The Adeline Corridor
Welcome to Issue 26, Berkeley Neighborhoods Council E-News, July 2019
As seems to happen, good intentions go astray. Because it seemed to be a good idea to publish the BNC E-News more frequently, we had planned to have each new issue present single subjects. As it turned out, so many new issues and projects came up that required extra meetings, phone calls and e-mails, we simply couldn’t meet the goal of publishing anything, let alone more frequently. That led to some soul searching around the question of why should BNC, or anyone for that matter, keep trying to strengthen the voice of the neighborhoods? Why not just lock the front door, pop something into the microwave, log into Facebook, text a few thoughts, and catch a little late tv before nodding off until tomorrow when you once again join the morning traffic congestion parade and start all over again?
But Wait! Our City, in particular, has an enduring and proud history of expressing a diversity of opinion around any subject, at any time. And while we’re proud of the innovative ideas that have emerged, we can’t just ignore the shouting, name calling, and implied threats that have become so much a part of today’s civic discussions. While it’s understandable that people retreat to the comfort of their phones and anonymous electronic debate, we can’t just give up!
We’ve said it before that even though we don’t agree on lots of things, if we want to resolve our problems, we need to be connected in a way that allows for the expression of a variety of opinions and ideas in order to arrive at some positive consensus. Neighbors connect us as individuals. Neighborhoods connect us to wider communities and to our government. Strong neighborhoods build livable cities when neighbors know and care for each other. This isn’t a complicated concept, but it is one we must make an effort to nourish because in the long run we are the government and being fully informed with clear pathways that allow for the expression of our views is the key to our future.
That’s why BNC intends to keep on trying to achieve our goal of getting the word out more frequently. That being said, let’s get on with Issue 26 which is all about the Adeline Corridor Specific Plan (ACSP).
What is the Adeline Corridor?
It’s a strip of land that runs along both sides of Shattuck Avenue south from Dwight Way to Derby at which it makes a turn and runs along both sides of Adeline Street to the Oakland border. It includes the Ashby BART Station.
Why is the Adeline Corridor Important?
Priority Development Areas (PDAs) are areas defined in “Plan Bay Area” which has been adopted as the “regional plan for development” in the Bay Area. The Adeline Corridor is one of six PDAs in the City of Berkeley which have been designated by our City Council. The six areas are San Pablo, University, Downtown, Southside/Telegraph, South Shattuck and Adeline. The Adeline Corridor includes both the South Shattuck and the Adeline PDAs.
What is the Purpose of a Priority Development Area (PDA)?
Specific PDAs are those areas which are supported by existing public transit where higher density commercial and housing development should occur. Their purpose is threefold: To 1). increase housing supply, including affordable housing; 2. boost transportation ridership; and, 3). promote alternatives to the use of automobiles.
How did the Adeline Corridor Specific Plan come about?
In 2014 the City Council applied for a planning grant from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to prepare a plan for the South Shattuck and Adeline PDAs. On November 12, 2014 the City Council accepted a grant of $750,000 from ABAG/MTC. The total cost for planning was said to be $852,273 requiring the City to add $102,273 to the grant. This was unanimously approved by Mayor Tom Bates and Council Members Maio, Moore, Anderson, Arreguin, Capitelli, Wengraf, Worthington and Wozniak. The planning effort was launched with a Community Visioning effort in the beginning of 2015 and is continuing to date.
What is the Adeline Corridor Specific Plan (ACSP)?
A 380-page plan has been compiled with comments from the public regarding the resultant Draft Environmental Review (DEIR) ending on July 19, 2019. The ACSP states that while the plan’s geographic scope is limited, it will also consider the relationship to the larger South Berkeley neighborhood. The Plan is divided into five sections:
• Housing, including affordable
• Economic opportunity
• Public spaces
• Community character and land use
Is planning for the Adeline Corridor still occurring?
Yes, this effort is continuing. The planner involved is Alisa Shen who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone 1-510 981-7409. There is also a website for the ACSP at www.cityofberkeley.info/adelinecorridor. Subcommittees regarding Land Use, Transportation and Public Space, and Economic Opportunity and Workforce Development are listed giving the dates and places for their upcoming meetings during July and on into August. Interested people can sign up to receive agendas and updates about the planning effort.
There is much to be said for this entire effort but one must keep in mind three additional issues:
1. While the City may own the air rights over the Ashby BART Station, how much authority will BART have in determining the amount and type of development that can occur there?
