June 21, 2009               

Critical West Berkeley Project Planning Commission Meeting   
7PM, June 24th, North Berkeley Senior Center, NE corner of Hearst and MLK

Master Use Permit Issues & Fast-Tracked Zoning Proposals

Proposed For MUPs:  Offices on industrial sites, loss of industrial protections, 90 ft height and FAR 5

Planning Staff will bring issues of critical importance to West Berkeley industry and arts enterprises before the Planning Commission this Wednesday. Staff will present proposed zoning language for the fast-tracked proposals and request a public hearing on these items be set for July 22nd.  The fast-track proposals are important issues for industry and arts but more critical is the discussion that will take place regarding the Master Use Permit.  Master Use Permit issues go to the heart of whether West Berkeley will remain a viable environment for industrial and arts uses into the future, and several of staff's options/proposals would seriously and negatively impact this viability. Please consider coming to this meeting.  As the West Berkeley items are second on the agenda, coming at 7PM is likely not necessary but a time update will be emailed to you by Tuesday.

WEBAIC Core Concept underlying WEBAIC positions on West Berkeley Project issues:

If a use (not in support of a primary industrial/arts use) can be conducted in an office environment it should not locate on the very limited (3-5%) amount of Berkeley's land reserved for industrial and artistic production, distribution, repair, recycling/reuse, and supply (except for existing provision allowing office in MULI), but should locate on the ample property zoned for office and office-type uses in the Commercial zones, including downtown.

In keeping with this Core Concept, industrial laboratory uses should be allowed to locate on the large acreage projected to be available on Master Use Permit properties identified as "underutilized development sites", 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

•  Issues before Planning Commission - WEBAIC perspectives  • 

Fast-tracked proposals - Violation of stated pledge to work with stakeholders:

Staff's June 10th report to the Planning Commission stated that: "Planning staff will continue to work with stakeholder groups on the City Council Fast Track Items and will return to Planning Commission on June 24th with draft zoning language." Staff did not "continue to work with stakeholders (WEBAIC)" on these items."  There was brief and partial notification as to their new proposal but no consultation or negotiation took place.  As a result, demising proposal is not informed by the experience of those most familiar with these policies—industrial brokers and industrial/artisan business owners—and is thus insufficient to provide the necessary improvement to these policies desired by all parties. 

In response to this lack of consultation, WEBAIC reconvened its collaboration on this issue with West Berkeley's most active industrial real estate brokers, John Norheim and Don Yost. In June 2006, the City Council endorsed and passed on a proposal by WEBAIC, Norheim & Yost, and former Office of Economic Development director Neil Mayer to improve West Berkeley's zoning and facilitate economic activity. This proposal included a section on the liberalization of demising.  After sitting dormant on the Planning director's desk for two years, the Planning Commission finally directed staff to incorporate this document and it's intentions into the overall West Berkeley Project.  

In a meeting this week, WEBAIC and Norheim & Yost (N&Y) updated our original proposal on demising by taking a serious look at the positive and negative implications of lowering discretion at each threshold level.  In our last Newsletter, WEBAIC stated our position on this issue that we support easing restrictions but seeks a more nuanced approach to avoid unintended consequences from an unexamined, across-the-board approach. Unfortunately, staff is once again proposing an across-the-board reduction of one level of discretion for an issue demanding and deserving a serious effort.  In no way does this heavy-handed methodology do justice to such an important issue and it does not reflect a credible City Planning effort. The new WEBAIC/N&Y demising proposal will be presented to the Planning Commission Wednesday.

WEBAIC supports staff's efforts to implement new zoning language for the following proposals:

• Allow retail incidental to Manufacturing/Warehouse/Wholesale Trade subsequent to initial Use Permit issuance.

• Staff proposes to clarify Manufacturing/Warehousing/Wholesale Trade/MRE interchangeability language.

• Switching to NAICS (North American Industrial Classification System) Codes from existing SIC Code.

Master Use Permit Issues:  Staff's report identifies "Unresolved... MUP Components for PC direction & input."

MUP Eligibility Requirements-


WEBAIC Position:  Target MUP as closely as possible to six originally targeted "underutilized opportunity sites." 3 acre threshold results in vast, unacceptable expansion.

Staff Position:  Presently, a 3 acre threshold.

The West Berkeley Plan sets a 5 acre threshold for an MUP.  The present MUP effort was initially based on facilitating development on six sites identified by the City as "underutilized development opportunity sites".  To better understand the applicability of the MUP throughout West Berkeley, WEBAIC requested maps showing how many parcels would qualify for MUP status under 3, 4, and 5 acre thresholds. These maps have finally been provided, and though they're unfortunately designed in a confusing graphic style, the important information is there if one looks carefully.  The maps demonstrate that at all threshold levels, much of West Berkeley's industrial zones would fall under the MUP, but show that the 5 acre threshold is by far closest to the original intention of providing this status to the original six sites.  The maps show these levels of MUP applicability at these three different threshold levels:

Three acre threshold: approximately  25-30 sites and 42% of M, MM, and MULI property
Four acre threshold:   approximately  16 sites
Five acre threshold  : approximately  12 sites

Each of these levels shows a vast expansion from the original intention, but clearly the 5 acre threshold (same as West Berkeley Plan) is the closest.  At the 4 acre threshold, the only site not qualifying is the McCauley Foundry site which is presently occupied by 11 small industrial and artisan businesses many of them green collar. WEBAIC's position is that we should continue to seeks a threshold that as closely as possible would only apply to the six initially targeted sites.  Applicability at the lower thresholds removes from the purview of the West Berkeley Plan a huge percentage of the property it is intended to oversee, resulting in the violation of numerous of its Goals and Policies, in contradiction to the West Berkeley Plan EIR.


