WEBAIC Newsletter

March 16, 2011

West Berkeley Project Rezoning
at City Council March 22nd

• Key Parking Waiver, R&D Definition, Other Issues To Be Addressed
 • No Master Use Permit or Industrial Protection Issues Projected for March 22nd

Please Attend If Possible -  If only able to attend the most critical meetings please attend upcoming (to be announced) MUP & Protected Uses meetings

NO Master Use Permit or Wholesale Trade/Warehouse Industrial Protection Issues Expected March 22nd: 
In discussion with both Planning Director Dan Marks and Mayor Tom Bates, WEBAIC staff was told that neither Master Use Permit (MUP) nor Protected Space issues would be addressed on the 22nd.  The Mayor expects these issues to be taken up separately at two upcoming meetings (date unknown).  The California Brown Act, intended to bring transparency to legislative operations, can’t preclude these issues from being addressed on the 22nd, but we’re moving forward on the assurance there will be no substantive discussion/action on them the 22nd. 

Important Issues Will Be Addressed at the March 22nd Council Meeting- Attend If You Have The Time:  Since the MUP and Protected Space proposals will have the greatest impact on industry and arts WEBAIC has been required to focus most of our energy there.  For this reason we are asking those who can only attend the most critical meetings to save your time for the upcoming meetings on MUPs and Protected Space.  That said, if you are able to attend on the 22nd please do.   It’s important throughout this entire final hearing stage to maintain a strong presence at Council and proposals on the 22nd agenda will have far-reaching consequences and deserve a much more serious examination than they’ve received thus far.

WEBAIC Positions on Proposals for 22nd:  With the staff report for the 22nd yet to be released, the following is WEBAIC’s best understanding as to the important issues (for industry/arts) to be addressed  the 22nd.

1.) No To Proposed Parking Waivers
2.) Maintain Proposed Definition of Research & Development (Requiring  Industrial Component): 
3.) Over the Counter Zoning Certificates (ZC) for Arts & Crafts and Contractor Uses:
4.) Make Performing Arts & Instruction (Dance, Music, Theater) allowable uses in the MULI/MM.

1.) No To Proposed Parking Waivers: The proposal to allow parking waivers for expansion of existing buildings and changes of use (including conversions of protected space) to more intensive uses makes little sense while parking is already difficult to severe throughout West Berkeley.  With new uses (R&D/Office) projected to have significantly more people per square foot than the industrial uses they’re projected to displace, maintaining existing parking requirements and implementing Traffic Demand Management (TDM) efforts offer the only possibility of keeping the already difficult West Berkeley parking situation from getting much worse.  The ability of employees, customers, and suppliers to find parking is essential to the health of West Berkeley’s economy.  The expected greater number of cars combined with the proposed less parking (waivers) will not only choke business but further choke the surrounding residential areas.

With Bayer spending up to a half a million dollars a year on TDM efforts, fully 70-80% of employees still drive alone to work.  Even with this consistently large expenditure, TDM clearly hasn’t demonstrated the ability to significantly reduce the need for parking.  Not being able to devote anywhere near the resources to TDM that Bayer has, smaller companies can’t expected to have even Bayer’s limited success.  Unlike downtown, West Berkeley is not served by BART or adequate mass transit.  When these systems are in place and proven to reduce parking demand, waivers can then reasonably be considered.

2.) Maintain Proposed Definition of Research & Development (Requiring  Industrial Component): 
While East Bay cities on average devote 6% of their land base to industrial production and distribution uses, Berkeley only dedicates 4% of its land (the industrial zones) to these essential revenue and job producing activities.
 WEBAIC’s position on Industrially Protected Space throughout the West Berkeley Project has been:
A.)  Protected industrial space should be reserved for industrial and artisan/arts uses requiring allowances that industrial zoning provides - the ability to make noise during production, accommodate truck traffic and round-the-clock shifts, etc. -  and that no more industrially zoned land should be lost to non-industrial uses.
B.) Stand-alone offices, including Office Based R&D, have more than adequate room to locate in the large amount of existing non-protected space in the MULI and MUR (and the MM under certain circumstances) and in Berkeley’s extensive commercial zones.

