March 23, 2009               

Planning Commission Meeting
on Critical West Berkeley Rezoning Issues

Wednesday March 25 - 7:00 - North Berkeley Senior Center - corner of MLK & Hearst

• WEBAIC/City Planning staff Stakeholder Meeting Report Back •

Zoning proposals central to the future of industry and arts in West Berkeley will be brought by staff to the Planning Commission on Wednesday. Though no vote will be taken, staff is requesting direction.  Staff's present direction on a number of proposals would have significantly negative impacts on our activities, so a strong turnout by the industrial and artisan/arts community is essential to assuring our voice is heard and our concerns taken into account on these questions central to the future viability of our sectors.

The stakeholder meeting:
The WEBAIC stakeholder group met with planning staff March 19th to address critical zoning issues as part of West Berkeley Rezoning Project.  The results of these (and other stakeholder group) discussions will be presented at the Planning Commission.

Once again many thanks to those who made it to Thursday's stakeholder meeting with Planning staff. This was the first of what is expected to be at least two WEBAIC/Planning staff stakeholder meetings on the critical issues of Allowable Uses in the zoning ordinance and the Master Use Permit Process.

Given the rigid time and short notice given for the meeting by staff, WEBAIC had a solid contingent of eleven businesses representing a range from small artisan studios to R & D labs to a wide range of industrial businesses with hundreds of employees.  The simple presence of each of person at the table was meaningful, each statement building positively on the one before it.

Taken together, WEBAIC's case grows stronger and more coherent with each meeting.  Special thanks and welcome to those who came to this meeting for the first time, as it demonstrates to staff the reality of the large reservoir of people and companies concerned with these issues who are ready and willing to weigh in. 

The bulk of the meeting was taken up with discussing staff's Draft Master Use Permit (MUP) document and their "Remaining Obstacles" list.  The individual positions WEBAIC took in this meeting were informed by the following:

WEBAIC Core Perspective:
In order to maintain the vital mixed use economy envisioned by the West Berkeley Plan's Goals and Policies, laboratory uses should be allowed ample opportunity to locate on the large acreage projected to be available on Master Use Permit (MUP) properties, but should not be allowed to locate on space now protected for Manufacturing, Warehousing, Wholesale Trade, and Material Recovery Enterprise uses outside of MUP properties.

This policy encourages new, clean/green tech industries while buffering more traditional yet valuable industrial and arts uses from undue competition with highly capitalized new uses that would be likely to displace the traditional uses and result in the loss of their significant contributions to the City and larger community.  This position additionally assures an adequate land base for the dynamically growing green collar job sector. 

Planning Commission Discussion Items & Stakeholder Meeting Positions
In service of this Core Perspective and other related goals, WEBAIC took these positions in the stakeholder meeting.  These topics will be up for discussion at Wednesday's Planning Commission meeting. 
None of these positions have been accepted yet as official policy and some of them are in contradiction to staff's apparent direction.  Your participation at the Planning Commission can help these positions move closer to becoming policy.

1.  Maintain industrial protections:  Maintain protected use status for Manufacturing, Warehousing, Wholesale Trade, and Material Recovery Enterprise sites outside of Master Use Permit (MUP) properties. (Do not allow interchangeability with R & D labs on this space).

2.  Encourage R & D labs on large Master Use Permit (MUP) sites:  Encourage location of green/clean tech R & D labs on MUP properties.  Allow 80-85% of now-protected Manufacturing, Warehousing, and Wholesale Trade space on Master Use Permit properties to be interchangeable with laboratory uses.

3. Guarantee new arts & industrial space (including green collar) as MUP commensurate benefit:
The City proposes a commensurate benefits package in return for allowing an expanded range of uses on the Master Use Permit sites.  As part of these benefits, WEBAIC believes a guaranteed percentage(15-20%) of now protected Manufacturing, Warehousing, & Wholesale Trade space should be required to be devoted to arts & traditional industrial uses (Manufacturing, Warehousing, Wholesale Trade, Green Collar) in a  50/50 split.

4.  No residences in the industrial zones:  Don't allow residential uses in the industrial zones.  Maintain staff's recently wavering but well documented West Berkeley Project central tenet of NOT allowing residential uses in the MULI, MM, or M zones.   

5.  Expand location possibilities for arts & crafts, and traditional industrial uses:  Allow Arts and Crafts, Construction yards, & Auto Repair Uses to locate on space now protected for Manufacturing, Warehousing, and Wholesale Trade and Material Recovery Enterprise(MRE) uses on property in and outside MUP boundaries. 

6. Institute Master Use Permit threshold that most closely encompasses only the six sites previously identified by the City as "underutilized development sites".  The main impetus for the present West Berkeley Project was the utilization of these sites and this focus should be maintained.

7. Limit Master Use Permit process to existing assembled sites.   Allowing continuing, unlimited aggregation of sites into MUP properties will result in further and unacceptable loss of protected industrial space in contradiction to numerous West Berkeley Plan Land Use and Economic Goals and Policies.

8. Show 3 & 4 acre MUP threshold site maps:  Provide stakeholders the maps (staff promised in February) of all aggregate properties subject to potential Master Use Permit thresholds of both three and four acres.  Only these maps will show what total percentage of West Berkeley commercial properties will be subject to the provisions of the Master Use Permit.

9.  No doubling of allowable building envelope on MUP sites:  The proposals by staff to allow a doubling of the allowable building envelope on West Berkeley's industrial zones by raising the height limit from 45 to 90 feet and the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) to four from two is an extreme expansion that would result in a massive change in the physical character of West Berkeley by:
   a.  destroying east and west view sheds
   b.  radically changing for the worse the existing human-scale texture and fabric of the
        living and working environment of thousands of people.
   c.  creating sterile, office park environments (think silicon valley)
   d.  creating large areas of shadowing of adjacent properties
   e.  creating huge, abrupt jumps in scale from one property to another, in contradiction to the   
        West Berkeley Plan's Physical Form Goals and Policies

10.  No full parking waivers:  Don't allow the potential full parking waivers staff is proposing on MUP sites, but allow parking waivers based on independent traffic and parking studies that institute verifiable and enforceable use of alternative transit by employees.

11.  Broader MUP Purposes:  Expand Purposes section of MUP to include promotion of employment for people of "all skill and education levels" and attraction of "arts and industry", not just "new" industry.

Thanks for your concern, time, and effort.  If you haven't already, please join your neighbors in this effort so we can continue to say for many years to come, that WEST BERKELEY WORKS!

   The WEBAIC steering committee

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 2755, Berkeley CA 94702