WEBAIC Position:  A method for limitation of aggregation of sites for MUP eligibility must be instituted.

Staff Position:  Under Consolidation, staff lists no option for limiting aggregation of parcels for MUP eligibility and proposes to: "Allow for additional consolidation of parcels under one ownership that would create additional MUP sites."  Unlimited aggregation of sites for MUP eligibility is probably the greatest threat to the viability of industry and arts in West Berkeley.  As existing industrial protections and allowable industrial and arts uses are proposed to be eliminated or changed on MUP properties, aggregation could decimate the amount of property available for our sectors and induce widespread displacement of existing businesses.  WEBAIC has proposed a ""date by" which a site must meet eligibility requirements for MUP status and staff has referenced a "list" of potential MUP sites, but we have received no definitive, positive signs of policy moving in this direction.

Development Standards

Floor Area Ration (FAR) and Height: 

WEBAIC Position:  No unnecessary doubling of FAR to 4 and height to 90 feet.

Staff Position:  Now suggesting a possible FAR of 5 and continues supporting 90 foot height limit.

Staff previously acknowledged a negative reaction from the Planning Commission to their 90 foot height and 4 FAR proposals but they continue to support these unpopular ideas.  Instead of the FAR of 4 they now suggest 3 to 5.

As we have stated before, WEBAIC believes there should be no doubling of height and FAR.  Wareham has been able to successfully build and occupy laboratory space under existing standards.  These new proposals essentially facilitate massive office and condo development. If industrial production facilities require expanded heights (i.e. Bayer) this need can be accommodated in a more appropriate, site-specific manner.  This proposal degrades functionality for our sectors and livability for our residential neighbors who have begun to come out strongly against these provisions as detrimental to their environment due to the close proximity of zones and structures.

Full Parking Waivers on MUP sites - Although staff acknowledges that the Planning Commission did not approve of this concept they continue to promote it.  There should be No full parking waivers.  Parking waivers should be tied to viable, demonstrable, required use of alternative transportation modes by employees.  WEBAIC values forward-looking, even visionary thinking, but draws the line at delusional.

Permitted Uses:    Protected Uses/Spaces

WEBAIC Position:  Maintain existing industrial and artisan/arts protections on MUP properties

Staff Position: "Allow MUP developments flexibility with protections for manufacturing space on an MUP site." 

Each of the six identified MUP “opportunity" sites have a different percentage of protected industrial space, ranging from 0% to approximately 90%.  In the present zoning 25% of now-protected industrial space can be converted "by right" to non-protected uses.  This allows sufficient space for compatible and allowable uses on these sites.  Industrial protections on MUP sites should be maintained, as this would assure space for industrial green/clean/bio tech industrial lab uses. This would assure space for green collar jobs, arts uses, non-lab industrial uses, and facilitate a new revenue stream for the City.  Staff proposes allowing displacement of industrial/artisan space while giving the MUP the option of maintaining this space as part of the "benefit" they would provide the City.  This is a WEBAIC idea that staff has incorporated, but WEBAIC proposes this as a "required" benefit, not an optional one.  Only as a requirement would industrial/artisan space be assured to not be lost.
Mix of Uses –

WEBAIC Position:  Do not allow primary office uses on industrial MUP sites presently not allowing them.

Staff Position: "Allow permitted Uses (primary office uses) from all “M” districts to freely develop on MUP sites.  (Possible allowing of residential uses on MUP sites-to be determined)

Staff also proposes to "Allow for exchange of uses within an MUP regardless of location." It is unclear at the time of this writing whether staff is suggesting that Uses allowed in the MUR zone be allowed on MUPs.  This would be an unprecedented and drastic expansion, allowing housing and unlimited office uses into the industrial zones.  This would be a complete violation of West Berkeley Plan Goals and Policies.  We're awaiting clarification on this point.  Even if this is not the case, staff is proposing the unlimited location of office uses on MUP sites and claims this interchangeability "would provide a desirable mix of uses.". These policies are in direction contradiction to WEBAIC's Core Concept that states: If a use (not in support of a primary industrial/arts use) can be conducted in an office environment it should not locate on the very limited (3-5%) amount of Berkeley's land reserved for industrial and artistic production, distribution, repair, recycling/reuse, and supply.  The proposed policy is unacceptable, as office uses not in support of  primary industrial or artisan business are not only physically incompatible with industrial/artisan uses, but are a gentrifying and destabilizing force owing to their significantly higher rent structure historically resulting in the displacement industrial and artisan uses.


Staff proposes focusing received "benefits" from MUP sites on three areas:
• Preservation and expansion of the artisan/artists community of West Berkeley;  
• Job creation/job training programs to support living wage jobs for Berkeley residents.
• Support for programs to reduce auto dependency and increase transportation options for employees and
   residents in West Berkeley. 

WEBAIC supports these benefit goals but also believes the location of Green Collar companies and jobs on MUP sites should be sought.  Additionally, we must be careful not to put into effect policies that would decimate the existing artisan/artist population on and outside of MUP properties in hopes of an elusive "benefit" to the arts that may or may not follow from institution of the MUP process.  There is historical precedent for this caution in Berkeley on this subject.

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