Planning Commission Looks at Ashes, Ferry, Transit Corridor Development, Helios and Downtown Ban on Fast Food

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday December 09, 2008 - 09:52:00 AM

Planning commissioners will take up a proposal to end the ban on new fast food restaurants in downtown Berkeley, and the new downtown city councilmember wants them to hold off. 

The ban was implemented nine years ago by a City Council vote at the request of the late Councilmember Dona Spring, acting on behalf of restaurant owners. 

The moratorium was opposed by the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA), which has asked for its revocation, but newly elected Councilmember Jesse Arreguin is asking the commission to delay action until he has more time to study the issue. 

Arreguin was elected to the council in November after Spring died from complications of rheumatoid arthritis. 

While he said he questions the moratorium in its present form, he wants the commission to delay - ending the moratorium until he has time to meet with both sides. 

He said that during the moratorium, the DBA had planned to conduct a study of the issue of keeping fast food places from proliferating on University Avenue, but the study had never been done. 

Restaurant owners had complained that take-out vendors were diverting customers from their sit-down venues and taking up precious parking spaces. 


Other issues: Ashes, ferry, transit corridor development and Helios  

Commissioners will also take up a new city ordinance that will allow churches to hold onto their members, even after they’re dead—or at least their ashes. 

The new regulation would grant religious assemblies the right to create columbaria—repositories for human ashes—so long as they are incidental to existing religious uses and not stand-alone entities. 

Commissioners will also discuss the new draft environmental impact report for the proposed San Francisco/East Bay ferry service. 

The draft EIR examines four sites, including two in the Berkeley Marina, one at the foot of Gilman Street in Berkeley and the last adjacent to Golden Gate Fields in Albany. 

Other discussions will focus on SB 375, a new state law that could intensify development on transit corridors in the city, and the notice from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory of preparation of a new EIR for a redesigned Helios Building at the lab. 

The new design is for a lower-profile building that extends more to the southeast than the previous design, which had provoked a lawsuit. 

The agenda and accompany documents are available online at http://www.cityofberkeley.info/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=30722 

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