Downtown Plan, Report Back Before Commission

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday September 17, 2008 - 01:36:00 PM

Planning commissioners will devote another meeting tonight (Wednesday) to their own rewrite of the new downtown plan, including possible changes to a controversial report on building heights. 

The commission has been doubling up on its usual twice-a-month meeting schedule in the push to ready their version of the Downtown Area Plan in time to present it to the city council by early January at the latest. 

The commission draft will go to the council along with the original version prepared by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) during two years of deliberations. 

Mandated by the settlement of a city lawsuit challenging the university’s expansion plans for the city center through 2020, the city must have a final plan in place before the end of May or risk the loss of some of the university funds provided by the settlement to compensate the city for the impacts of more than 800,000 square feet of new off-campus construction in the city center. 

Commissioners Wednesday are scheduled to work on two chapters, one on housing and community services and the other focusing on environmental sustainability. 

Members are also scheduled to make some revisions to a report prepared by consultants outlining building heights and masses to be considered by the plan’s environmental impact report, which the council must approve along with the plan itself. 

The controversial report declares that new high-rises are only economically viable if they are both taller than advocated by the DAPAC plan and are built and sold as condominiums, and not as apartments. 

Building heights proved a major source of tension within DAPAC, where the minority favored bigger buildings but the majority didn’t. DAPAC had also voted specifically to reject a call for a consultant report—though a majority of the planning commission successfully voted to ask the council to approve the document and provide the funds. 

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Avenue at Martin Luther King Jr. Way.