January 25, 2009               


Critical Rezoning Proposals
Before Planning Commission this Wednesday
• Planning Dept. Changes Process - Marginalizes Stakeholders•

Please Attend this Wednesday's Planning Commission Meeting
7 PM, January 28th, 2009
North Berkeley Senior Center, NE corner - Hearst & MLK
This is the ONLY item on the agenda and should not be a late meeting, but please come on time

WEBAIC has been committed to not asking our constituency and supporters to come out unless a critical need to publicly address an issue of immediate and significant importance to the viability of the industrial and arts communities in West Berkeley was upon us. That time has arrived - this coming Wednesday at the Berkeley Planning Commission meeting.

WEBAIC seeks a balanced approach to the need for reasonable change in zoning policies to accommodate new, green industrial technologies while at the same time maintaining an economically productive and societally just land use policy that provides needed goods and services to the population, living wage jobs for those without advanced education (including green-collar jobs), opportunities for culturally enriching arts activities, and a steady, historically reliable source of revenue to the City.

WEBAIC has received a revised staff report for the January 28th Planning Commission meeting that contains good news and bad. The nominal good news is that staff has raised their one-acre threshold for application of the Master Use Permit to two acres. The bad news has three parts:

1. Although staff is recommending the Planning Commission direct them to bring the Master Use Permit back to the stakeholders after this meeting, they have not committed to returning to the authentic, agreed upon stakeholder process for the rest of the West Berkeley Project. Only through a process with meaningful community input, especially by those most intimately familiar with and directly affected by the policies being created, can a truly democratic and successful policy result be achieved. Therefore, WEBAIC's position is that:

• The Planning Commission direct staff to return to the democratic, agreed-upon, and efficacious stakeholder process.

2. Although staff has changed the threshold at which a Master Use Permit can be applied to a project from one acre to two acres, this proposed application would still apply to approximately 48% of all commercial property in the targeted MULI, MM, and M zones. Depending on how "parcels" are defined, this application could grow to well over 50% of all commercial property. Given that the central feature of the Master Use Permit is its expansion of allowable uses (to office, R & D lab, and possibly retail and housing) on industrial sites, this permit should be applied to Planning staff's original limited number of five targeted sites in order to have the least negative effect on the present and future viability of industry and arts in West Berkeley. Application of the MUP at two acres would likely result over in time in the dislocation of major portions of the industrial and artisan/arts businesses and jobs in West Berkeley.

Therefore, WEBAIC's position is that:

• The Planning Commission direct staff to raise the Master Use Permit application threshold to at least three acres in order to match application of the MUP to the five large sites originally identified by staff as "underutilized" and targeted for development.
This represents an appropriate and reasoned response to the effort to balance the need for new space dedicated to clean industrial technologies with the maintenance of an economically productive and societally just land use policy that provides needed goods and services, living wage jobs for those without advanced education (including green-collar jobs), and a steady, reliable source of revenue to the City. The consequences of the application of the proposed two-acre threshold would be of such a magnitude as cause this action to be in violation of key Goals, Policies, and Implementation Measures of the West Berkeley Plan.

3. A new provision has been added to the MUP in the latest staff report that, if our interpretation is correct, would allow for the location of significant amounts of retail and residential housing deep into the MULI, MM, and even M zones. It appears, depending on how "parcel" is defined, that this new provision would allow any project that had any piece of its property in a C-W (Commercial West Berkeley -San Pablo, Ashby, etc.) or MUR zone to be allowed to incorporate any of those zone's allowable uses, i.e. retail and residential, into the parts of their projects within the MULI, MM and M zones. Allowing retail and strictly residential uses into these industrial areas would be enormously destabilizing to existing and future industrial and artisan/arts uses and would create precisely the extreme land use incompatibilities the West Berkeley Plan was intended to prevent. As well as violating numerous West Berkeley Plan Goals and Policies this also violates staff's pledge, both verbally and in numerous documents, to NOT allow housing into the three targeted industrial zones.

Therefore WEBAIC's position is that:
• The Planning Commission should direct staff to clarify that section 4. C Flexibility in Uses, would not permit the retail and residential uses allowed in the C-W district or the residential uses allowed MUR district to be allowable uses in the MULI, MM, or M zones.

Once again, the complexity of these issues should not deter anyone from speaking their mind before the Planning Commission. The proposed zoning changes, applied on the scale proposed, would over time have a tremendously negative effect on the existence of industry and arts in West Berkeley and ultimately result in our community losing a great part of its ethnic, economic, and cultural diversity and richness. It's also important to remember that these proposed changes are only a part of what the Planning Department will bring before us in the next few months. Policies that abrade and possibly remove industrial and arts protections on all sites below the MUP threshold are coming down the pike. For now the simple message is that:

1. The Master Use Permit should have a threshold of three acres to target the five originally identified "development" sites. A lower threshold would greatly facilitate the displacement of present and future industrial and arts uses, in contraindication to the social and economic good and in violation of key Goals and Policies of the West Berkeley Plan.

