The lowdown: Berkeley council on accessory units, parks budget, limits on frats and mini-dorms, more

Council listened to hours of testimony about the Berkeley protests Tuesday night. Photo: Emilie Raguso
The Berkeley City Council meets Tuesday nights at Old City Hall. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is scheduled to consider new rules to streamline the process for property owners who wish to build accessory dwelling units. Council had been slated, too, to decide whether to expand its mini-dorm ordinance to limit the impacts on neighbors of “group living accommodations” such as fraternities and sororities, but that action has been postponed until April 28. (The public will still be allowed to speak on the issue, however.) There’s also a 5:30 p.m. worksession focused on the budget outlooks for the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront and Public Works departments. 

The worksession

PARKS BUDGET Budget season is ramping up and council is slated to learn, during a 5:30 p.m. worksession, how the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront and Public Works departments are faring. The former’s “historically underfunded capital and major maintenance programs have accelerated the deterioration of park buildings and facilities citywide,” as per the staff report. In November, voters broadly approved Measure F, an increase in the parks tax, to provide some extra money. This year, projects are planned at Virginia McGee Totland, Terrace View, Ohlone Dog Park, Grove Park and John Hinkel, where the clubhouse will be demolished after a fire in January. Among plans on the horizon: Improvements at James Kenney Park in West Berkeley and a master plan for Cesar Chavez Park (2015-17); building projects at San Pablo Park and Aquatic Park (2017-18); and the replacement of the Berkeley Rose Garden trellis (2018-19). Read more about the parks budget.

PUBLIC WORKS PLAN The city may increase its Public Works Department budget by about $1 million annually to begin to address a slew of critical maintenance needs. According to the staff report, the department “has a current budget of $900,000 and an identified deferred maintenance backlog of $16.39 million.” Tuesday, council will receive the department’s five-year plan, which prioritizes the department’s needs. Worth noting: “Not included in this report is the City’s $118 million of seismic retrofit needs.” Read more about the public works budget.

The action calendar

MINI DORMS Council was scheduled to hear two new items related to residential property matters: adjustments to its mini-dorm ordinance and zoning changes proposed to make it easier for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units. The mini-dorm item — which would have imposed additional requirements on mini-dorms as well as group living accommodations such as fraternities and sororities — has been postponed until April 28, “to maximize public participation in the policy discussion about this council item,” according to the city manager’s office. (Students are off this week for Spring Break, and the item is closely tied to student life.) The proposal, from the city manager’s office, said the goal is to crack down on a slew of problems than can crop up in higher-density housing, which “impair the quiet enjoyment of the surrounding neighborhoods by creating trash and litter, creating excess parking demand, and being the location of numerous loud and unruly parties.” Members of the public should still have a chance to speak. Read the proposal, along with past Berkeleyside coverage of the issue.


ACCESSORY UNITS Separately, council is slated to consider a proposal from Mayor Tom Bates that seeks to make it easier for property owners — on lots of at least 3,800 square feet — to build accessory units by allowing the structures “as-of-right.” That would mean structures that follow certain standards would not need use permits from city planners, and could potentially have a more flexible approach to parking. Bates wrote in the proposal that this type of building is “often needed for an aging parent or family member in transition, particularly in Berkeley’s tight and expensive housing market.” The item asks the city manager’s office to adjust the zoning code, and bring back ordinance language for approval, if council votes in favor of it. A local architect wrote an op-ed on the proposal, published Monday on Berkeleyside. Read the mayor’s proposal.

Has something else on the agenda caught your interest? Let us know in the comments.

Meeting details

Follow live tweets of the Berkeley Council meeting by clicking the image above. Join in by tagging your tweets #berkmtg.
Follow live tweets of the Berkeley Council meeting by clicking the image above. Join in by tagging your tweets #berkmtg.

The Berkeley City Council meets Tuesday nights at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Special sessions generally take place at 5:30 p.m. and regular meetings begin at 7 p.m. Council agendas are available online here. Watch the meetings online here.

Berkeleyside often covers council meetings live on Twitter. Others sometimes do the same and the discussion can get spirited. Follow council coverage on Twitter via hashtag #berkmtg. Follow along in real-time here, and tag your tweets with #berkmtg to join in.

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Council-related Twitter handles:
@MayorTomBates
@LindaMaio (District 1)
Darryl Moore @BerkCouncil (District 2)
@JesseArreguin (District 4)
Laurie Capitelli @berkcap (District 5)
Kriss Worthington @k__worthington (District 7)
Lori Droste @loridroste (District 8)

Learn more about the Berkeley City Council and how to connect with local representatives via the city website.

Related:
Council on homelessness, sewer fee hike, limiting vaccine exemptions, crude oil, more (03.17.15)
Council on crime report, liquor store surveillance cameras, donations for the homeless (03.09.15)
The lowdown: Berkeley council on protests, drones, more (02.24.15)
The lowdown: Council on protests, police body cameras, gender-neutral restrooms, more (02.10.15)
The lowdown: Council on energy ordinance, protests, police cameras, goBerkeley, more (01.27.15)
The lowdown: Council on Berkeley protests and police relations, zoning board appeals (01.13.15)
‘Double header’ Berkeley council meetings set for Tuesday, 2 protests also planned (12.15.14)

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