‘Smart Growth’ Proponents Tighten Grip on Commission

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday January 21, 2009 - 07:42:00 PM

Roia Ferrazares is off the planning commission and, for the moment, no one is willing to say why—at least on the record. 

“I’m not going to comment,” said City Councilmember Darryl Moore, who appointed her to the commission Sept. 26, 2006. “I am treating it as a personnel matter.” 

Moore said he has been and will be replacing several commissioners. 

Pressed for details, Moore said, “I don’t expect to get anything positive from the [Daily] Planet on this thing.” 

Ferrazares was perhaps the most independent member and the least predictable vote on a strongly divided panel. 

She asked incisive questions and often spotted implications in proposals that slipped by most of her colleagues. Uniquely on the commission, she would often vote with the majority after deeply questioning the proposals she would ultimately vote for. 

But her downfall, according to several sources, was her respect for Gene Poschman, appointed to the commission by the late Dona Spring and the panel’s resident policy wonk. 

“That’s interesting” was the only comment Moore offered when questioned about the assertion. 

Ferrazares did not return a reporter’s calls. 

Moore’s replacement, Teresa Clarke, and the addition of a second new member from the development industry give a strong majority to advocates of so-called “smart growth” that would add height and density to new construction downtown and along transportation corridors. 

At the same meeting where Clarke joined the commission, Victoria Eisen, a transportation planner, took the seat Susan Wengraf had held prior to her election to the City Council. 

Wengraf was not directly involved in the development industry, though she typically voted with the pro-intensified-development majority on key votes. 

Also rejoining the board at the same session Jan. 14 session was David Stoloff, the appointee of Mayor Tom Bates, initially appointed six years earlier. 

Stoloff is a retired planner and development specialist, as well as a founding member and until recently a board member of Clarke’s employer, Affordable Housing Associates, where she holds the title of Senior Design & Construction Manager. 

With two architects on the board—the two James, Samuels and Novosel—and land-use lawyer Harry Pollack, that leaves only Merritt College math prof Larry Gurley, private investigator Patti Dacey and retired professor and former legislative aide Gene Poschman as the board’s only non-development types. 

Gurley, who rarely speaks at meetings and typically arrives fifteen minutes late, is a reliable pro-development vote. 

Dacey herself has once been ousted from a commission seat.  

An appointee of long-time councilmember Maudelle Shirek to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, she was ousted by Shirek’s successor, Max Anderson. Councilmember Kriss Worthington soon named her as his pick for the Planning Commission shortly after Samuels had also moved from Landmarks to Planning. 

Clarke’s former boss at AHA, Ali Kashani, is now in the private development business, partnered with Mark Rhodes, the city’s former manager of land use planning. Rhoades’ spouse, Erin Banks, the executive director of “smart growth” advocacy group Livable Berkeley, has filled in on the Planning Commission during member vacancies. 

Ferrazares is office manager for the dean’s office at UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Sciences, the largest department at the university.