Downtown Plan, West Berkeley Top Commissioners’ Agenda

By Richard Brenneman
Monday December 01, 2008 - 04:20:00 PM

Planning commissioners meet Wednesday night to take up agenda items sidelined at their Nov. 19 by debate over proposed revisions to Berkeley’s cell phone antenna regulations. 

The special session, which begins at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave., will focus on West Berkeley and the Downtown Area Plan’s key chapter—Land Use. 

The downtown plan, first drafted over the course of two years by a 21-member citizen panel augmented by three members of the commission, is being rewritten by a commission much friendlier to taller buildings than the majority of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC). 

Both the DAPAC and commission drafts will go the to city council for consideration and adoption before the end of May—a deadline imposed by the settlement of a city lawsuit challenging UC Berkeley’s extensive off-campus building plans for the city center. 

The land use chapter was the most controversial during DAPAC’s deliberations, with the majority calling for a lower profile than that favored by members of the planning commission majority. 

Commissioners will also review potential conflicts between the Downtown and Southside plans for a small part of downtown Berkeley that is included in both area plans. The section is at the southeastern corner of the Downtown planning area and the westernmost tip of the Southside planning area. City planning staff proposes that it be divided, with the larger section regulated by the Southside Plan and the smaller by the Downtown Plan.  

Another politically charged issue is the set of revisions to zoning that have been sought by developers to ease restrictions in the west Berkeley Area Plan. 

City staff had initially dubbed the project to revise the zoning ordinance “West Berkeley Flexibility,” but tossed the term after it proved a lightning rod for concerns of small industrial companies and artists who fear being displaced from their last affordable haven in the city. 

Wednesday night’s agenda calls for commissioners to discuss the latest staff report and give their directions for further action. 

The agenda, with links to staff reports and the land use chapter, is available online at: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=30350