Berkeley planning commissioners will holding hearings Wednesday on the Southside Plan’s draft environmental impact report (EIR) and proposed amendments to the city’s wireless ordinance.
Commissioners will also dissect the economic development chapter of the Downtown Area Plan as they continue to work on their own suggested revisions to the draft prepared by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC).
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave.
The Southside Plan has been revived after five years on the back burner while city staff and UC Berkeley officials worked on revisions sought by the university.
The plan would create new higher density residential zones and allow denser development along Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way.
The plan also calls for converting the currently one-way Dana and Ellsworth streets to two-way traffic, and for consideration of doing the same to Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue, with restricting through traffic on Telegraph Avenue.
The draft EIR predicts construction of 472 new housing units with 1,038 residents, along with construction of 638,290 square feet of new commercial development that would provide an additional 2,130 jobs.
Wednesday’s hearing will focus on the issue of whether or not the proposed EIR adequately addresses the impacts of the ensuing changes.
The complete document is available for $30 at the city Planning and Development Department offices at 2120 Milvia St. or free online at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=17998.
Revisions to the city’s wireless telecommunications facilities ordinance, which regulates the installation of cell phone antennae in the city must comply with federal law.
With the federal law pre-empting most avenues to regulate wireless antennae, in December the City Council directed staff to find areas where the city could legally exert some control without provoking costly lawsuits by carriers.
The package before the commission would require cell providers to pay a fee to monitor the signal strength of broadcast radiation—a health concern to many neighbors of cell towers.
The ordinances would require an over-the-counter administrative use permit for new wireless antennae in the downtown commercial district and in manufacturing districts, and full use permits—complete with public hearings—for new installations in all other city zoning districts.
And for all installations outside the downtown and West Berkeley manufacturing districts, cell providers couldn’t add antennae with proof they are needed to fill service gaps.
However, the revised ordinances would also end the city’s ability to require that antennae be clustered at single sites as a way to limit the number of radiation sources and end the City Council’s ability to remand use permit appeals to Zoning Adjustments Board.
The changes would also end the city’s ability to seek criminal sanctions for violations of the ordinances.
According to a report by Deputy Planning Director Wendy Cosin, the city has approved 52 wireless broadcasters at 28 sites, most on rooftops or on building facades.
While the main concerns voiced by neighbors have centered on the possible health impacts from the radiation frequencies that carry cellular phone signals, the 1996 federal Telecommunications Act forbids state and local governments from using radiation as a basis for denying permits to locate cellular antennae.
“The city attorney developed the proposed amendments to maximize the city’s ability to accomplish its expressed regulatory goals within the confines of federal regulations and related court decisions,” Cosin reported.