Before Planning Commission this Wednesday
• Planning Dept. Changes Process - Marginalizes
Please Attend this Wednesday's
Planning Commission Meeting
7 PM, January 28th, 2009
North Berkeley Senior Center, NE corner - Hearst & MLK
This is the ONLY item on the agenda and should not be a late meeting,
but please come on time
WEBAIC has been committed to not asking our constituency and supporters
to come out unless a critical need to publicly address an issue of
immediate and significant importance to the viability of the industrial
and arts communities in West Berkeley was upon us. That time has
arrived - this coming Wednesday at the Berkeley Planning Commission
WEBAIC seeks a balanced approach to the need for reasonable change in
zoning policies to accommodate new, green industrial technologies while
at the same time maintaining an economically productive and societally
just land use policy that provides needed goods and services to the
population, living wage jobs for those without advanced education
(including green-collar jobs), opportunities for culturally enriching
arts activities, and a steady, historically reliable source of revenue
to the City.
WEBAIC has received a revised staff report for the January 28th
Planning Commission meeting that contains good news and bad. The
nominal good news is that staff has raised their one-acre threshold for
application of the Master Use Permit to two acres. The bad news has
1. Although staff is recommending the Planning Commission direct them
to bring the Master Use Permit back to the stakeholders after this
meeting, they have not committed to returning to the authentic, agreed
upon stakeholder process for the rest of the West Berkeley Project.
Only through a process with meaningful community input, especially by
those most intimately familiar with and directly affected by the
policies being created, can a truly democratic and successful policy
result be achieved. Therefore, WEBAIC's position is that:
• The Planning Commission direct staff to return to the democratic,
agreed-upon, and efficacious stakeholder process.
2. Although staff has changed the threshold at which a Master Use
Permit can be applied to a project from one acre to two acres, this
proposed application would still apply to approximately 48% of all
commercial property in the targeted MULI, MM, and M zones. Depending on
how "parcels" are defined, this application could grow to well over 50%
of all commercial property. Given that the central feature of the
Master Use Permit is its expansion of allowable uses (to office, R
& D lab, and possibly retail and housing) on industrial sites, this
permit should be applied to Planning staff's original limited number of
five targeted sites in order to have the least negative effect on the
present and future viability of industry and arts in West Berkeley.
Application of the MUP at two acres would likely result over in time in
the dislocation of major portions of the industrial and artisan/arts
businesses and jobs in West Berkeley.
Therefore, WEBAIC's position is that:
• The Planning Commission direct staff to raise the Master Use Permit
application threshold to at least three acres in order to match
application of the MUP to the five large sites originally identified by
staff as "underutilized" and targeted for development.
This represents an appropriate and reasoned response to the effort to
balance the need for new space dedicated to clean industrial
technologies with the maintenance of an economically productive and
societally just land use policy that provides needed goods and
services, living wage jobs for those without advanced education
(including green-collar jobs), and a steady, reliable source of revenue
to the City. The consequences of the application of the proposed
two-acre threshold would be of such a magnitude as cause this action to
be in violation of key Goals, Policies, and Implementation Measures of
the West Berkeley Plan.
3. A new provision has been added to the MUP in the latest staff report
that, if our interpretation is correct, would allow for the location of
significant amounts of retail and residential housing deep into the
MULI, MM, and even M zones. It appears, depending on how "parcel" is
defined, that this new provision would allow any project that had any
piece of its property in a C-W (Commercial West Berkeley -San Pablo,
Ashby, etc.) or MUR zone to be allowed to incorporate any of those
zone's allowable uses, i.e. retail and residential, into the parts of
their projects within the MULI, MM and M zones. Allowing retail and
strictly residential uses into these industrial areas would be
enormously destabilizing to existing and future industrial and
artisan/arts uses and would create precisely the extreme land use
incompatibilities the West Berkeley Plan was intended to prevent. As
well as violating numerous West Berkeley Plan Goals and Policies this
also violates staff's pledge, both verbally and in numerous documents,
to NOT allow housing into the three targeted industrial zones.
Therefore WEBAIC's position is that:
• The Planning Commission should direct staff to clarify that section
4. C Flexibility in Uses, would not permit the retail and residential
uses allowed in the C-W district or the residential uses allowed MUR
district to be allowable uses in the MULI, MM, or M zones.
