Berkeley Neighborhoods Council

 

Dedicated to improving the quality of life for all
by creating a unified neighborhood voice
for promoting livability and resolving problems

 

What We're Thinking About

The Challenge We Face, Next Steps

In our last issue of the eNEWS we challenged neighborhoods to start thinking about what kind of City Berkeley should be.  We said that even though Berkeley is a mature community, some growth is inevitable, so the real question is how much, how big and where.  We start from the premise that Berkeley once proudly proclaimed - Berkeley is a City of Neighborhoods.  Because we were seeing too many instances such as inadequate notice, buildings that are in zones that provide for 50 foot buildings but when built turn out to be 82 feet tall, and decisions that do not seem to take into consideration the surrounding neighborhood, BNC jumped in to try and find positive solutions to the problems that concern neighborhoods.  BNC believes these issues can be resolved by working together to establish a clear vision of the City's future that both preserves the neighborhoods and provides for reasonable growth.

As a part of that effort, BNC is working on setting up a Neighborhood Forum to be held in the next few months.  The purpose of the Forum is twofold, (1) to identify the major concerns of neighborhoods and (2) to develop short and long term solutions to those concerns.  To lay the foundation for this Forum, we are asking each of you to send to us two statements both of around 25 words:  the first being about the ONE thing that must be done to protect and preserve your neighborhood, and the other about the ONE thing that you believe must be done to make the city of Berkeley more livable.

In your reply, be as specific as possible and address only our two requests.  Replies should be sent to newsletter@berkeleyneighborhoodscouncil.com.  In sending a reply, please do not give your name.  BNC will delete your e-mail address, so you won't be receiving a reply from us and no one will be able to connect you with your reply.  We will tabulate the substance of each reply and use the results to set the agenda for the Neighborhood Forum.  Please provide in your reply the general area of your neighborhood to put your comments into context (e.g. include the name of a nearby intersection, for example, if you live a few houses from Chase Bank on Solano Ave, you would put “Fresno/Solano” as your neighborhood.)  Please help us get this Forum off on the right foot.  No one else can do that except you.  You are also encouraged to help us plan and implement this Forum.  Let us know in a separate e-mail with your name, phone and e-mail address if you would like to volunteer to help and send that information to bnc50@berkeleyneighborhoodscouncil.com.

More on West Berkeley Development, the Elephant in the Room

In our last eNEWS issue we told you about The Archstone Building.  In this issue we ask the question:  How does a building, like The Archstone, constructed in a zone where the allowable height limit is 50 feet, reach the height of 82 feet?

BNC asked the Planning Department about the actual height of the Archstone Building and this is what we found out.

  • It's in the C-W zone where the height limit is 50 feet.  Because it was providing that 14 units (we had originally reported that this number was 8) out of its 94 units would be available for very low and low income households, it was entitled to a density bonus that allowed an extra floor that would increase the height to 60 feet.
  • The City then allowed the building's “architectural features” and mechanical penthouse to increase the height to 82 ft.  This was approved by the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) by an Administrative Use Permit and sustained by the City Council when an appeal was filed and was summarily dismissed without public hearing.
  • Further, ZAB found that the proposed project will complete the new commercial “loop” from 4th and Addison to Aquatic Park to help attract more people into Aquatic Park and that the project would include commercial floor area for the neighborhood serving retail that would extend the 4th Street Shopping Area towards Aquatic Park.

The increase in height has also come up in the debate about the mico-units (See NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS, Round and About that are proposed for 2701 Shattuck.)  Is this standard practice?  BNC will pursue the answer to this because it is important for neighborhoods to know just how the Zoning Ordinance works.  You will hear more on this subject.

Also, we promised to give you more information about how artists are protected or not protected in the new West Berkeley Plan.  There was so much information coming in for this issue that we didn't get to it, but we haven't forgotten about it, so we will get back to you about that as well.  We close for the time being, by mentioning that The Archstone is built on the site of the very controversial eviction of artists and demolition of their live/work units in the Drayage Building back in 2005.

