July 23, 2010              

Key Wednesday July 28 Planning Commission Meeting on
Master Use Permit Issues, (Height/FAR/location, etc.),
Modified Uses/Definitions, West Berkeley Transportation Fee _______________________________________________________________
Planning Commission Chooses
Industrial R&D Definition in Line with WEBAIC Goals

• R&D Occupying Protected Industrial Space Must Now Have Industrial Component •

Many thanks to all the folks who came to the Planning Commission on the 14th and helped create a positive outcome.

WEBAIC Position: R&D Definition Must Require Need for Industrial Space.  On the table was the key issue of what type of R&D would be allowed in the limited amount of protected industrial space proposed for "flexing" between protected industrial uses and R&D.  WEBAIC's contention has been that the 4% of Berkeley dedicated to industrial and artistic production/distribution should not be used for offices such as office R&D, as they can locate in downtown offices (12.2% vacancy rate), on commercial corridors, and in West Berkeley's significant amount of office space (13.5% vacancy rate). 

Commission Recommendation for R&D with Industrial Component:  After a staff report, testimony, and discussion, the Planning Commission informally recommended against staff's proposed definition (which didn't differentiate between industrial/prototyping R&D and office R&D) and for a definition that would require R&D occupying protected space to have an industrial component.  Adding the phrase "that requires a lab or other non-office space" to staff's previously proposed definition was the mechanism applied.  Though not ideal, we believe this definition can accomplish the intended goal.

• Upcoming July 28th Planning Commission Meeting •

Master Use Permit Issues

• Staff proposed 75 feet height limit and Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 3.5 on Master Use Permit (MUP) sites:  Without any demonstrated need, staff continues to propose huge increases in development standards that would result in a tripling of the West Berkeley built environment, currently built to less than FAR 1. These proposed standards will degrade the workability and livability of the environment, ultimately facilitate residential and office towers on the precious 4% of Berkeley's land devoted to industrial and artistic production, and create speculation-inducing land value differentials, further incentivizing for gentrification. A special permit can be created for the rare instance where a company requires expanded heights for verified production needs (we only know of one - Bayer).

• Staff proposal for Residential and Retail Uses in the M Zones:  Staff has proposed allowing residential and retail uses under certain circumstances in Manufacturing zones on Master Use Permit (MUP) sites. The WB Project Draft Environmental Impact Report states clearly that "These revisions to permitted uses (to the West Berkeley Plan and Zoning Ordinance) would not include allowing housing".  Staff's proposal to allow howning the the M districts not only contradicts the DEIR but violates 1.) staff's West Berkeley Project pledge "No residences in industrial zones", 2.) accepted City Planning good practices, 3.) West Berkeley Plan Goals & Policies, and 4.) is a prime, negative example of the actions that Hausrath Economics' "Goods Movement Study" (for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission) says is forcing companies out and causing serious economic, environmental, and social harm to the Bay Area.

• Limitations on Master Use Permit Sites: 

1.) There needs to be a "date by" limitation on aggregation of property for MUP eligibility in order to maintain the balance of uses and economic activity in West Berkeley.  Beyond this date only properties under one ownership that already meet the four acre threshold would be eligible for an MUP.  Since 42% of W. Berkeley industrial property already meets the 4 acre threshold, allowing even greater applicability would facilitate the detrimental expansion of MUP sites until the majority of the land under jurisdiction of the West Berkeley Plan would defacto be removed from this governance, clearly violating the West Berkeley Plan's core goal of encouraging a mixed economy through maintaining a robust industrial manufacturing and distribution sector. 

2.) Single City blocks less than the 4 acre eligibility threshold should not be eligible for the MUP.  The City has given no data showing which and/or how many blocks fall into this category nor made a case for this provision.

• No Full Parking Waivers:  Parking is at or near capacity in most of West Berkeley's industrial zones. Parking waivers should be tied one-to-one to required, verifiable use of alternative transportation modes by employees.

