Planners Struggle with Density Issue

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday March 11, 2008

The Berkeley Planning Commission faces a single issue on its Wednesday night agenda: the ever-controversial density bonus. 

Commissioners are weighing proposed rules that could limit the amount of increased size developers of multi-unit residential projects are allowed in exchange for providing affordable housing. 

The move to adopt regulations came from the Zoning Adjustments Board, after city staff insisted that the mixed-use project at 1885 University Ave. should be allowed to reach a size otherwise barred by city zoning ordinances. 

A ZAB subcommittee, expanded to include members of the Planning and Housing Advisory Commissions, voted to approve a set of recommendations which have been challenged by Deputy City Attorney Zach Cowan. 

A commission majority voted last week not to oppose Cowan’s opinion that the proposals were illegal because they limited the scope of ZAB’s authority. While a ZAB majority favors the subcommittee recommendations, the Planning Commission majority voted, on the initiative of chair James Samuels, not to go against Cowan’s advice. 

Commissioner Gene Poschman has cited ordinances in other California cities which he said include exactly the same kinds of recommendations Cowan has rejected. 

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