WEBAIC Newsletter

January 16, 2011

7 Reasons Why A Public Hearing on Plan Amendments Should Not Be Held January 25th
Why A Separate Public Hearing Should Be Held On Proposed Zoning Changes

The Zoning Proposals & Plan Amendments are Substantively Different, Requiring Two Separate Public Hearings

The West Berkeley Project resulted in proposed changes to both the Zoning Ordinance and the West Berkeley Plan section of the Berkeley General Plan.  Some of these proposed Plan changes mirror the proposed Zoning changes, but many of the Zoning changes are of a level of detail and substance not addressed by the Plan changes. 

Because of these differences, a Public Hearing on only the Plan changes (as now noticed for the 25th) does not fulfill the need of the public or Council to adequately address the substantive Zoning changes.   Therefore, two separate Public Hearings are required – one for Plan Amendments and one for Zoning changes.  A single hearing can’t possibly do these numerous, complex and disparate sets of issues justice.  The Public Hearing notice for the 25th Plan Amendment hearing (Council’s Agenda Committee decides on the 19th if the hearing will actually occur), states that Council will hear “comment” on the Zoning changes at this hearing.  Taking “comment” on issues is not a Public Hearing on them, doesn’t officially address them, and is inadequate to make final decisions on issues of great consequence.

7 Reasons In Brief:

1. Separate Public Hearing Needed on Proposed, Critical Zoning Changes, Not Just Proposed Plan
    Amendments:  Zoning Allowances - Residences in M Zones, 75’ Height, FAR 3, Office/Childcare in M Zone, etc.

2. Public Hearing Should Not Be Same Night As WB Project Workshop– Doesn’t allow Council adequate 
    time to learn about & consider the numerous, complex Rezoning Proposals & Plan Amendments.

3. No Complete Staff Report to Public w/ Rezoning + Plan Amendment Proposals to Public until 3-4 days 
    Before Public Hearing.

4. Only One Week “Real” Notice for Public Hearing- Inadequate for a hearing addressing the most far-
    reaching City land use changes in decades.

5. No Full Notice of Public Hearing or of West Berkeley Project Process To All Affected Businesses &

6. Public Hearing Notice for 25th Doesn’t Meet New Zoning Proposals’ Own Standards for Noticing –
    Proposed noticing requirements for Master Use Permit (one part of WB Project) are twice the time period given for 
    25th Public Hearing to approve entire West Berkeley Project w/ all proposed changes, including 6 MUP permits.

7. Not only would a more adequate and respectful noticing give the public a proper opportunity to  
    exercise its right to engage in the democratic process, it may result in a greater understanding of
    contentious issues, and possible resolution to them within the existing process.

                                                                          7 Reasons in Full:

1. Separate Public Hearing Needed on Proposed Zoning Changes, Not Just Proposed Plan Amendments:

At present it doesn’t appear City Council intends to hold a Public Hearing on the proposed Zoning changes, even though it is these changes that contain many of the most far-reaching and controversial provisions, such as allowing residences in industrial zones, freestanding offices in the Manufacturing (M) Zone, and 75 ft heights. To conduct three years of process on contentious issues without many being resolved and not have the ultimate adjudicating body, the City Council, take them up in a separate, proper Public Hearing context is not up to the standards of our community’s progressive democratic heritage. 

Some Proposed Zoning Changes Not Directly Addressed by Plan Amendments:  Levels of Discretion for All Use Changes.  Master Use Permit Issues:
75’ Height FAR 3, Full Parking Waivers, Floating of Uses:  Allowance of Residences into Industrial Zones – Inadequate Findings, Allowance of freestanding offices in the M Zone, Reduced Setbacks between Industry and Residences, Allowance of San Pablo C-W (Regional Retail-WEBAIC) into MUR

2.  Public Hearing Should Not Be Same Night As Workshop on WB Project – Doesn’t Allow Council Adequate Time to Learn About & Consider the Numerous, Complex Rezoning & Plan Amendment Proposals. 

The proposal to hold the Workshop to familiarize Council with the complex and numerous proposals on the same night as a holding the Public Hearing on those issues is very unusual and troubling, pointing to a injudicious rush to judgment on issues of great import.

3. No Release of Complete Staff Report with Rezoning & Plan Proposals to Public until 3-4 days before Public Hearing: 

To WEBAIC’s knowledge there has never been a complete staff report encompassing all proposed changes in their final form released to the public.  From our understanding, staff intends to have this available 3-4 days before the Public Hearing, an entirely inadequate time to examine this document in its entirety. 

