Planning Commission Tackles West Berkeley

By Richard Brenneman
Monday January 26, 2009 - 05:21:00 PM

Planning commissioners have a single topic on Wednesday night’s agenda: their ongoing effort to implement a City Council directive to create more flexibility in West Berkeley’s zoning rules. 

Developers and property owners have been seeking changes in the zoning rules to eliminate what they say are obstacles to effective use of property in the only area of the city where manufacturing and light industry are permitted. 

One push from developers is for a revision of city regulations governing master use permit (MUPs), and city planning staff is proposing a revised process that would allow the Zoning Adjustments Board to modify existing permitted uses and development standards on sites of two or more acres in exchange for benefits to the city. 

The proposal also includes a developer-requested change that would allow sites governed by an MUP to be developed sequentially rather than all at once. 

While the process was renamed from the original title of West Berkeley Flexibility because of concerns raised among some stakeholders, the concept is present through the staff MUP proposals. 

Among areas where increased flexibility is proposed are: 

• Off-street parking requirements, up to a full waiver of any on-site parking slots. 

• Expansion of existing height and floor area ratios. 

• Reduction of existing mandatory setbacks from adjacent residential properties. 

• Expansion of permitted uses in districts zoned only for manufacturing. 

• Allowing more uses on sites that cross boundary lines between existing zoning districts. 

• Permitting the substitution of uses on sites now zoned for manufacturing, warehouse, wholesale or recycling businesses. 

• Allowing an accelerated design review process for some projects. Planning staff has been developing proposals in meetings with three groups of stakeholders: members of West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies (WEBAIC), a separate group of developers and property owners , and the West Berkeley Project Area Committee. 

Wednesday night’s meeting begins at seven in the North Berkeley Senior Century, 1901 Hearst Ave.