WEBAIC Newsletter

January 14, 2011


City Council Public Hearing
on West Berkeley Project Projected for Jan 25th

Council To Take Comment/Deliberate on Rezoning Proposals Referred by Planning Commission

Please BE Ready to Attend

To Support a Workable and Livable Future for West Berkeley & Our City
Extreme Fast-Tracking of Public Hearing and Rush To Judgment on West Berkeley Project
Inadequate Noticing and Outreach to Community Should Point To Public Hearing at Later Date

The City of Berkeley has noticed a Public Hearing on the West Berkeley Project before the City Council on January 25th.  If held on the 25th, this hearing will take place at 7pm at City Council chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Even with this notice, it will not be certain whether this Public Hearing is officially “on” until the Council’s agenda committee meets this coming Tuesday the 18th to approve/disapprove of the hearing date.  This timing represents a completely inadequate one week “true” notice for a Public Hearing to address Planning Commission referred changes to the West Berkeley Plan and zoning that comprise the most important and far-reaching changes to land use possibly in the entire City and certainly within West Berkeley in likely a lifetime.

While the noticing in timing and form is inadequate (the “courtesy” notices sent out to email lists today didn’t give the address of where the hearing would take place), it is worth noting that although the West Berkeley Project process has been ongoing for three years, unlike the West Berkeley Plan process, to our knowledge there has never been a notice sent by the City to all West Berkeley businesses, residents, and institutions alerting them to the fact that this rezoning process that would reshape West Berkeley and affect their lives and livelihoods for decades to come was taking place. 

The above-noted lack of public outreach and inadequate noticing added to the fact that WEBAIC was last told by the City that this Public Hearing would likely take place in March results in what we consider to be a seriously inadequate manner in which to conduct the final decision-making process on issues of great import to our citizenry, economy, equity, and environment.  We would hope that a City process that thus far did not take adequate steps to proactively include affected businesses and residents would take great pains in this final stage to go the extra mile to assure that all are timely noticed and have a proper opportunity to participate in decisions that will affect them and their families. 

The extremely unusual circumstance of holding a 5:30 Workshop at Council on critical City-wide issues that will be addressed at a Public Hearing on the same evening does not meet this standard.  The purpose of this type of Workshop is to familiarize Council with the extremely complex issues at hand and to give them adequate time to consider their complexities before the Public Hearing normally held at a later date.

Therefore, WEBAIC respectfully requests that the City hold the West Berkeley Project public hearing not on the same night as the Workshop in order to give Council adequate time to consider the issues at hand and to allow the citizenry adequate time to prepare for and to be able to attend the public hearing.

WEBAIC requests that all citizenry be prepared to attend the potential public hearing on the 25th and we will do our absolute best to keep you appraised as to developments on this topic.

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Underpinning the West Berkeley Plan and the zoning implementing it are the industrial and arts protection policies that assure that these sectors and their important activities and employment remain a robust part of the West Berkeley economy. The Planning Commission has referred to the Council several proposals to change both the zoning and the West Berkeley Plan (as part of the City’s General Plan) that seriously undermine various industrial protection policies (that will also negatively affect the arts).  WEBAIC requests that you attend the meeting on the 25th if it takes place and support the following WEBAIC positions:


1.) Support the WEBAIC Compromise Cap Proposal on Wholesale Trade/Warehouse space – No to opening up ALL protected Wholesale Trade/Warehouse space.  WEBAIC’s proposal opens up 100,000 sq ft of protected Wholesale Trade/Warehouse Space to R&D, not all protected Wholesale Trade/Warehouse space in the MULI and MM Zones.

The Planning Commission is proposing opening up the industrial protections on ALL WHOLESALE TRADE & WAREHOUSE SPACE in the MULI and MM Zones to R&D uses. The approximately 50 West Berkeley Wholesale Trade & Warehouse companies and their 1100+ jobs are a key component of West Berkeley's successful mixed-use economy, providing valuable goods and services, revenue, and good paying jobs to the significant portion of our population without a college education. A Metropolitan Transportation Commission study reveals that forcing these companies out of the area will have significant negative consequences to the Bay's environment, economy, and equity.

WEBAIC has already agreed with the City to give six Master Use Permits for large sites over the next 10 years, with the industrially protected land on these sites allowed to be used for R&D.  This greenlights several million sq ft for R&D.  This sq footage added to the 25% of all existing industrially protected space now allowed to be converted to R&D, plus the large percentage of never-protected West Berkeley property (available for R&D) reveal the vast amount of land (several million sq ft) that R&D can occupy and demonstrates the unnecessary and destructive nature of the Planning Commission’s proposal.

2.) No to Allowing Residential Housing in the Manufacturing Zones (M, MM, MULI): 
The Planning Commission has proposed allowing residences to be located in the industrially zoned portions of Master Use Permit sites.  Intentionally placing housing and industry in close proximity to each other is the poorest of public policies, encouraging contentious civic relationships, legal conflicts and the ultimate loss of industrial activity and jobs.  Unequivocally prohibited by both the West Berkeley Plan and the West Berkeley Project Draft Environmental Impact Report, it is both terrible public policy and legally indefensible. 
 
3.) No Office Parks in the Manufacturing (M) Zone:
Staff has stated that allowing office parks in the M Zone is not their intention, yet their present proposals permit it.  Like the disallowance of housing, offices are prohibited in the Manufacturing (M) Zone and by the West Berkeley Project Draft Environmental Impact Report. Office uses, except associated with industry, are incompatible with, and extremely destabilizing to industry in the M Zone

4.)  Yes to Six Master Use Permits in Ten Years – No to the unlimited potential expansion of the Master Use Permit.  
WEBAIC has agreed with the City to allow six Master Use Permits in the next ten years, which would greenlight several million square feet of new development.  In order to retain the West Berkeley Plan’s intended balance between uses, the application of these MUP permits should be limited to the property the applicant owns at the time of their MUP application so there is no unlimited applicability. This allows the MUP approval process to properly focus its examination on the site as it exists at the time of approval. Additionally, beyond the four acre threshold now agreed to for an MUP, the City has proposed that ALL single blocks under one ownership be eligible for the MUP.  This has no precedent in the West Berkeley Plan and is an unacceptable and extreme expansion of the permit.
   
5.) Maintain Existing Height & Density Standards: 
No justification has been given for the extreme expansion of allowable heights and densities in staff proposals.  Simply greater profit does not justify the projected degradation of the workability and livability of the existing environment.  These heights and densities facilitate office and residential towers that create extreme land value differentials that only encourage the further loss of industrial and arts activities and jobs.



West Berkeley Works!