2. Staff needs to return to the democratic, agreed-upon, successful stakeholder process in order to achieve a viable and successful policy result with long-term community buy-in.

3. The allowance of C-W (Commercial West Berkeley) retail and residential uses & MUR (Mixed-Use Residential) residential uses in the MULI, MM, and M zones are unacceptable and in violation of the West Berkeley Plan. Over time this will result in massive dislocation of industrial and artisan/arts uses.


• Staff is proposing that on sites subject to the Master Use Permit any use allowed in the MULI, MM, and M zones be allowed on the project site, no matter which zone the site is in. Staff's exact directive, under 4.C Flexibility in Uses, is to "Consider uses allowed in any of the three manufacturing districts (M, MM, MULI)."

Besides ignoring the specific Purposes of the different zones, resulting among other things in the allowance of prohibited non-manufacturing-related office use in the M zone, this proposal is asking us to sign off on "allowable uses" before those uses have been decided upon within this process. Staff proposes to address the question of what are "allowable uses" in these three zones in the next phase of the process, not now.

Therefore, since the determination of what the "allowed uses" in these zones has not yet been addressed in this process, we can't possibly agree or disagree to "Consider uses allowed in any of the three manufacturing districts (M, MM, MULI)" when we have no clear idea of what these uses WILL be.

• On the issue of stakeholder process, staff declared in their staff report that "During the most recent round of stakeholder meetings (January), participants had an opportunity to discuss and comment on the initial MUP concept. WEBAIC does NOT consider receiving the MUP staff report (on arguably the most important and far-reaching issue in terms of its effect on the future of industry and the arts in West Berkeley) at 5:00 on Friday afternoon for a Tuesday stakeholder meeting to be anything approaching sufficient time to disseminate said report to a constituency of thousands, analyze its concepts and consequences, receive, digest, and incorporate feedback, and formulate a coherent position all by the Tuesday afternoon stakeholder meeting. WEBAIC does NOT consider this anything close to "an opportunity to discuss and comment on the initial MUP concept."

• The staff report's first listed Purpose for the Master Use Permit is: 1. Revitalize and protect the three industrial districts (M, MM, MULI), with strong emphasis on manufacturing, warehouse, wholesale, and material recovery use.
In contrast to this Purpose, Under 4.c. Flexibility in Uses, the third point is: Allow replacement of manufacturing, warehouse, wholesale, or material-recovery activities (current or past) with “other allowed industrial uses”. It isn't clarified exactly what the "other" industrial uses are, except a clue can be found in another Purpose 4 of the MUP which states: Focus on new clean, diverse, and environmentally beneficial industrial activities. These activities have previously been described to WEBAIC as essentially university-related R & D lab start-ups.

There should undoubtedly be more space alloted in West Berkeley for these uses, but it's a serious question as to why the MUP process seeks to make available literally millions of square feet for what the LBL official responsible for these activities described to WEBAIC as a small number of entities requiring a small amount of space and employing a small amount of employees, most with PhDs.

This issue is further clarified by the provision "Consider uses allowed in any of the three manufacturing districts" which would allow office uses in the M zone where they're prohibited and in the MM where they're prohibited from occupying ground floor space (in order to preserve such space for manufacturing, wholesaling, warehousing, and MRE).

Add to this the likely allowing of retail and residential, and what you actually end up with are millions of square feet being made available for condos and office parks. Are those the things we want to sacrifice our industry and arts for?

• A part of last week's staff report that was missing from this week's staff report is the section: "Support job training program (possibly including a training center or school affiliations) focused on creating living wage jobs for Berkeley residents." It's been replaced by: ."Support current (and evolving) regional job training opportunities for Berkeley residents." Gone is Berkeley's commitment to creating new Berkeley job training programs or supporting their existing ones and the pesky reference to "living wage jobs" seems to have taken an extended vacation to an unknown destination.

Also, "Preserve" artisan space has been replaced by "protect". It appears that the meaning of "Preserve" might have been a little too precise and would have actually required specific proactive policies.

There has been a deemphasizing of staff "negotiating" the benefits from the projects in the new document. If the "benefits" have no standards and aren't spelled out, cities tend to give away the store to those developers with the most economic power and connections.

West Berkeley Works!


WEBAIC  •  info@webaic.org  •  510-549-3213


            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 2755, Berkeley CA 94702