March 3, 2009               

Feb 25th Planning Commission
on the West Berkeley Rezoning Project

The Planning Commission addressed the West Berkeley Rezoning Project on February 25th.  Planning Staff gave an informational primer to the Commissioners on how the concept of "Uses" functions within the zoning ordinance, how "Uses" interact with the industrial protection provisions, and how they're linked to definitions and categories.  Being an educational update, no actions were taken on this presentation.

The bulk of the meeting was devoted to a City-coordinated effort intended to convince Commissioners and the public of the logic of changing the zoning.  This consisted of presentations by the Director of the Office of Economic Development Michael Caplan, developers Cushman & Wakefield, Peerless Properties, Michael Ziegler, and Michael Cohen of UC.

WEBAIC responded with its own data and testimony by owners of industrial companies, artists, and artisans.

• Michael Caplan talked about Berkeley's strengths in terms of an educated populous, proximity to UC, the growth of the clean/green tech sector, and Berkeley's participation in the East Bay Green Corridor.

• Michael Cohen of UC focused on how Berkeley could retain more of the spin-offs from the UC labs if zoning was more flexible. 

• Michael Ziegler, an industrial developer and owner of the 5+ acre Temescal property on 7th and Heinz, described how a previous Master Use Permit process had successfully allowed him to develop Temescal, and what he needed in the zoning and MUP process to make the Flint Ink site viable.

• Cushman & Wakefield, representatives of the American Soils site, gave an elaborate powerpoint worthy of their status as a 58-country global real estate firm.  It may have been this disconnect from the local that allowed them to present an amazing chart (in support of their intention to provide high-end jobs) that purported to show the population “within a 45 minute commute” skewed heavily toward the "wealthy and
educated", somehow managing to miss the poverty and lack of opportunity endemic to Oakland, Richmond, and parts of Berkeley.

• Darell Detienne, representative of the Peerless property, presented a project concept including both retail and extensive housing on Mixed Use Light Industrial zoned land (where these uses are prohibited), even though part of Peerless is in the Mixed Use Residential district which would allow the housing component if proposed there. 

• Chris Barlow of Wareham Properties spoke to what uses they hoped to attract and retain on their properties.

Several Planning Commissioners expressed displeasure at the limited two minute response time allotted citizens compared to the two hours given the City and its supporters and suggested WEBAIC be allowed the same extensive opportunity to present its case as was given to the City. 

During the two minute individual responses a number of effective presentations by West Berkeley industrial and artisan/arts users were given.  These presentations successfully built upon WEBAIC's impressive showing at last month's Planning Commission meeting where 30+ WEBAIC members shared with the Commission details about their companies and concerns about the rezoning process.

This time around, more detailed descriptions of various companies and their activities continued to make real for the Commissioners the valuable contributions of our sectors.  These included: George R. Martin's descriptions of the large, complex corrugated container-manufacturing machinery his George M. Martin Company produces in their 100,000 sq ft plant's five buildings; Dan Baker's descriptions of the rubber molded products his Polyseal Industries produces, including parts that go into Bart, Bayer, cherry pickers for Hurricane Katrina cleanup, and the majority of dental nitrous oxide delivery systems in the U.S.;  George Chittenden's descriptions of the thousands of specialty gold-coated glass tubes Adams and Chittenden Scientific Glass sends to Thailand (instead of the expected other direction) for incorporation into LumaSense Technologies gas sensors that end up in applications all over the world, including the U.S.; and Panache Lighting's Jana Olson describing the wide variety of everyday goods and services the West Berkeley Industrial Complex provides, including cabinetry, auto repair, sheetmetal, engraving,
printing, welding, and truly on and on.

WEBAIC presented a document to the Commission that was a WEBAIC variation on an Office of Economic Development Berkeley Employment chart. The City chart highlighted an alleged 30% decrease in manufacturing since 2000.  Conveniently separated from Manufacturing in another part of their chart was the employment rise of 19% in Wholesale Trade, 20% in Construction, 27% in Transportation & Warehousing, and the significant employment in the many Auto Repair companies in West Berkeley's industrial zones.  According to the City's own figures, West Berkeley's Industrial Complex employment not only did better percentage wise than Real Estate & Rental & Leasing, Retail Trade, Information, and Management Of Companies & Enterprises sectors, but it is the second largest employment sector in the City, only behind Government and University, while ahead of Health Care & Social Assistance, Accommodation & Food Services and Professional, Scientific, & Technical Skills.

Thanks to all who came out to the meeting for doing the essential work of shedding light on what it is that we do in West Berkeley and the contributions our enterprises make to our City, society, and the Planet.  Your presence continues to have a positive effect on the process and our message grows stronger and more clear with each public expression. 

The next Planning Commission meeting scheduled to address the rezoning is Wednesday, March 25th, 7 PM. The WEBAIC stakeholder group should be meeting with staff in the next two weeks.  Save the 25th and we'll let you know when we hear about the stakeholder meeting.  If you haven't had the opportunity to join WEBAIC or participate in the process, now's the time.  Please join in whatever way you can so we can continue to say, even in these challenging times, 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