Dear Mr. Moore: I am an architect residing in your district in Berkeley, as is my wife and business partner. I have had occasion to work with you and Mr. Lau in regard to the BUSD's ill-fated plans for the Adult School site, and (with your important support) in turning that project around, creating a much better outcome for all concerned.
In the course of our architectural work in Berkeley, we have had occasions that have required difficult design compromises and design revisions on our projects due to capricious and vague "interpretations" and decisions by the Zoning department, and have been told to "forget about it" when considering a ZAB application for a minor variance on some issue or other.
With this in mind, I call your attention to the article which I assume you have seen by now. This is a really important issue for the people of Berkeley. If a Council member's aide and ZAB Commissioner is allowed to "get away" with this egregious violation of both Zoning and Building Department rules, the entire rule of law is undercut in the City. I find it very difficult in my work with the firm's clients to consistently support to them the importance of going through the often risky and certainly expensive, time consuming, and difficult process of obtaining permits and following Zoning rules.
Mr. Lau and his colleagues on the ZAB would never let one of my clients do what he has done. The elimination of a garage itself would be impossible to get permission to do without an AUP, not to mention the property line setback violation, possible lot coverage issues, non-payment of AUP Zoning or Building Department fees, lack of building inspections, lack of sewer lateral paperwork or inspection or replacement, avoidance of property tax increase (another cost to the City of Berkeley), lack of "green building" meeting, etc. The list goes on.
However much I appreciate his efforts as your assistant I must insist that you and the other elected members of Berkeley make sure that Mr. Lau go through all the proper steps for his project before any further work commences. This would begin with the familiar "red tag" to stop construction, a step that should be taken today, as the violation is clear and obvious. There will then be an AUP hearing (because there will be objections) for the setback and parking issues, and a public hearing. At the end, Mr. Lau may be able to commence completion of the work just as planned. Alternately, he must face the same prospect as all of us in the City: He might have to tear down this illegal construction.
Nothing less is required by Berkeley law and your own ethical standards. I would appreciate a response from you on this matter.
Thomas J. Towey, CEO LEED AP