Planners to Vote on Subdividing in West Berkeley

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 16, 2009 - 10:56:00 AM

Planning commissioners will take up controversial zoning code changes for West Berkeley when they hold their last session before the August break on July 22. 

The panel, working with city staff, is hammering out a package of measures aimed at easing rules for larger developments in the city’s only industrial and manufacturing district in response to a City Council directive spearheaded by Mayor Tom Bates. 

The last July meeting will take up four items. 

Three proposals have stirred little controversy: Changes in zoning to allow small retail outlets for products on the same sites where they are manufactured, clarification of the existing code to allow reallocation of permitted uses within a site; and a switch from an outmoded list of industrial codes to a more contemporary version. 

The fourth item has generated some controversy, and commissioners will be presented with two competing proposals to demising—plannerese for subdividing—space within a site into more separate units. 

A joint proposal comes from commercial brokers Norheim & Yost and members of West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies (WEBAIC). A second proposal comes from city planning staff. 

They key differences between the two versions lie in the amount of discretion allowed city staff in granting permits. 

The joint proposal would allow any property to be divided into two to five spaces with an over-the-counter zoning certificate (ZC), subdivision into six to nine space with a staff-issued administrative use permit (AUP), and breakdown into ten or more spaces only with a full use permit ,which requires a public hearing before the Zoning Adjustments Board. 

The staff alternative would grant all three types of subdivision with an AUP. 

Commissioners will also schedule a public hearing on rules for creating columbaria in the city. 

The commission’s earlier language flunked the constitutional test because it allowed ashes to be interred only on church property, leaving atheists and agnostics without a venue for the “cremains.” 

Following threats of legal action from the American Atheist Association and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the city opted to send the law back to commissioners with the charge of drawing up a more secular ordinance. 

The last item on the agenda is a vote on whether or not to approve a revised tract map for 2025 Channing Way, where commissioners had approved a 30-unit condominium project three years ago. 

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