After directing staff to return on July 10th with language to place the Master Use Permit section of the West Berkeley Project before the entire city on the November ballot, Council is set to vote on the issue this coming Tuesday. The MUP provisions in all their myriad detail will be on the ballot, but the simple, summary title of the measure (what most people will likely read) states: “Shall an ordinance adopting amendments to the West Berkeley Plan and the Zoning Ordinance to allow additional development flexibility and heights up to 75’ in some areas on a limited number of large sites in West Berkeley, conditioned on community benefits for West Berkeley such as Aquatic Park improvements, open space, affordable artist work space and employment programs and providing for further protections with respect to development adjacent to Aquatic Park, be adopted? YES or NO.”
By placing the MUP on the ballot, Council members supporting this action pre-empt a possible citizen referendum, assure the issue will be decided in the next 6 months, and are able to frame the issue, as seen in the above ballot description. As part of the same item on the 10th, Council will also vote on whether to adopt the MUP Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) and send the issues of Community Benefits, Aquatic Park MUP provisions, and MUP site aggregation back to the Planning Commission. The pdf with the full text of the MUP provisions being placed on the ballot can be downloaded here.
Important Questions For The Council, the Citizenry, and WEBAIC
WEBAIC has historically refrained from taking positions on electoral matters. Thus far during WEBAIC's existence there has never been a ballot item so directly affecting the zoning of West Berkeley's industrial districts, the habitat upon which our members and constituency depend - the land base WEBAIC's is pleged to maintain in its mission statement. Beyond this issue is the question of what is an effective public policy process that can lead to a successful outcome. If stakeholders haven't been notified of a process directly affecting them, thus denying them the ability to reasonably participate in decisions affecting their lives and property, is that process legitimate and can it claim a legitimate result, especially when significant sectors strongly object to its conclusions? And is it proper to let the entire citizenry decide extremely complicated matters of zoning (hard enought for those deeply involved to understand) that will have relatively minor effects on them, but can have enormous effects on those living and working in West Berkeley, especially when an alternative exists to create concensus by continuing the process with those who had been unaware of it now included?
These are questions all of us must attempt to answer as we go forward.
Proposed West Berkeley Plan Amendments:
Two amendments proposed: 1.) Allows sites comprising a full city block under one ownership as of August 1, 2011 to be eligible to become an MUP. Presently the West Berkeley Plan limits MUPs to sites of 5 acres or larger. 2.) Removes density standard of one unit per 1,250 square feet for MU-R property as part of an MUP. The proposed, new residential density standard is the same as San Pablo Avenue’s standard.
Proposed Master Use Permit Development Standard Provisions:
Ownership Requirements To Qualify For An MUP: ''...parcels shall be considered to be in the “same ownership” if the same person or entity has a greater than 50% ownership of each parcel.”
Since the inception of the West Berkeley Project WEBAIC has been working to have the irrational proposal allowing the possibility of a development of hundreds of thousands to millions of square feet to provide no parking. This proposal was finally removed at the last Council meeting and replaced with a proposal to allow a reduction of off-street parking requirements of up to 50%.
There would be a site-wide average height limitation not to exceed 50 feet. except the height limits would not change on San Pablo, Ashby, or University. MUR heights for property on an MUP could go to 45’ (present limit is 35’) but residential would be subject to a state density bonus allowance that could bring heights to 55-60’. An average height of 50’ on an MUP appears to green light as many as 25-30 towers (almost all potential MUPs are between University and Ashby) near the height of the Fantasy Building (90’). As the MUP height limit is 75’ and allows for screened “penthouses” for equipment on roofs – typically 6-15’ – buildings could present as nearly 90’. This potential result is hard to read as the intent of the West Berkeley Plan’s Large Site Development Section (upon which the MUP depends). This section states that there are a “few” large sites over 5 acres that “may require modification of the uses and development standards” in order to create a “feasible” project.
75% of MUPs could be buildings and parking structures would count for lot coverage.
Residential Uses On MUPs:
Residential uses would not be allowed in MULI, MM, or M industrial districts on MUPs but would be allowed where presently permissible and encouraged – in the Mixed Use Residential District (MUR). WEBAIC strongly supports with this policy.