2. The area has also been identified as an Opportunity Zone in which tax relief incentives will be given as an effort to encourage future development. The City, particularly Councilmember Bartlett, is actively looking at ways to achieve better development, but nothing has yet been decided. BNC is considering holding an up-coming forum on Opportunity Zones, so stay tuned on this very important issue that will affect this and other areas in the Downtown and West Berkeley as well.
3. This area was once a thriving retail-commercial area surrounded by pleasant neighborhoods made up of tree-lined streets and well-cared for homes. BART construction devastated the vitality of much of the area and various revitalization plans and proposals have been proposed with mixed results. Today, the area has experienced significant gentrification that has displaced long-time residents and businesses to the extent that the African American population in Berkeley has declined from 20% to 8%. On July 23, 2019, when the Mayor delivered his State of the City speech, both Council Member Ben Bartlett and Mayor Jesse Arreguin highlighted the Adeline Corridor Specific Plan as a key element in the revitalization of South Berkeley.
While the State of the City speech was rosy in its statement of the City’s efforts to date, nothing was mentioned about how the neighborhood-based Friends of Adeline (FOA) felt about the ACSP. This is what they said about the Plan in their opening comment:
We feel that it does not represent what our community views as appropriate to development of South Berkeley resources.
They further define what they envision for the area
• Housing, new and old, that is affordable for low-income current residents.
• Economic development that prepares youth and adults for employment and strengthens vulnerable populations.
• Sustainable infrastructure that provides health care, green spaces and recreation.
• Provide that profits largely remain in the area through strong encouragement of non-profit development and community agreements with for-profit developers.
• Nurturing the arts which are integral to the community’s culture and that happen along with anti-displacement measures that prevent them from contributing to gentrification.
• Development that strengthens and brings together the corridor rather than continues the division of the earlier BART corridor, and that enhances the economy, culture, sustainability and healthfulness of South Berkeley.
This summary does not do justice to the several page document the Friends of Adeline submitted. They have a website, Friends of Adeline, which gives more information about them and what other activities they are engaged in. Their comments on the ACSP are not yet posted, but they will be posted soon.
BNC encourages readers to review them later on the website and when all comments to the Draft Environmental Impact Report are completely reported along with the City’s response to those comments on the City’s website. Just google City of Berkeley Adeline Plan and that will connect you to the full Plan now and later to all of the comments.
What happens in South Berkeley is of great importance to all of us. Let’s decide here and now that we’ll keep informed about this issue and all the other plans for South, West and North Berkeley and our Downton that have the potential for significantly changing our City’s future. BNC will be sponsoring more meetings regarding these plans, so let’s all begin to get our questions and comments together so we can be participants in guiding what happens, rather than have them thrust upon us all of a sudden. Let’s hear from YOU!
The nomination for inclusion in this Section of this issue of the BNC eNews is Tom Clark, well-known poet and author who was a resident of North Berkeley.
Mr. Clark, who frequently went for walks that served as a source of inspiration for his work, was struck by an auto while crossing The Alameda near Marin on Friday, August 17, 2018. Right after the accident occurred, he seemed to be lucid and was taken by ambulance to Highland Hospital Trauma Center. The next day, his condition worsened, and he died on August 18th.
Mr. Clark was 77 years old. He was born in Chicago where he grew up, developing a passion for sports by going to Chicago White Sox baseball games with his father and working as an usher at Wrigley Field. This passion for sports remained lifelong and he wrote a history of the Oakland A’s and pieces that focused on sports luminaries such as Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue.
However, he probably is better known for being the editor of The Paris Review up until 1973, and for his authorship of dozens of poetry collections, one of which was Light and Shade: New and Selected Poems, published in 2006. Two term U.S. poet laureate, Billy Collins, in reviewing that book wrote a telling tribute about Mr. Clark and his work:
Tom Clark, the lyric imp of American poetry, has delivered many decades’ worth of goofy, melancholic, cosmic, playful, and wiggy poems. I can never get enough of this wise guy leaning on the literary jukebox, this charmer who refuses to part with his lovesick teenage heart.
Mr. Clark was not only a sports fan, sports writer, and a poet, he also, later in life, became a blogger (Beyond the Pale). He also wrote theater reviews and essays for the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times, novels, biographies (writing notably about Jack Kerouac). His career included a stint as a poetry instructor at the New College of California. He received multiple awards, including awards from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations and the National Foundation for the Arts.
The city of Berkeley will miss you Tom, but we will long remember you and thank you for the treasures that you wrote, particularly:
Time’s winged chariot is double parked near the eternity frontier.
Pesticides are harming each of us, but why are we letting this happen?
