use Planning Manager Mark Rhoades. 

Lisa Stephens urged the committee to add a provision requiring the university to pay fees whenever they leased office space off campus to compensate the city for revenues lost when the property was automatically removed from the tax roles. 

“It’s a nice idea, but it’s pie in the sky,” said Terry Doran. “I don’t believe we as a city have the power to require the university to pay fees.” 

Emily Marthinsen, the UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor who represents the university as a non-voting DAPAC member, urged the committee to reject the proposal, because no one on the Berkeley campus could approve it. The decision ultimately would be up to the university’s Office of the President. 

DAPAC Chair Will Travis said that approval might imperil the spirit of cooperation he said had prevailed throughout the downtown planning process. 

“If they don’t want to have such an agreement, then there should be no office space,” said Wendy Alfsen. 

“I kind of agree,” added Patti Dacey. “The taxpayers of this city have to pay every time they flush a toilet.” 

“Let’s not try to pick a fight,” said Travis. 

In the end, members thought it better to ask than to require. 

Another suggestion, urging cooperation with the university athletics department to encourage student athletes at Berkeley High, was rejected because it might violate National Collegiate Athletic Association recruiting rules. 

Language for another proposal, to encourage the Haas School of Business to locate its executive education program downtown, was removed after Marthinsen said the school had opted to change the program’s format so it could be taken to distant corporate offices rather than bringing the executives to Berkeley. 

Haas had originally tried to take over Bowles Hall, the first residence hall in the University of California system and a nationally- and city-recognized landmark, for the program. 

Alumni of the all-male hall were quick to mount a protest, encouraging the use of the Shattuck Hotel instead, a move seconded by local preservationists. But in the end the university opted for the off-site version of the program, leaving Bowles in its traditional role. 

Committee members also struck language from the plan that would have encouraged the city to use arts and cultural bonuses to allow developers to build bigger buildings in exchange for providing space for exhibitions, performances and similar uses. 

The language was eliminated in light of the ongoing battles over the use of the city’s cultural bonus at the Gaia Building. 

Members rejected a request from Marthinsen to strike language calling for a 100-feet-deep business zone along the Shattuck Avenue frontage of the university’s building site at the old Department of Health Services property. 

Members cited other policies already adopted that called for the space to be used to generate sales tax revenues for the city. 

Adoption of the housing and services section was rushed through in the closing minutes of the meeting over the objections of Billy Keys, who said the committee should spend more time looking at the chapter in detail. 

DAPAC will face critical decisions during its next session Wednesday night, when it considers questions of building height and population density. Members of the committee drafting that chapter were not able to come to consensus. 

At the following session on Nov. 12, members attending the committee’s 47th meeting will take up the environmental sustainability chapter, which will buttress what members have agreed will be the plan’s overarching theme. 

That session will also begin the review of chapter revisions as worked out by the city’s planning staff, with the final review including all of the chapter set for Nov. 26. 

Drafts of the proposed chapters are posted on the city’s web site at