March 5, 2010             
• Critical Meeting to Weigh In on West Berkeley Rezoning Proposals •

Planning Commission Meeting to Take Comments

on West Berkeley Project
Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR)

First agenda item on Wednesday, March 10 - 7pm, N Berkeley Senior Cntr. MLK @ Hearst

• Toward the final decisions on the West Berkeley Project rezoning proposals - Two intertwined paths:

1.) The hearings and meetings on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), which are meant to determine
      whether the West Berkeley Project's proposed zoning changes will result in "significant environmental impacts".
2.) The hearings and meetings on the rezoning proposals from Planning staff.
Both paths are essential avenues for expressing our opinions on the same core issues - the City's rezoning proposals. At Wednesday's hearing comment is supposed to be directed specifically at the City's assertions in the DEIR as to whether the WB Project rezoning proposals will create any "significant environmental impacts".  WEBAIC contends they do.

• The DEIR & the gutting of the industrial protection zoning policies: City attempts to omit analysis of core issue, finally analyzes it, then says "WEBAIC is probably right, but we don't legally have to care":

After attempting to ignore impacts on the areas of Land Use & Planning from the West Berkeley Project's proposals to remove industrial zoning protections, in response to WEBAIC comments the DEIR devoted 17 pages to refuting WEBAIC arguments. After numerous pledges in the DEIR and by Planning staff that "The goals and objectives of the WB Plan and General Plan would not be changed by the West Berkeley Project", the City in the DEIR was finally compelled to admit that "there may be cumulative economic and social impacts associated with implementation of the West Berkeley Project that could be considered adverse within the context of the land use goals, policies and objectives of the West Berkeley Plan and the Berkeley General Plan, although analysis of these effects is beyond the scope of this DEIR." 

In plain language, the DEIR is saying that removing industrial protections and/or opening them up to uses that could displace protected industrial and arts uses might well force companies and studios out of business, lead to significant job loss, and lead to a lessening of Berkeley's ethnic and economic diversity and equity, but according to the best legal advice we can buy, we don't have to address this as a "significant impact" under DEIR law. WEBAIC strongly disagrees.

• WEBAIC's 4 main points for Wednesday on why the Draft Environmental Impact Report is Inadequate:
1. The West Berkeley Project's proposed removal and/or weakening of existing industrial protection policies (envisioned in the West Berkeley Plan as the core mechanism to realize its central goals  and implemented in the zoning ordinance as BMC 23E.80.040 Special Provisions: Protected Uses) conflicts with the West Berkeley Plan and the Berkeley General Plan and therefore must be acknowledged as a "significant environmental impact" in the final EIR.

The WB Project's proposed removal and/or weakening of the industrial protection policies constitutes a significant environmental impact because, according to CEQUA law, they "Conflict with an applicable land use plan, policy, or regulation of an agency with jurisdiction over the project ...adopted for the purpose of avoiding or mitigating an environmental impact" and render the Berkeley General Plan "internally inconsistent" (legalese for "you can't do it").

2. The West Berkeley Project's proposed removal and/or weakening of existing industrial protection policies would "Introduce new land uses that would conflict with existing land uses;" and therefore would constitute a significant environmental impact. 

CEQUA law states that "a Project would have a significant effect on the environment if it would: Introduce new land uses that would conflict with existing land uses;"  The West Berkeley Plan specifically states that R & D uses were not placed in the protected industrial uses category because they would conflict with these uses by displacing them, leading to the loss of the uses, companies, jobs, and negative changes to the physical environment, all in contradiction to the central goals and policies of the West Berkeley Plan and Berkeley General Plan. 

3. The DEIR is inadequate because it didn't study the W. Berkeley Project proposal with potential for the greatest environmental impacts - the recent proposal by the Planning Commission chair and vice chair (with staff input) to open up all industrially-protected space in W. Berkeley to R&D uses that could displace them. The DEIR only studied removing industrial protections on MUP properties, not on the larger amount of property outside MUPs.

The West Berkeley Project Environmental Initial Study, tasked with laying out the parameters of the proposed Project to be studied in the DEIR, did not include in it's list of "specific zoning changes" this most recent and far-reaching proposal to open up all industrial protected space.  Since this change can reasonably be projected to result in large (possibly the Project's largest) land use changes (demolition, construction, additional employees, increased traffic) the DEIR's omission in studying this proposal's "potentially significant impacts" renders the DEIR "inadequate" to say the least.  WEBAIC contends that a West Berkeley Project that includes these far-reaching industrial-protection removal proposals can't be implemented unless the DEIR addresses their potential impacts.

4. WEBAIC also contends that the DEIR's analysis and conclusions on the issues of Aesthetics and Mineral Resources are inadequate.  The DEIR found that there were potentially significant impacts on the areas of Aesthetics, Air Quality, Cultural Resources, Land Use, Noise/Vibration and Transportation/Traffic.  The DEIR found some of these impacts to be significant and unavoidable.  WEBAIC expects the City to conclude in the final EIR (the last document generated from the consultants attempts to answer the comments submitted on the DEIR) that all of these impacts are either mitigatable by various measures of they will issue a "statement of overriding consideration", which basically says that there are unavoidable negative environmental consequences, (especially on traffic) but the value of the proposed project is worth the environmental price.

There are numerous other DEIR inadequacies and falacious arguments that WEBAIC will address in our written comments.  It is our opinion that many of these examples meet the definition of fixing the intelligence to fit the facts.

The WB Project and EIR review schedule going forward (what we know so far & subject to change):

• Wednesday March 10th Planning Commission meeting to take testimony on the DEIR.

• March 24th Planning Commission meeting
    -  Additional testimony taken on DEIR. 
    -  Planning Commissioners will likely discuss the comments and potentially
    -  Take action to certify the document and move it toward the next, or final Environmental Impact Report stage.
    -  Planning Commission packet will contain language from staff on the Master Use Permit and other previously
       discussed items, i.e. including contractors in protected uses category.

• April 14th Planning Commission meeting:
    -  Staff presentation to commissioners and public on the totality of West Berkeley Project rezoning proposals.

• May and June Planning Commission meetings:
    -  Discussion of the issues surrounding rezoning proposals.

• July Planning Commission meeting:
     - Public Hearing on final West Berkeley Project rezoning proposals

West Berkeley Works!

WEBAIC  •  info@webaic.org  •  510-549-0190


            Helps the public understand West Berkeley industries' contributions to the community;

            Helps businesses maintain and increase their contributions to Berkeley's economy and cultural richness, including how to adopt sustainable practices;

            Serves as a liaison between WeBAIC's members, the community, and local government;

            Promotes the development of sustainable industries as envisioned in the West Berkeley Plan.


WEBAIC • West Berkeley Artisans & Industrial Companies
(510) 549-0190 • PO Box 2307, Berkeley CA 94702