Redistricting: A Do-Over, or Just Smoke and Mirrors??

Read The Back Story:  In the August 2013 issue of this eNews, Berkeley Neighborhoods Council reported on our efforts to get Council approval for a redistricting map that kept neighborhoods together as well as created a strong student district.  City Council Members had made crystal clear their commitment to creating a strong student district, and we didn't object to that.  BNC stated our firm belief that a student district and neighborhoods are equally communities of interest and that both objectives could be achieved in the redistricting process.  As you know, the Council accepted only the map (BSDC) submitted by students and completely ignored the BNC map.  In BNC's September eNews, we gave you further details about a “Town Hall Meeting” called by Councilmember Worthington and about the second public hearing held by the Council on July 2, 2013.  You can access this information, including details on how the BSDC map impacts neighborhoods in the eNews Archive.  In this October Update, (since this issue is getting more complicated) let's go back to the July 2, 2013 Council meeting and start by looking at the motions and votes taken on that date and continue date-by-date to the present.

July 2, 2013, City Council Meeting:

At this public hearing on Redistricting, there were two motions:

  1. Moved by Arreguin, seconded by Anderson -- direct staff to create a new map that revises the Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC) map to include the north side neighborhood in District 7 and to present the BSDC map, the Panzer map and the new map at the September 10th meeting.  Also, Council requests staff to provide an analysis of these proposals, including age and demographic information.  Motion failed.

    Voting Yes:  Anderson, Arreguin and Worthington
    Voting No:  Maio, Moore, Capitelli, Wengraf, Wozniak and Bates
  2. Moved by Wozniak, seconded by Wengraf -- direct staff to prepare an ordinance to appear on the September 10th agenda based on the BSDC plan.  Motion carried.

    Voting Yes: Maio, Moore, Arreguin, Capitelli, Wengraf, Wozniak, and Bates
    Voting No:  Anderson, and Worthington

July 26, 2013:

Councilmember Worthington reached out to BNC regarding the possibility of creating a combined redistricting map that would satisfy the new student group (from the north side student co-ops, other student dorms and groups) and BNC with the intent of presenting a new map (which would come to be called the United Student District Amendment-USDA) to Council on September 10th.  As a result, a meeting was held with BNC on July 26th and the outcome was promising.  BNC reps presented a concept map at this meeting.  The concept map was created based on an agreement that there would be a West Berkeley District, that neighborhoods would be kept intact to the greatest degree possible, and that the north side student co-ops and dorms would be included in the new supermajority student district proposed for District 7.  A plan for how to present this new map to the Council was also discussed, but first a combined map needed to be generated.  There was no further communication with the USDA group and no combined map was developed.

September 10, 2013, Council Meeting:

A new USDA student map was presented to the Council.  There were a number of student speakers with most supporting the USDA map or BSDC map with the request that it be amended to include as many students as possible.  The USDA map merged most of the north side co-ops, Stern, Bowles and Foothill Residence Halls and some Greek houses into District 7.  The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce said they didn't endorse any specific map but felt “uncomfortable” with a new map that hadn't been a part of the whole process.  BNC said that if Council agreed to analyze this new map, it was a slap in the face of neighborhoods as Council had made it clear earlier that they didn't want to accept any new maps and no attempt had been made to merge the BNC map with either proposed student district map.

The Council discussion included Wengraf objecting because District 6 along its south west border had never historically dipped west to Shattuck Avenue.  Capitelli stated he didn't like the new map because the north side of campus was quite different from the south side particularly regarding public safety issues and that if he knew Council was going to consider an alternative map he would have created his own.  Wozniak expressed concern that the BSDC map had a student district of 86% students, while the USDA map upped that to 90% but he was willing to hear the arguments for both maps.  Worthington disputed Capitelli's statements regarding public safety issues and said he wanted the representatives from the Council's most affected districts to meet with students to try and work out a mutually acceptable compromise.  Bates stated flatly that he wanted “none of that” - the Council should vote on either the BSDC or the USDA map.