Permissible Alterations of Development Standards and Permitted Uses – Industrially-Protected Space On MUPs For Industrial And R&D), NOT For Office, Retail, or Residential Use:
As part of WEBAIC’s negotiations to maintain robust industrial and artisan sectors while allowing for a reasonable expansion of R&D, WEBAIC agreed that industrially protected space on MUPs could be allowed to be utilized by “Other Industrial” sectors, including R&D. This is reflected in the MUP provision for “The replacement of Manufacturing, Warehouse, Wholesale, or Material-Recovery activities with Other Industrial uses permitted in any of the zoning districts in which the subject property is located.” It should be understood by Council and staff that this provision was intended to relate to existing “protected space” on MUPs, not just to the replacement of protected “activities”. Thus, space that has been used by Manufacturing, Warehouse, Wholesale, or Material-Recovery activities as of 1996 is under the industrial protections and must be utilized by either these uses of “Other Industrial” uses (including R&D), but is not to be used for office, retail, or residential use.
Allowable Percentage Variations of Uses On MUPs:
As written, a zoning officer could OK the change of use on an MUP from it’s original permit of up to 24.99% with an Administrative Use Permit (AUP). From 25% and above a Use Permit Hearing would be required. With MUPs potentially having over a million square feet on them, changing 24.99% appears to be an enormous amount of discretion to allow with a simple AUP.
MULI Uses Not Allowed On An MUR Portion Of An MUP:
Construction products manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, testing and commercial biological research laboratories.
Referrals Back To The Planning Commission:
Referring the following items back to the Planning Commission for further consideration is scheduled to be voted on by Council on the 10th.
Proposed Community Benefits:
The proposal before Council would require any MUP to provide at least one of the following community benefits that deal with either: affordable artist workspace; transportation demand management measures or funds for such; job training for low-income Berkeley residents; affordable work force housing in West Berkeley or funds for such; contribution to environmental improvements at Aquatic Park or other measures to improve West Berkeley environmental quality; payment of prevailing wages for all MUP construction work; providing publicly accessible open space on the MUP; providing space or support for affordable child care for qualifying families; requiring local sourcing of building materials to the extent feasible (WEBAIC suggestion); or providing benefits or funds for furthering goals of the West Berkeley Plan.
The last potential benefit (furthering WB Plan goals) appears overly broad. Plan goals speak to all activity in West Berkeley, some of which require assistance for success, some of which do not. An extreme example that might fulfill this ‘benefit” requirement would be to provide financial assistance or reduced rent to locate Wal-Mart in West Berkeley. an action potentially falling under Economic Development Goal 2, to “Support the growth of regionally oriented retail trade in West Berkeley...”. The intent of the WB Plan can only be understood through an awareness of how the Plan’s Goals were created to work together to achieve a balanced, mixed use economy, where no sector totally dominates and sectors and jobs not “supported” by the market (that could easily be displaced) are encouraged and protected to assure West Berkeley’s continued economic and ethnic diversity. The final, potential benefit (#10 in the staff document) should provide more specific direction.
Additional Referrals Under Community Benefits:
1. a formula for determining the value of community benefits that will be required; 2. a process under which applicants for MUPs are required to demonstrate meaningful attempts to meet and consult with the affected community prior to filing an application; and 3. mechanisms for ensuring that the affected community is involved in evaluation of the adequacy of any proposed community benefits, that community benefits inure primarily to the benefit of West Berkeley, and for overseeing provision of promised community benefits.
The Planning Commission is tasked with deciding “whether sites that were eligible to be MUPs as of August 1, 2011 should be allowed to increase in size, and if so to what extent and under what conditions.
Aquatic Park MUP Provision Referral To Planning Commission:
These provisions would deal with height limitations, floor area ratios (FAR), setbacks, controls on runoff and site drainage, mitigation measures to avoid or lessen shadowing of Aquatic Park, and protection of significant views of and from Aquatic Park.
7:00pm, July 10th, Council Chambers - 2134 MLK Way (between Center & Allston)