Berkeley Neighborhoods Council
Dedicated to improving the quality of life for all
Neighborhood News, Round and About
BNC wants to hear about your neighborhood news, so please send your good and bad news with your name and phone number to email@example.com. BNC will publish articles from neighborhoods in your own words, but we ask you to keep each article to around 800 to 900 words. BNC exists to support neighborhoods, help solve problems and facilitate communication from one neighborhood to another. One way or the other, we are all in this together.
On January 28, 2010, the Council upheld a Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) decision to approve construction of a 38-unit (average unit size 966 sq. ft., 2 bedrooms), 5 story mixed-use building with a little over 4,000 sq. ft. of ground floor commercial at the corner of Telegraph and Ashby. Four stories were allowed, but five stores were approved because 6 units would be reserved for low-income residents. Besides the increased height, less useable open space and fewer parking spaces (34 for residents, 8 for the commercial uses, and 4 waived) were allowed than would be required. It is curious that Staff, in granting a permit for this building acknowledged that the new commercial activity would generate new vehicular and pedestrian traffic and activity, but in the same report said that its commercial customers would be those already living and working in the area.
Two and a half years later, Arktegraf, Inc. received, without hearing, an Administrative Use Permit (AUP) to change about one-half of this building's commercial space from general retail to quick food service (a coffee shop), allow extended operating hours (5:30 am to 9 pm, 7 days a week) and waive the already reduced parking space requirement.
More than 50 people from the Bateman, Willard, LeConte and Halcyon Neighborhoods came to the ZAB meeting on June 27, 2013, waiting patiently until late at night to appeal the granting of this AUP and requesting that the matter be set for public hearing. In addition to this large group, 50 letters and a petition with around 1,800 names had been sent in support of the appeal. Twenty spoke in favor of the appeal, only 2 spoke for the café.
The neighborhoods spoke about:
The ZAB vote was close. Five of the Board voted to dismiss the appeal and grant the permit stating that competition is good and that Berkeley already has too many vacant store fronts, even though we keep building more: Allen; Donaldson; Massih; Stoloff; and Williams. Four voted in support of the neighborhoods: McDonald; O'Keefe; Pinto; and Tregub. This decision has been appealed to the City Council and the issue will appear on the Council agenda of October 29, 2013.
Amendments to the Demolition and Dwelling Unit Controls Ordinance
Existing demolition regulations are derived from the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance. In general, they provide that to demolish a residential building, the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) must find that the existing building was not repairable and that a replacement project had been approved with an equal or greater number of units. New amendments are being proposed that in addition to a replacement project having been approved, that the demolition of a 2-unit or larger building constructed before 1980 (read rent controlled) can be approved either because the existing building is not repairable, or that it can be replaced by a project that is, but not limited to, a childcare facility or affordable housing project, for the greater good of the community, plus provisions to maintain the rents of sitting tenants in the building that is being demolished because rents in the new building can be expected to be much higher.
Several Council meetings have been held on this subject, the most recent being July 2, 2013. The amendments were presented by Planning Director Angstadt, who repeatedly told the Council that they would make it “easier to replace old, smaller buildings with new, larger ones.”
Some members of the Council expressed confusion about the consequences of amendments, particularly to sitting low-income tenants. Apparently, Council Members weren't the only ones confused. On April 3, 2013, the Planning Commission voted to send the following astounding motion to the Council. The motion, in their exact words was to:
“request that planning staff collaborate with members of the Rent Control Board outside the Planning Commission meeting to develop a single set of demolition ordinance language revisions to present to City Council with Planning Commission support, but no vote (an unusual procedure, but proposed for the purpose of expediting Council's referral).” (Emphasis added)
BNC has three concerns:
On July 2, 2013, BNC along with the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, Rent Stabilization Board, and Sierra Club all wrote to the Council asking for a deferral of action on these amendments. The Council responded by referring the proposed amendments back to the Planning Commission and the Housing Advisory Commission for further consideration.
There are other projects that are troubling which have recently been brought to the attention of BNC. These projects are located at:
BNC welcomes comments on all of these and other issues. Please let us know, and come to our BNC meetings.