EDITOR’S NOTE: This correspondence between Downtown Area Planning Advisory Committee staffer Matt Taecker and former city land-use Planning Manager Mark Rhoades was sent to the DAPAC and has been circulating on the Internet for the last week.
From Matt Taecker:
To enhance the economic feasibility of a 6-story Downtown, what if the special requirements kicked in at 85’ rather than 65’ (i.e. LEED Gold etc.)? Could be enough to make lower buildings more cost competetive than taller. No need to respond. Just food for thought.
From Mark Rhoades:
Subject: Re: An Idea
To: “Taecker, Matthew”
Date: Friday, November 9, 2007, 10:59 AM
I have to reply as the former Planning Manager, given my direct experience with policy and implementation over the last ten years. The standard that you are referring to is an academic endeavor that will have no essential or effective meaning in the Downtown, and certainly is not going to achive the many great things that have been discussed. If we want to create a standard that is academically appealing we should make the standard LEED Platinum certification for buildings over 65 feet. The problem is that we will never actually achieve this “vision.” Berkeley has not seen a single six or eight story building privately constructed in the last ten years (and without having specifically done the research - I believe in the last 30 years). There will not be a six or an eight story building constructed in the future (one DAPAC architect briefly proposed a six story building last year but that project was revised DOWN to five stories - we should ask why). The GAIA building is essentially a nine story building with 100% lot coverage. The Arpeggio is a nine story building with 100% lot coverage. What the DAPAC voted for Wednesday night is a continuation of the five story product that HAS been built over the last 11 years (all four or five of them). Even if there had been some modest level of impact fees collected (and I do believe that those margins were modest) we would not have achieved any of the objectives called for in the existing plan.
I guess the response from the DAPAC majority is, “we’ll see in eight years.” What we get as a result is a front row view of our Downtown continuing to languish just as it has for the last 30 years. Those that have been here long enough will tell you just that. It is all simple math and the data is out there. The last DT Plan failed to provide any real vision, and now this one will too (this new recommendation will actually be a downzoning, as the last DT Plan was, given the coverage standards being considered). I think that the population, generally, could see this for the travesty that it is. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a referendum if the PC and the CC don’t step in and provide the necessary leadership, as unpopular as it may be in some circles. As a DAPAC member said a few weeks ago, this is not the time for caution and fear, this is a time for real vision because there is too much at stake in the world around us. Many supposed environmental proponents seem to have forgotten the “act locally” part of the addage that has been so popularized on Berkeley bumper stickers.
Let’s all remember - University Avenue was downzoned with the implementation of the UASP design guidelines. It has been almost four years since that language took effect. How much new economic investment through “appropriate” infill development has been achieved? None. There are no applications submitted either. No one is even talking about projects on University Avenue. All the projects recently constructed or approved were done so under the FORMER standards. Those hoping for the market to adjust to the zoning should sit back for a long rest.
—Mark Rhoades, AICP