To provide more space for R&D (and in the spirit of compromise) WEBAIC has agreed that all industrially protected space on six Master Use Permit sites be permitted for R&D uses that contain an industrial component.  This agree- ment also applies to protected Wholesale Trade & Warehouse space that may be opened to R&D. The agreement and the following Planning Commission definition it is based on are built around the concept that the significant amount of R&D that taking place strictly in an office environment (such as computer modeling) doesn’t require industrial space and can therefore occupy space zoned for offices in West Berkeley and throughout the City.  And although the West Berkeley Plan intentionally kept R&D out of protected space because it would economically displace protected uses and provides jobs almost soley for the very well educated, WEBAIC has compromised on this point on the MUPs, but only for R&D that requires industrial space, such as for lab or bench space for prototyping.

The validity of this agreement if based on the question of whether this Planning Commission’s Definition of Research and Development is sufficient to distinguish between Office Based R&D and R&D with an industrial component:  “A Research and Development facility is an establishment comprised of laboratory or other non-office space which is engaged in one or more of the following activities: industrial, biological or scientific research; product design; development and testing; and limited manufacturing necessary for the production of prototypes.”

There are knowledgeable voices who believe this definition is not written in such a way as to preclude strictly office uses from occupying protected space.  While WEBAIC would have preferred the more unequivocal industrial R&D definition that was considered by the Planning Commission, we will remain vigilant as this definition is applied and are moving forward under the assumption that staff’s intention is to enforce the industrial component requirement.

Development interests have expressed a desire to change the R&D definition to allow strictly office based R&D into protected space.  It’s important that WEBAIC members and supporters be present on the 22nd to assure this definition is not weakened.

3.) Over the Counter Zoning Certificates (ZC) for Arts & Crafts and Contractor Uses:
The Planning Commission has proposed the over-the-counter Zoning Certificates (ZC) for Internet Retailers, R&D, and other uses, while still requiring Arts and Crafts Uses and Contractors of all sizes to obtain Administrative Use Permits (AUP) and Use Permits (UP – always requiring a public hearing).  Part of the stated rationale behind the West Berkeley Project was to facilitate Arts & Crafts activity in West Berkeley.  Unfortunately this has not been reflected in the proposals from either staff or the Planning Commission, leaving it to WEBAIC to advocate for the needs of these important cultural and economic uses. 

A particularly egregious example of this is the proposal to easily allow the location of R&D and internet retailers with simple, over-the-counter Zoning Certificates while still requiring Arts & Crafts and Contractors to go through protracted and expensive staff and public hearing reviews.  If the City Council truly wants to do something for the Arts and Green Collar jobs, they should recommend that these worthy uses receive the same consideration as R&D.

3.) Make Performing Arts & Instruction (Dance, Music, Theater) allowable uses in the MULI/MM:
Though these uses existing as of 1989 are protected in the MULI zone, performing arts, instruction, and rehearsal studios devoted to dance, music, & theater uses are not permitted in the MULI and MM zones, even though these uses exist there now and are considered desirable.  This problematic oversight should be fixed within this process.

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WEBAIC does not believe the following proposals received adequate discussion before the Planning Commission and invites industry and arts to comment on them on the 22nd:
4.) Allow Residences to More Easily Locate in Proximity to Industrial Uses:
The West Berkeley Plan now prohibits residences to be built within 150 feet of the M & MM zones to protect industry (and residents).  The proposal before the Council would allow this housing to be built with an Administrative Use Permit.

5.) Allow Restaurants to more easily locate in the MULI  zone:
Restaurants can generate significant traffic that can impact the ability of close-by industrial businesses to function due to interference with essential supply and delivery activities.  The proposal doesn’t appear to offer adequate findings protections or findings to surrounding industrial businesses.