• For MUR residents: - Heights, Allowing Retail and Industrial in MUR:  It's part of WEBAIC's Mission to "Work cooperatively as good neighbors...".  We believe West Berkeley works best when it works for everyone.  WEBAIC believes staff's height and FAR proposals are unnecessary and destructive for our sectors, but we've heard from many residents that these proposals will degrade your environment as your views are blocked and buildings near the size of Fantasy will loom over your homes.  Staff also proposes allowing retail uses permitted on San Pablo, Ashby, & University to be located in the MUR and to allow industrial uses currently prohibited in the MUR zones to locate there.

Proposed New & Modified Industrial/Art Uses, Definitions, & Discretion Levels

WEBAIC has requested a meeting with Planning staff to address the issues below.  We believe a short discussion at this stage can save a significant amount of both Planning Commissioner, and ultimately, staff time.

* ZC = Zoning Certificate - over-the counter permit w/ no notice to adjacent properties, no hearing, no opportunity to weigh in.

• WEBAIC: ZC for Arts & Crafts, not just Internet Retailers & Commercial Visual & Aural Arts.
Staff has proposed giving ZCs to Warehouse Based Internet Retailers (i.e. wine.com) and Commercial Visual and Aural Arts Production (Tippet, Saul Zaentz), but not to Contractors or Arts and Crafts Uses.  Perpetuating expensive hurdles and process for small scale arts/crafts uses is unacceptable.  WEBAIC has consistently asked for this to be a ZC.  The important economic activity, family-wage jobs provided by contractors, and the environmental benefits provided by the many green contractors located in West Berkeley make a ZC for this use a common sense proposal.

•  WEBAIC: No ZC for large uses (Internet Retailers, Commercial Visual/Aural Arts, R&D) near MUR residents.
WEBAIC's mission includes being good neighbors with the residents in the industrial zones.  Staff's proposal to give a ZC for up to 10,000 sq ft of Commercial Aural and Visual Arts Production in the MUR Zone doesn't meet this standard.  Residents should have the opportunity to express their opinion about potential impacts when a commercial business of this magnitude proposes locating in close proximity to their homes.  This also applies to staff's new proposal to give a ZC for R&D up to 20,000 in the MULI.  As MULI bumps up against MUR residences all through West Berkeley, this should require at least an AUP, giving residents the opportunity to inquire as to the activity and parking and traffic impacts.

• WEBAIC: Retain reasonable limits on size of ancillary retail for manufacturing uses.
Maintain the existing limitations of 1500 sq ft of retail allowed for the selling of items manufactured on site in the MUR and M Zones and the 3000 sq ft limitation in the MULI.  It appears staff has proposed removing these limitations.

• WEBAIC: Allow dance, music, and rehearsal studios in M & MM, MULI Zones.  Although these uses are listed as "protected" in the MULI, they are not listed as allowable uses in these three zones.  This needs correction.

• WEBAIC: Allow Auto Repair in all industrial zones - now only allowed in MULI now.  Auto repair uses contribute to environmental sustainability by keeping cars tuned up, and as 2/3 of the energy footprint over a car's lifetime comes from its creation (result of mining/mfg), keeping used cars on the road is green.

• WEBAIC: Recycling/Materials Processing should be ok in MULI/MM & in Protected Space. Now ok in just M.

Transportation Services Fee for New Development & Certain Building Improvements:
The Planning commission will take testimony on the proposed Transportation Services Fee.  This is a per sq ft fee proposed to be levied on new development & building improvements that would generate new traffic that will go into a fund to pay for traffic improvements identified as necessary by the West Berkeley Master Circulation Transportation Plan.  A question needing to be answered:  With the City incentivizing millions of sq ft of new development projected to seriously overload the existing traffic infrastructure, why isn't the burden placed entirely on these new developments, rather than on long-contributing Berkeley businesses?


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