Mayor Bates moved, seconded by Arreguin, to direct the City Manager to review the proposed USDA redistricting plan and write a proposed ordinance to allow possible adoption of the USDA map.

Voting Yes: Maio, Moore, Anderson, Arreguin, Capitelli, Worthington, Wozniak, and Bates.

Voting No:  Wengraf

September 18, 2013:  (BNC knows of no other invitation made to community members) 

Councilmember Wozniak sent out a newsletter with this announcement:

Redistricting Town Hall This Friday
This Friday, some City Councilmembers will attend a redistricting town hall to discuss the upcoming adoption of a new redistricting map.
If you'd like your voice to be heard, come to the Redbud Room in the MLK Civic Center Building on Friday, September 20 at noon.

September 20, 2013, “Town Hall” Meeting on Redistricting:

Councilmember Worthington called this meeting stating that “the purpose of the meeting was to arrive at a consensus”.  Two maps were in question, the BNC map and the USDA map.  The USDA team presented 5 alternative maps.  Three were USDA maps, with minor variations of the student district, but without the inclusion of a West Berkeley District.  Two were versions of a map that USDA had produced in July that were unacceptable to BNC.  The BNC map was not in evidence among these five maps.

Even though not specifically invited, BNC reps attended and made the following points: 

  1. USDA was asked if there was anything in the proposed BNC student district that the USDA group could not live with.  There was neither response nor stated objection to the BNC student district.
  2. The minor differences between the two student districts (BNC and USDA) could be modified with minor tweaking to meet the desires of the USDA.  The BNC map could then be used as the foundation for the compromise map, since it would contain the remaining major redistricting issue, namely, keeping neighborhoods intact.  This would merge the BNC and USDA maps and would result in a true compromise.
  3. The response from the meeting participants was tacit acceptance.  People got to work putting together the two proposed district maps (BNC and USDA).

September 23, 2013:

“New” maps were distributed.  They included the same five maps that had been distributed on September 20thNone indicated a combined BNC/USDA alternative and no one from BNC was invited to participate further in the process of “conjoining” the two maps on the table.

September 24, 2013:

Members of BNC complained voraciously to Councilmember Worthington, specifically highlighting the insincerity of a meeting whose purpose was to combine neighborhood and student maps, yet produced nothing of the sort.

September 30, 2013:

This was a good day!  A new map was presented to BNC that combined both maps and created no additional impact to neighborhood organizations.  It was a map that BNC, pending overall approval, could support to Council.  This was a step in the right direction.  BNC asked for a meeting to discuss the new map, but received no response.

October 15, 2013 Council Meeting

Sadly, this Council meeting yielded nothing that benefited the BNC map and neighborhood organizations.  The USDA map analysis was on the Consent Calendar, a place normally reserved for non-controversial items that are anticipated to be approved with no discussion.  A statement was made by a USDA rep accepting the staff analysis, expressing hope that this map would be approved, and inferring there had been agreement with BNC and BSDC groups.  This was NOT the combined map with BNC that had been circulated over the past 2 weeks.  You can see the USDA map by going to the City's website, clicking on City Council Meetings, then on the date of the meeting and its agenda.  You can also view a video of the meeting.

What is the hidden agenda or intent?  Is a referendum brewing?  Would any neighborhood group support a map that did not address all neighborhood group interests?  Why did the Council reject receiving new maps and then reverse itself?  Was it because elections brought a change in student leadership, or was it a political agenda?  Which map will the Council approve, the BSDC map, the USDA map or some compromise?  Who or what groups have most to gain with the approval of one map or the other?  Certainly not neighborhood groups!  We will have to wait and see…