Op-ed: City Council should deny Berkeley Honda’s attempt to move nearer a residential neighborhood

More than 200 neighbors have signed a petition against Berkeley Honda moving into their area.

On Tuesday, Feb. 7th the City Council will be hearing the neighborhood appeal of the Zoning Adjustments Board decision to allow Berkeley Honda to build an auto sales and service operation at 2777 Shattuck Avenue. The building was originally a bowling alley; it then became the original Berkeley Bowl Market and for the next fifteen years housed the Any Mountain sporting goods store. 2777 Shattuck is right where Adeline and Shattuck merge into one street. It’s a busy and confusing intersection.

More than 200 South Shattuck neighbors have spent the last two years trying to fight Berkeley Honda’s plan to build the new dealership and 14 bay repair shop in this location. There is no neighborhood group that I know of that is in favor of having a dealership in that already congested location. In fact, it is in violation of Berkeley land use policies and the Berkeley Municipal Code. It also disregards the plans for an Adeline Corridor that would link Berkeley and Oakland via pedestrian walkways, bike lanes, and open spaces.

Opposition to this project is not an anti- development stance as some might portray it. Some type of commercial and/or residential complex will go into this desirable location that already houses two wonderful restaurants, Kirala, and Stonehenge.

 With all the new housing being built on South Shattuck, there will be hundreds of new residents in South Berkeley. There will be a growing need for services and businesses that enhance the area and help make it an attractive, and safe place to live. We have hopes that the new mayor and city council will move us towards a greener and more sustainable downtown. If the city of Berkeley is to allow so many new large residential buildings, it needs to ensure that AC transit can still service it’s routes, that children can continue to walk to school, and that dangerous traffic problems be addressed not created. Putting an auto dealership and repair shop in this location disregards all of these legitimate concerns

This project conflicts with existing land use policies. Auto servicing and repair is not allowed in locations that have not previously been used for that purpose. Honda has been able to finesse this by characterizing the service and repair as ancillary (secondary) to their main business of sales, however the plans for a 14 bay repair shop makes that claim dubious. Plans for parking and parts deliveries are equally questionable, as it includes their exclusive use of a public right of way.

Lastly, there is the issue that has become Honda’s (and some council members) most repeated objection to our appeal which is that denying this project in this location, is to deny union jobs and tax revenue. Loss of union jobs and tax revenue is a real concern, throughout the city of Berkeley. However by ignoring all the legal, zoning, and safety concerns that make this project untenable is to unfairly scapegoat this appeal on behalf of citywide issues. Neighborhood opposition to this project is a valid response to a land uses violation that will impact everyone whether they live nearby or are just passing through. Please join us at the City Council Meeting on Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

Lucy Slater is a fabric designer and artist who has lived in South Berkeley for the last nine years.