August News Brought Much Information
On August 10th the East Bay Times informed us that a federal court ordered the EPA to revoke approval of using the pesticide, chlorpyrifos. The court gave them 60 days to comply, which means that a whole lot of this stuff is still circulating out there. Chlorpyrifos was created by Dow Chemical in the 1960s and today about 5 million pounds of it is used annually in the United State on the fruits, vegetables and nuts we eat. It’s also said to have gotten into our drinking water. Studies have shown that chlorpyrifos is harmful particularly to children, resulting in low I.Q.s, attention deficit disorders and delayed motor development which often cannot be overcome as they grow older. The pesticide is banned in Hawaii, but apparently not in California. Why that is the case, we don’t know, but our state did join in the lawsuit that brought about the court order.
Then there was the news that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) – a non-profit agency that annually publishes the “Dirty Dozen Shoppers’ Guide to Pesticides in Produce” (see below for further info) – had released a report indicating their studies had found high levels of glyphosate (the active ingredient in the popular, widely-sold weed killer, Roundup) in oat-based breakfast cereals such as Cheerios and Quaker Oats. Monsanto, the company that makes Roundup responded by calling the report “propaganda” and “fake news.”
We also heard from EWG that the California Supreme Court had refused to hear a challenge to remove glyphosate from the listing of cancer-causing chemicals from the list required under voter-approved Prop 65. It should additionally be noted that in 2015, glyphosate was classified as “probably” carcinogenic by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.
In mid-August, a San Francisco jury court awarded a dying man $289 million in damages when he sued Monsanto claiming that Roundup was the cause of his cancer. The man used Roundup regularly in his work as a groundskeeper for an East Bay school district. During the trial which was speeded up because the man has terminal cancer, Monsanto claimed that Roundup is and has been safe for the many years it has been in use, and no studies have linked its use to causing cancer. Since the jury returned its verdict of “guilty,” Monsanto, which is based in St. Louis, Missouri, has indicated it would appeal the decision. Hundreds of other cases are said to be lined up around the country waiting to file similar lawsuits, and you can currently hear ads from various law firms on the television asking to hear from potential clients with cancers who have used Roundup.
Is There a Berkeley Connection?
The answer is yes and no – there is a plant in West Berkeley, but it doesn’t manufacture Roundup.
In 2016, Bayer bought Monsanto for $66 billion creating a giant corporation that would be the world’s largest manufacturer and seller of herbicides. The takeover was opposed by the National Farmers Union, as this would mean that 61% of the world’s seeds and pesticides have been placed in the hands of just three corporations: Bayer, DowDuPont and ChemChina. In spite of the protests, regulators in Europe and Brazil approved the merger before the matter was considered by the United States. It was approved by the U.S. Department of Justice in May of this year under an agreement that the new Bayer/Monsanto corporation would pay German chemical company, BASF, $9 billion in assets which included a weed killer that is a competitor to Roundup. In June 2018, the news reported that the name “Monsanto” would henceforth be retired.
Some 28 years ago, Cutter Labs (subsequently to be known as Miles Cutter), located on 24 acres in West Berkeley, was a pharmaceutical company well-known for its blood clotting pharmaceuticals. It was pretty much just a local company and a source of hometown pride. The Cutter family lived in North Berkeley and old-timers here remember Dave Cutter when he attended Hillside Elementary School and Berkeley High School. Then Bayer AG, which ranked #33 on the world’s list of industrial companies and #3 in pharmaceutical/chemical companies, bought Cutter out with the statement that they intended that Berkeley, over the next 30 years, would become the world center for development and production of pharmaceutical products derived from cell technology. The City undertook an extended review of the proposal. An Environmental Impact Report was produced, people lined up pro and con with those wanting job and revenue opportunities on one side, and those concerned about Bayer’s World War 11 history and storage of large amounts of ammonia on the other side. Eventually the permits were approved by the City Council and Bayer set up various community programs such as providing science-related internships for local high school students. The company expanded its West Berkeley footprint to 31 acres, and it didn’t cause much community controversy until a few years back when people set up a picket line in Berkeley because of the larger company’s production of neonicotinoid pesticides which are killing off bees essential to the world’s food supply. There is no indication that the Berkeley facility itself produces these chemicals – the protest was aimed at the larger company.
So Just What is on EWU’s 2018 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce?
- Strawberries: 1/3 of the conventional samples EWU examined contained 10 or more pesticides.
- Spinach: 99% of the conventional samples contained pesticide residue.
- Nectarines: Nearly 94% of the conventional samples contained 2 or more pesticides.
- Apples: 90% of the conventional samples had detectable pesticide residue.