Once again, the complexity of these issues should not deter anyone from
speaking their mind before the Planning Commission. The proposed zoning
changes, applied on the scale proposed, would over time have a
tremendously negative effect on the existence of industry and arts in
West Berkeley and ultimately result in our community losing a great
part of its ethnic, economic, and cultural diversity and richness. It's
also important to remember that these proposed changes are only a part
of what the Planning Department will bring before us in the next few
months. Policies that abrade and possibly remove industrial and arts
protections on all sites below the MUP threshold are coming down the
pike. For now the simple message is that:
1. The Master Use Permit should have a threshold of three acres to
target the five originally identified "development" sites. A lower
threshold would greatly facilitate the displacement of present and
future industrial and arts uses, in contraindication to the social and
economic good and in violation of key Goals and Policies of the West
2. Staff needs to return to the democratic, agreed-upon, successful
stakeholder process in order to achieve a viable and successful policy
result with long-term community buy-in.
3. The allowance of C-W (Commercial West Berkeley) retail and
residential uses & MUR (Mixed-Use Residential) residential uses in
the MULI, MM, and M zones are unacceptable and in violation of the West
Berkeley Plan. Over time this will result in massive dislocation of
industrial and artisan/arts uses.
ADDITIONAL ISSUES OF IMPORTANCE:
• Staff is proposing that on sites subject to the
Master Use Permit any use allowed in the MULI, MM, and M zones be
allowed on the project site, no matter which zone the site is in.
Staff's exact directive, under 4.C Flexibility in Uses, is to "Consider
uses allowed in any of the three manufacturing districts (M, MM, MULI)."
Besides ignoring the specific Purposes of the
different zones, resulting among other things in the allowance of
prohibited non-manufacturing-related office use in the M zone, this
proposal is asking us to sign off on "allowable uses" before those uses
have been decided upon within this process. Staff proposes to address
the question of what are "allowable uses" in these three zones in the
next phase of the process, not now.
Therefore, since the determination of what the
"allowed uses" in these zones has not yet been addressed in this
process, we can't possibly agree or disagree to "Consider uses allowed
in any of the three manufacturing districts (M, MM, MULI)" when we have
no clear idea of what these uses WILL be.
• On the issue of stakeholder process, staff
declared in their staff report that "During the most recent round of
stakeholder meetings (January), participants had an opportunity to
discuss and comment on the initial MUP concept. WEBAIC does NOT
consider receiving the MUP staff report (on arguably the most important
and far-reaching issue in terms of its effect on the future of industry
and the arts in West Berkeley) at 5:00 on Friday afternoon for a
Tuesday stakeholder meeting to be anything approaching sufficient time
to disseminate said report to a constituency of thousands, analyze its
concepts and consequences, receive, digest, and incorporate feedback,
and formulate a coherent position all by the Tuesday afternoon
stakeholder meeting. WEBAIC does NOT consider this anything close to
"an opportunity to discuss and comment on the initial MUP concept."
• The staff report's first listed Purpose for the
Master Use Permit is: 1. Revitalize and protect the three industrial
districts (M, MM, MULI), with strong emphasis on manufacturing,
warehouse, wholesale, and material recovery use.
In contrast to this Purpose, Under 4.c. Flexibility in Uses, the third
point is: Allow replacement of manufacturing, warehouse, wholesale, or
material-recovery activities (current or past) with “other allowed
industrial uses”. It isn't clarified exactly what the "other"
industrial uses are, except a clue can be found in another Purpose 4 of
the MUP which states: Focus on new clean, diverse, and environmentally
beneficial industrial activities. These activities have previously been
described to WEBAIC as essentially university-related R & D lab
There should undoubtedly be more space alloted in
West Berkeley for these uses, but it's a serious question as to why the
MUP process seeks to make available literally millions of square feet
for what the LBL official responsible for these activities described to
WEBAIC as a small number of entities requiring a small amount of space
and employing a small amount of employees, most with PhDs.
This issue is further clarified by the provision
"Consider uses allowed in any of the three manufacturing districts"
which would allow office uses in the M zone where they're prohibited
and in the MM where they're prohibited from occupying ground floor
space (in order to preserve such space for manufacturing, wholesaling,
warehousing, and MRE).
Add to this the likely allowing of retail and
residential, and what you actually end up with are millions of square
feet being made available for condos and office parks. Are those the
things we want to sacrifice our industry and arts for?
• A part of last week's staff report that was
missing from this week's staff report is the section: "Support job
training program (possibly including a training center or school
affiliations) focused on creating living wage jobs for Berkeley
residents." It's been replaced by: ."Support current (and evolving)
regional job training opportunities for Berkeley residents." Gone is
Berkeley's commitment to creating new Berkeley job training programs or
supporting their existing ones and the pesky reference to "living wage
jobs" seems to have taken an extended vacation to an unknown
Also, "Preserve" artisan space has been replaced by "protect". It
appears that the meaning of "Preserve" might have been a little too
precise and would have actually required specific proactive policies.
There has been a deemphasizing of staff "negotiating" the benefits from
the projects in the new document. If the "benefits" have no standards
and aren't spelled out, cities tend to give away the store to those
developers with the most economic power and connections.