September 22, 2008
West Berkeley Rezoning Effort in Home Stretch:
• October 22 Planning Commission Meeting on Rezoning Proposals
• Critical Public Participation Phase Starts • Your Voice is Needed
•WEBAIC & Planning Staff holding last stakeholder meetings
The Planning Department has begun their projected final stage of the "West Berkeley Project" rezoning effort (formerly "Flexibility"). Over the next several months this critical phase will consist of:
• Final Planning staff meetings with stakeholders to present their rezoning proposals in response to "obstacles to development;"
• October 22 Planning Commission meeting where staff presents rezoning proposals (public encouraged to comment);
• Public Workshop held by Planning Commission to solicit broad public opinion on the rezoning proposals;
• Staff converts the rezoning proposals into zoning code language for incorporation into the zoning ordinance;
• Planning Commission public hearing (with vote to be taken) on final code-appropriate rezoning proposals;
• City Council public hearing (with vote to be taken) on final Planning Commission-passed rezoning proposals.
The upcoming meetings, workshops, and hearings will address concerns of vital importance to the future of industry and arts in West Berkeley. Your voice can impact the final policies that will affect the viability of our enterprises and sectors for decades to come.
Up to this point, WEBAIC members have been working to represent the perspective of industry and the arts before the Planning Commission and in stakeholder meetings with staff. This process has resulted in several welcome, positive developments: expanded opportunities for community input; slowing the process to allow a more comprehensive consideration; staff's official commitment to adhere to the West Berkeley Plan's Goals and Policies; and serious consideration of WEBAIC's proposals along with staff's. But we have yet to see any significant change in the substance of staff's proposals-in-concept.
The document governing zoning policy in West Berkeley, the West Berkeley Plan, provides for a mixed-use economy by maintaining a balance among all sectors and uses. This beneficial balance is largely maintained by protective zoning mechanisms crafted to ensure that a reasonable amount of space is available to industry and arts. From early in the process until the present, staff has floated conceptual proposals that would upend this balance by forcing industrial and arts uses to compete head-to-head for space with highly capitalized R&D labs uses, office, and retail. An additional proposal to create a Master Use Permit Process that would essentially void existing zoning (and its industrial/arts protections) has also never been officially taken off the table. Staff's actual proposals will finally be presented in a stakeholder meeting with WEBAIC in the first week of October, after which we'll send out a newsletter describing them and their ramifications in detail. Two years of meetings and analysis lead us to expect that the final proposals will contain provisions that would weaken industrial and arts protections and undermine the ability of many West Berkeley industrial and arts enterprises to survive, much less thrive.
The future health of our communities are at stake. Please consider adding your voice to the decision-making process
Time for All Our Voices To Be Heard
In this final decision-making phase, the City needs to hear directly from you, the hundreds of industrial and arts enterprises who will be most affected by the proposed policy changes. The first opportunity for this public input is October 22nd at the Planning Commission's 7PM meeting at the North Berkeley Senior Center (corner of Hearst & MLK). The upcoming meetings offer the only opportunities for your voice to be heard and directly influence the decisions that will affect your business for the coming decades. Until now, WEBAIC has served its proper representative function, having been acknowledged by the City as the legitimate voice for our constituencies, but now is the time for you to speak directly.
How the industrial and artistic communities weigh in at these upcoming meetings—and in what numbers—will be key to determining the outcome of this process. The importance of your participation can't be overstated. You could describe your enterprise and its valuable contributions to Berkeley's economy, environment, equity, and culture. You could include your economic and social/cultural links to other Berkeley enterprises; who are your suppliers, end users, customers: what economists call multipliers. This interconnected community of enterprises is an essential part of what makes West Berkeley work. But it is not often seen. Making it visible can go a long way toward helping the City decision makers understand the value of what we have down here.
Where we are now
In the last several weeks WEBAIC steering committee members have also met with Councilmembers Linda Maio, Max Anderson, and Darryl Moore, to discuss the issues, make the case for industry and the arts, and clarify the bottom-line importance of supportive zoning policies for these enterprises and their jobs.
Our "stakeholder" meeting with Planning staff included real estate brokers Norheim and Yost, who are in agreement with WEBAIC on a number of major land use issues. Together we've co-authored and put before the Planning Commission a proposal of relatively simple zoning changes to facilitate intelligent and productive development without threatening industry or arts. Up for discussion at the last stakeholder meeting were staff's list of "obstacles to development" and possible "solutions ." They list twelve categories and twenty-nine sub-categories. That makes for a lot of homework for WEBAIC, but it's the only way we can pass this course.
Staff is also holding "stakeholder" meetings with a group of large landowners and developers, and with the West Berkeley Project Area Committee, which oversees the City's Fourth St. redevelopment area. WEBAIC has suggested the three stakeholder groups be brought together before the upcoming workshop/hearing stage. These proposed meetings have the potential to head off unnecessary conflict and hopefully benefit all parties through exploration of common ground and constructive compromise. These meetings could invoke the spirit and process of the successful West Berkeley Plan effort where all parties bought into a final, positive result because they had the chance to engage on differences, understand each other's perspectives/needs, and work together toward common solutions.
While looking forward to the opportunity to engage in cooperative negotiations, WEBAIC understands our success at the bargaining table is directly related to the strength of the voices of our constituency. The large landowners and developer stakeholder group (including a tiny minority of West Berkeley property owners who tried to impose their Community Benefits District—CBD—and its assessment/taxes on hundreds of smaller property owners, business owners, business renters, and residents) is motivated and active in making sure their interests are being heard loud and clear. The time has now come when the many diverse voices of West Berkeley's industrial and arts enterprises need to be heard by those who will be making the decisions that will largely determine the long term viability of industry and the working arts in our town. In this coming together we have the best chance of being able to say for a long time to come, that...
West Berkeley Works!
West Berkeley Works!
WEBAIC • firstname.lastname@example.org • 510-549-3213
Helps the public understand West Berkeley industries' contributions to the community;
Helps businesses maintain and increase their contributions to Berkeley's economy and cultural richness, including how to adopt sustainable practices;
Serves as a liaison between WeBAIC's members, the community, and local government;
Promotes the development of sustainable industries as envisioned in the West Berkeley Plan.