- Grapes: More than 96% of the conventional samples tested positive for pesticides.
- Peaches: More than 99% of the conventional samples had detectable pesticide residue.
- Cherries: An average of 5 pesticides were detected on conventional samples.
- Pears: More than ½ of conventionally grown pears had residue from 5 or more pesticides.
- Tomatoes: On the average, nearly 4 pesticides were detected on conventionally grown tomatoes.
- Celery: More than 95% of conventional samples tested positive for pesticides.
- Potatoes: Conventionally grown potatoes had more pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.
- Sweet Bell Peppers: Almost 90% of conventionally grown samples contained pesticide residue. Hot Peppers: Nearly ¾ of conventional samples contained pesticide residue.
Roundup is not banned in California. The regulatory approach here and in other states seems to be to leave that kind of decision up to individual towns and cities. The internet indicates that such cities exist in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia. We called around to various stores and confirmed that Roundup is widely sold in Berkeley stores. Maybe it should be? Are you or your neighbors using Roundup? Let us know what you think.
Just So You Know
This Section includes almost anything that might be of interest to Berkeley Foodies — reviews of neighborhood food businesses, news about food products or services, even a recipe from time to time. So, please send us some food news. If your news is a restaurant review, we want you to know that we won’t pay for the cost of your meal, but your review will provide you with a great excuse that it really is your high civic duty to check out that place you’ve always wanted to try and to tell the world what you found! Send your food news, along with your name and contact information to email@example.com. We promise that our reviewers and food news contributors will always be anonymous, unless you ask that your name be published.
The Return of 1155-1173 Hearst Avenue
In 2017, the neighborhood derailed construction of a proposed condominium project at 1155-1173 Hearst Avenue that would have displaced residents, some of whom have lived there since the 1990s. The project located between San Pablo and Curtis, on the south side of Hearst Avenue, is regarded as an “infill“ project which exempts it from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) provisions. The applicant, Hearst Avenue Cottages, LLC, represented by Mark Rhoades describes the site as a “Transit Oriented Development (TOD)” because it is one block from “one of the best transit regional corridors in Berkeley” (San Pablo Avenue) and two blocks from “one of Berkeley’s transit served crossroads” (San Pablo/University Avenue intersection).
At that time, the project involved two separate lots, which would be merged into one parcel. Eleven condominiums would be added to the seven existing units for a total of 18 units, each with one parking space. Two of the units would be “affordable” which entitled the project to a 35% State Density Bonus and up to three “concessions and incentives.” The site had a well-documented long history of hydrology issues with consistent flooding of adjacent properties. As usual, staff recommended approval, but the project did not receive approval from the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) which told the developer to re-consider the proposal.
A new project was presented to ZAB on August 23, 2018. The applicant’s name is still stated as Hearst Avenue Cottages, LLC, and Mark Rhoades continues to represent that individual or group. At one point in discussion with ZAB members, Mr. Rhoades stated that “one investor is a Berkeley Realtor,” but said no more. The California Secretary of State website indicates that the name, Hearst Street Cottages, LLC was registered January 16, 2015 and listed the agent for contact as Mark K. Brown, with offices in Walnut Creek.
Mr. Rhoades described the differences between the former project and this one as follows: The lots would not be merged. Seven existing units would be rehabilitated and six new condominium units constructed, for a total of 13 housing units. Six of the seven existing buildings are in duplexes occupied by renters. The other existing building is a single-family home that is currently vacant. No density bonus is being sought, all buildings would be two-story, except one would have a “third-story element,” a roof garden. All existing tenants would remain in place as long as they wanted to stay, and only after they voluntarily left, would the rehabilitation work and conversion to condominium status begin. Units with four new bedrooms and four new bathrooms would be added to some of the duplexes. These would be “family units,” rather than mini-dorms.
At the ZAB hearing, no one spoke in favor of the project. Eighteen people spoke in opposition. Their concerns centered around two main issues, protections for existing tenants and the existing flooding problems. Public comment, staff and applicant response and ZAB comments regarding tenant protection issues were:
- Mini-Dorms: Most family homes don’t have a separate bathroom for each bedroom. Planning Staff responded that the Planning Department does not regulate mini-dorms. When six unrelated individuals form a “household,” they are required to register as a mini-dorm and follow certain regulations. Staff explained they didn’t feel “comfortable” challenging this type of unit configuration. ZAB members spoke of the need for family housing and wanted to change this configuration so that any 4 bedroom unit would have three bathrooms, maximum.
