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DAPAC to Decide Downtown Heights

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday November 06, 2007

High rises and high densities top the agenda for Wednesday’s Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee meeting. 

With DAPAC’s Land Use Subcommittee unable to reach a decision last week on the most controversial element of Berkeley’s new downtown plan, they kicked the decisions upstairs to the full committee. 

DAPAC is now in its final month of deliberations on the new plan for the heart of Berkeley mandated in settlement of the city’s lawsuit challenging UC Berkeley expansion plans through 2020. 

City staff has consistently called for construction of 16-story point towers to accommodate anticipated population growth figures set by the Association of Bay Area Governments. 

City Planner Dan Marks has said downtown is the only practical place to locate the units, given strong opposition in other neighborhoods to building large numbers of dense condominium apartment buildings. 

While city staffers have reduced their calls for 14 of the high rise towers, the question remains what height limits the plan will impose, and in what areas of downtown. 

Hopes for what subcommittee Chair Rob Wrenn called a super-majority collapsed Wednesday when two members said they wouldn’t vote for an eight-story base height in an expanded downtown area core that the whole subcommittee approved earlier in the meeting. 

While city staff insists higher construction is needed to accommodate the ABAG numbers, Planning Commissioner Gene Poschman contends the numbers can be achieved with the existing plan and its five-floor baseline.  

During previous DAPAC sessions, opposition to the point towers has been strong, though retired UC Berkeley development executive and DAPAC members Dorothy Walker told the subcommittee Wednesday that the denser development she favors has strong support. 

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

The new downtown plan is the result of the city lawsuit that challenged the latest version of UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP). 

The same day Berkeley’s citizen planners will be considering the impacts of one UC campus’s LRDP, students, faculty and town citizens in another UC campus community will be meeting and marching to challenge another UC LRDP. 

The gathering starts at 11 a.m. in Baytree Plaza Santa Cruz, followed by a march at noon. 

The Santa Cruz LRDP calls for boosting enrollment there by 4,500 students, and organizers say expansion plans threaten the quality of educational life for student and faculty and endanger 120 acres of forested land on campus.