Public Comment

New: Berkeley City Council Reopens Master Use Permit (MUP) Public Hearing on Tuesday, Plans Vote On Modified MUP Proposals

Sunday June 10, 2012 - 10:31:00 PM

After new Master Use Permit provisions were put on the table at their last meeting, City Council voted to reopen the Master Use Permit Public Hearing on Tuesday, June 12th. The agenda states the intention to vote on the MUP on the 12th but it's unclear whether this will happen. Discussions continue between stakeholders and Council members and provisions continue to evolve into (hopefully) better versions. Whether improved provisions can be considered or must return to staff for another meeting is unclear at this point. What is clear is that public testimony will be taken, the Council will hold a discussion, and the presence of the public is as important as ever. West Berkeley is now the first item on the action agenda, but the extremely controversial proposal to put a prohibition against sidewalk sitting on the November ballot is also before Council Tuesday. A large crowd is also expected for this item and Council can switch agenda items. As we hear about scheduling we'll keep you posted. 

The Master Use Permit (MUP) Proposals – Simplified 

The last WEBAIC Newsletter contained a lot of technical MUP proposal information. The following is an attempt to describe them in plain language for the upcoming meeting:

• Community Benefits: Community Benefits are going back to the Planning Commission for a more thorough discussion that will include stakeholders not previously involved at that level, including the Alameda County Building & Construction Trades Council and Berkeley Organizing Congregations For Action (BOCA). These organizations and WEBAIC want more clearly defined benefits and public input on what benefits go where at the time of the initiation of an MUP permit. 

• MUP Development Standards • 

Master Use Permit sites can contain property in any West Berkeley industrial zones and appropriately, there are different proposed standards for what can take place on an MUP in these different zones.

MUP Development Standards for Commercial West Berkeley zone – C-W (San Pablo, Ashby, University):
There is no change proposed for development standards on C-W property that is part of an MUP.

A. Development Standards Applicable To Master Use Permit Property In Any Zone (Except C-W)
Parking Requirements: Staff is proposing full or partial reduction of off-street parking requirements for MUPs.

WEBAIC Comment: With West Berkeley’s industrial neighborhoods almost completely parked up it is irresponsible to propose full parking waivers for MUPs. Parking reduction is based on the laudable concept that people shouldn’t drive to work, but any reductions in required parking must be tied to methods proven in the real world. Part of the push for this provision is economic - the less parking required, the more buildable/leaseable square footage for developers. The goal should be environmental responsibility based on vision and common sense, not fantasy that can result in outcomes worse than existing conditions.

B. Development Standards For Master Use Permit Property In MULI, MM, & M Districts:

Height: The new MUP proposal for a 75’ height limit with an average of 50’ will allow over 50% of an MUP site to be 75’. This will create extreme land value differentials between MUPs and surrounding industrial properties, a factor acknowledged by the City to encourage the eventual displacement of industrial and artisan business. The shadowing from the combined mass of MUPs will negatively impact not only on residents and Aquatic Park, but the functioning of industrial and artisan businesses. The West Berkeley Project Environmental Impact Statement’s assertion that shadows have no effect on these businesses is ignorant, self-serving, and destructive of industrial/arts functionality, economic viability, and energy conservation efforts.

Setbacks: If a building in an MUP is across the street or abuts the backyard of Mixed Use Residential zone property that isn’t a part of the MUP, the building is required to be set back 5’ from the property line.

Floor Area Ratio (FAR): Existing = 2. Proposed = 3. FAR 3 means that on a 100,000 sq ft site 300,000 sq ft (or 3x) of building is permitted. This total is constrained by lot coverage and height limitations, setbacks, and open space requirements. It is important to note that parking structures are not counted in FAR. With a 75’ height limit, this would likely result in five floors of office being built on top of a two story parking structure, creating a large mass not reflected in the FAR limitations.

Lot Coverage & Open Space: Maximum lot coverage is proposed to be 75% with a minimum of 10% publicly accessible open space, not including surface parking.

D. Development Standards For Mixed Use Residential Zone (MUR) Property Contained In MUPs:

Height: The existing height limit in MUR is 35 feet. On the table is a proposal to raise this to 45' (Berkeley Bowl West is 40'). Residential projects would be eligible state density bonuses that would result in at least 55-60' heights.

Residential Density: The present 1 unit per 1250 sq ft standard is proposed to be changed to the C-W district standards governed by the state that only has a 160 square foot minimum per unit. An increase in residential on MUPs is worth considering but this proposal is extreme, particularly when combined with parking waivers.

Building Stepbacks: The MUR residents oppose heights above 35' in the MUR and WEBAIC supports their position. If heights above 35' in the MUR are ultimately approved, the proposal that they be stepped back at a 30 degree angle is positive.

E. Allowing Mixed Use Light Industrial Zone Uses In the Mixed Use Residential Zone On MUPs:

The proposal to continue the prohibition of construction products manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, testing and commercial biological research laboratories, and commercial excavation in the MUR is positive. R&D is now proposed to be allowed in the MUR. Strictly computer/office-based R&D poses no issues beyond that of already allowed offices. Non-office R&D uses should absolutely require a public hearing if locating in the MUR. MUR residents have a right to a public venue where the activities taking place and the substances being used in these facilities can be identified and commented on before location is approved.

F. Mixed Use Residential Zone Uses In The Mixed Use Light Industrial Zone On MUPs:

• Residential Uses: WEBAIC strongly supports the existing proposal that residential uses shall not be allowed in the industrial zoned portions of an MUP site where they’re not presently allowed.

G. Proposed New Master Use Permit Mitigation Measures:

Architectural Variation: Proposed language to promote “interesting visual character” is important and well intentioned. The will of adjudicating bodies at the time of permitting will determine the results of this language, a method with a questionable track record. The provision that “ No more than 25% of the area can be at a single height as part of a contiguous mass at that height.” doesn’t appear robust enough to accomplish it’s worthwhile goal.

Shadow Standard: The alternative shadow standard being considered – “A significant shadow is defined as one that blocks direct sunlight for more than two hours a day for more than two months of a year on any building or property that people would typically occupy” is an important improvement over the previously proposed standard – four hours a day for four months a year.

Solar Access: The new, proposed solar access standard states that MUP projects may not cast shadows that substantially impair the function of a building using passive solar heat collection, solar collectors for hot water heating, or photovoltaic solar collectors. This provision moves the MUP in the right direction on this issue.

Aquatic Park: The new proposals for setbacks and angled stepbacks for buildings are minor improvements but don't approach to the standards put forward by the Sierra Club, Citizens for East shore Parks, and Golden Gate Audubon Society for adequate Aquatic Park protections.

WEBAIC POSITIONS For 6/12 City Council Meeting  

• Support the MUP Provision Of No Housing In Industrial Zones
- Yes
To Keeping Mixed Use Light Industrial Zone (MULI) for “Makers & Recyclers”

• Support Robust and Defined Community Benefits As Put Forward By The
Alameda County Building & Construction Trades Council, WEBAIC, & Berkeley
Organizing Congregations For Action (BOCA)

• Support Maintaining Existing Heights On M aster Use Permit Sites

• Keep Mixed Use Residential Zone(MUR) Livable – No Expanded Heights, Public
Hearing for R&D in MUR.

- Preserve Livability, Minimize Shadowing, Maintain Solar Access, Maintain Views of Bay & Hills

• Aquatic Park: Support Sierra Club, Citizens for East shore Parks, and Golden
Gate Audubon Society Protections.