- Current tenants would be “kicked-out: Mark Rhoades repeatedly assured ZAB members that current tenants could remain voluntarily – even if it “took twenty years.” He did not assure that “Buy-Backs” would not be offered to remaining tenants. Buy-Back mechanisms are currently being discussed in landlord organizations as a response to current efforts to repeal Costa-Hawkins. Buy-Backs are sums paid to existing long-term tenants as an incentive to voluntarily leave so that landlords can raise rents to market values and/or convert to condos before Costa-Hawkins is repealed. Also expressed was concern that continued construction noise, dust and debris that would begin each work-day at 8:00 a.m., along with parking and use of construction equipment and related construction barriers on the property would drive existing tenants out. ZAB comments indicated they wanted to ensure that tenants that had existing leases that included parking spaces (1 tenant has 4 parking spaces) would continue to have them after construction was finished, even if it meant that there would be no parking spaces for new tenants who will have to find another place to park. Also, that a tenant could request a temporary move to another location while construction work was going on and that such a request would come under the City’s existing Relocation Office which may entitle that tenant to receive compensation from the developer for the difference between the old rent and the new rent during this temporary period of time.
- Conversion to condos would eventually mean the permanent loss of existing rent-controlled units: Public comment brought this up, but there was no discussion among ZAB members for any additional condition to address this issue.
- Homeowner/Tenant representation in the resultant Homeowners’ Association (HOA): If the project is approved, an HOA would be formed to address questions such as what can and cannot be one on the property, and general maintenance. Each condo unit would have a vote, but it appears that any and all remaining tenants would be represented by one person, Mr. Rhoades, on behalf of the property owner of their units. ZAB Members also brought up concerns about the strong opposition of the community toward the project and then determined that they wanted a condition that would require meetings every six months between the community and the developer while construction was going on.
The issues regarding flooding in and around this site was clearly identified as the second primary concern. Several speakers produced maps which indicated that a branch of Strawberry Creek flowed through the site and that the creek had been filled in at some time in the past and that this had consistently caused severe flooding and subsidence of land in the area. Neighbors also reported specific instances when they had suffered flooding in basements and backyards of their properties. One of the 18 speakers in opposition identified himself as a hydrologist who stated that a focused geotechnical report on the site was called for, and that the study presented by the applicant didn’t address that need. The concern was expressed not only for the safety of the buildings on the project site but that the proposed drainage system for the new project will worsen past flooding problems for surrounding properties. City staff and Mr. Rhoades were adamant that the project was “infill” and as such provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) provisions do not apply.
When public testimony and questions ended, ZAB members discussed the decision before them as if it was solely a matter of imposing the right conditions upon the development. There was no consideration of denial, or reduction in mass. There was only approval with conditions which included such matters as reconfiguring the four bedroom units, ensuring existing parking for existing tenants, providing existing tenants access to temporary relocation benefits, and meeting with the neighborhood during the time construction was in progress.
ZAB members decided that a geotechnical report would be required, but they did not describe the focus (or that it even should be “focused”) of such a new report. Mark Rhoades had stated earlier that a “blue curb” near the property was acting as a dam, and that removal of that curb would solve the flooding problem. There was very little discussion regarding this subject, and the technical reports submitted by the developer and the neighbors are not in agreement. Furthermore, there is no mention of how the City’s aged infrastructure will need to be repaired, modified or replaced to resolve the drainage problems that will come with projected heavy storms resulting from climate change and from sea level rise that is beginning to occur now and that will hamper drainage from the hills surrounding the Bay.
The motion to approve the project was passed as follows:
|Voting Yes:||Jackie Zaneri (substituting for Igor Tregub) – appointed by Mayor Arreguin
Savlan Hauser (substituting for D. Pinkston) – appointed by Council Member Droste
Teresa Clark – appointed by Council Member Maio
Leah Simon-Weisberg (substituting for P. Sheahan) – appointed by Council Member Davila
Shoshana O’Keefe – appointed by Council Member Hahn
Charles Kahn – appointed by Council Member Wengraf
Dohee Kim (replacing Brazile Clark who resigned) – appointed by Council Member Worthington
Carrie Olson – appointed by Council Member Harrison
|Voting to Abstain:||Maria Poblet (substituting for J. Selawsky) – appointed by Council Member Bartlett|
It is interesting to note that five of ZAB members voting that evening were substitutes most of whom will likely be filling the position on a one-time basis, or in the case of one appointee, is a new replacement for a member who has just resigned.
The neighborhood has filed an appeal, one of the big reasons being that Mark Rhoades is already maintaining that the condition regarding obtaining a geotechnical report has been fulfilled by the reports that have been previously submitted.