4. One week “real” notice inadequate for Public Hearing addressing most far-reaching land use changes in decades:

To notice the most important final approval meeting in a three year process with only the minimum requirements is a sad commentary on the West Berkeley Project, in which WEBAIC has been required to remind the City in an ongoing manner to fulfill its pledge to create a meaningful mechanism for its businesses and citizens to weigh in on issues materially affecting them.

5.  Inadequate West Berkeley Project outreach to affected business and residents continues with rushed final approval process.

Unlike during The West Berkeley Plan process, to our knowledge there has never been a notice sent by the City to all West Berkeley businesses, residents, and institutions alerting them to the fact that this rezoning process would reshape West Berkeley and affect their lives and livelihoods for decades to come.  The West Berkeley process made this outreach several times to assure those affected would have their democratic opportunity to participate. 

Not only were Mixed Use Residential (MUR) residents not invited to participate, they had to demand a seat at the table after they became aware that proposed changes could greatly affect them.  Even after being allowed into the process they were told the changes would not affect them, even though the MUR zone was slated for huge increases in building heights and densities, as well as the location of up-to-that-time prohibited uses.

6. WB Project’s Zoning Proposal Noticing Requirements for one Master Use Permit (MUP) are twice the notice being given for the final Public Hearing approving the entire West Berkeley Project Zoning and Plan Changes, including the six Master Use Permits.

The West Berkeley Project Zoning changes propose a 30 day noticing requirement for a Hearing on a Master Use Permit, while the hearing to approve the entire process of which the Master Use Permit is only one part gives only a 14 day notice to the public. Logic would expect that the approval of the entire process that will allow mass development and far reaching use changes (well over 600% of what one MUP would allow) would demand at least the same noticing as is being required for one of its smaller, entitled component parts.

7. Not only would a more adequate and respectful noticing give the public a proper opportunity to exercise its right to engage in the democratic process, it may result in a greater understanding of contentious issues, and possible resolution to them within the existing process.

West Berkeley Works!

West Berkeley Plan & Zoning Key to Present Vibrancy, Success, & Community Equity

West Berkeley is a highly successful area with economic, cultural, and residential vitality – not perfect, but in many ways a model of what a mixed-use area can be.  With low industrial vacancy rates and approximately 16,000 jobs, half in industry & arts and half in scientific, technical, professional, management, and retail fields, the area is alive with productive, sustainable activity. This success is largely the result of a forward-thinking City planning process involving broad-based citizen/business/ government/labor/faith participation in the 80’s and 90’s that created the West Berkeley Plan.  This policy document took a fine-grained approach to this most complex area of the City, instituting policies recognizing the need to very carefully balance competing interests to achieve the highest community good.  This meant both encouraging market forces when they would clearly result in broad-based benefits and mitigating them when their excesses could degrade economic vibrancy (i.e. the dot-com bust) and community equity.

Along with being the workshop and economic and cultural engine of our City, West Berkeley is the key to our community’s equity and diversity through being the only part of Berkeley providing a significant number (approx 7000) of family wage blue and green collar jobs (available to the one-third of our population without a four year college degree.  A substantial percentage of these positions are filled by people of color, who in our City and nationally have significantly lower rates of high school and college completion, and therefore less opportunity to find good job, especially in this economy.
Business Community & Citizenry Deserve
Adequately Noticed & Meaningful Opportunity to Address City Council

The Planning staff and Planning Commission have forwarded rezoning proposals and Plan amendments to the City Council that would greatly, some would say radically, alter this fine-grained, carefully balanced zoning largely responsible for West Berkeley’s success.  It is no exaggeration to say that the proposed zoning changes stand to physically, economically, culturally, and socially alter West Berkeley and the City fundamentally for 100 years.  Many of the proposed changes are positive, while some of them collectively carry within them the possibility of the loss of our overall robust diversity of economic activity, significant loss of our sustainable production and distribution economy, diminution of arts activity, the walling off of Berkeley from the Bay with a row of 75 foot towers lining the City’s edge (75 ft heights become 80-85’ heights with elevator shafts and HVAC piping/housings and attendant screens), and a wave of gentrification that could be the final blow to our rich economic and ethnic diversity that makes our City so much the vibrant and compelling place it is.