Lab Project, West Berkeley Top Planning Commission Agenda

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday December 18, 2007

Berkeley planning commissioners take up LBNL building plans and West Berkeley housing questions when they gather for their final meeting of 2007 Wednesday night. 

Officials from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are looking for officials’ comments on their plans for two major projects, one of which—the Helios Building—will house the labs funded by the $500 million biofuel research grant from BP (formerly British Petroleum). 

The second structure, the Computational Research and Theory facility, will house high-speed computers and research projects. 

The commission will comment as part of the official environmental review of the two projects. A public hearing on the Helios Building was held Monday night, and a similar hearing on the CRT facility was held a week earlier. 

Critics of the projects have asked for additional hearings and a month’s extension on the review because the hearings were scheduled over the holiday season. 

Commissioners will also receive another round of staff reports on West Berkeley, in which the city’s Economic Development Department is asking for more flexible rules as a way to increase revenues for the city. 

Wednesday night’s presentation will focus on the state density bonus law and the city’s own inclusionary housing ordinance. 

Both regulations allow developers to build projects larger than those otherwise allowed by zoning laws in exchange for providing affordable housing for low-income tenants. 

The so-called bonus ordinances and their impacts on the city have been the source of considerable friction from neighborhood activists confronted with larger-than-expected projects allowed because developers have included the affordable units. 

The commission had already started looking at the impact of the laws on the city, but Wednesday night’s session focuses specifically on their potential effects on West Berkeley. 

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave.