Tag Archives: Measure R
Electoral districts, either within a city, a county, or a state, are drawn to best represent the people and communities within them. That is, unless you live in Berkeley.
In 1986, Berkeley adopted districts for its City Council. Yet rather than permit districts that represent our communities as they grow and change, as is done everywhere else in the country, Berkeley has made the 1986 lines permanent, allowing for only minor deviations for population adjustment.
Big deal, you might say. … Continue reading »
After hundreds of meetings, seven years of contentious debate, and the sting of a ballot referendum still fresh, the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night adopted a new plan for its downtown.
The 8 to 1 vote, with Councilmember Kriss Worthington dissenting, may bring as many as seven tall buildings to the area bounded by Hearst Avenue to the north, Dwight Way to the south, MLK on the west, and Fulton on the east. It creates open space requirements, allows a faster approval process for buildings that are extra “green,” encourages LEED Gold construction, and creates a fund to build more affordable housing.
And, according to critics, it might create a cookie-cutter approach to building construction and a density that is out of character with Berkeley. … Continue reading »
After seven years of trying, including an approved plan that was then rescinded in 2009, a Downtown Area Plan for Berkeley (DAP) looks close to passage.
At the City Council meeting on Tuesday night, the plan was open for public comment. The council will hold a special meeting next at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday with the plan the only item of business, and, from the tenor of both public comment and councilmember remarks this week, it looks likely to pass.
The plan brought to the council (alert: the plan packet is a massive 1,204-page, 173MB PDF) follows the 64% approval by voters of the advisory Measure R in November, 2010. It includes up to seven tall buildings, open space and green building requirements, and a so-called “green pathway” to streamline the permit process (details are at the foot of this story). What the plan does not yet include are details on the Streets and Open Space Improvement Plan (SOSIP) and related impact and in-lieu fees that will be part of the DAP implementation. According to the presentation on Tuesday, those elements will come to council this spring. … Continue reading »
Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved a new downtown plan Tuesday, paving the way for construction of five new tall buildings and a denser, transit-oriented community.
Voters passed the controversial Measure R with 64% of the vote.
“I was floored that 64% of the people voted the way they did,” Mayor Tom Bates said Wednesday. “It said to me that people understand global warming. If we want to reduce it we have to have people living downtown, near … Continue reading »
There’s no issue more contentious on the November 2 ballot than Measure R, the advisory measure that establishes a new downtown plan.
Measure R, placed on the ballot by the City Council after Berkeley residents collected enough signatures to force a previous downtown plan to a vote, sets new guidelines on growth and development in the downtown area.
With its call to permit five new high rises in an expanded downtown core, Measure R has either been touted as Berkeley’s environmentally-friendly solution to suburban sprawl and urban blight or accused of spurring the Manhattanization of Berkeley. And with the news that a company headed by Chicago developer Sam Zell has made the largest single donation to the Yes on R campaign (his Equity Residential company contributed $25,000) opponents contend they have discovered the smoking gun that proves that bad intentions (read profit) is the motivator behind Measure R.
As in all election measures that prompt an excess of hyperbole, many of these claims go too far. And each also holds a kernel of truth.
Here is Berkeleyside’s attempt to examine the most controversial aspects of Measure R:
What Measure R means: It is important to note that Measure R is an advisory measure meant to provide general guidelines. If it passes, the City Council would then direct staff to draw up a detailed downtown plan, which the City Council would then adopt or reject after a series of public hearings. There would be additional time for residents of Berkeley to express their opinions about the plan.
If Measure R fails, the city can continue to operate under its existing plan, adopted in 1990. Or the council could try and adopt a new plan on its own.
What opponents of Measure R say: They contend that the measure is too vague to adopt.
What supporters of Measure R say: This is a set of policy guidelines meant to give the council direction. The City Council will follow those directions as they move forward to write the actual plan.
Under the current downtown plan adopted in 1990, the area defined as “downtown” is centered around the Berkeley Bart station. It permits construction of buildings up to 65 feet. If a developer uses the city’s “cultural bonus” provision and adds a performing space on the ground floor of a building, he or she can build up to 89 feet. If a developer also uses the “state density bonus” by making 35% of its residential units “affordable,” he or she can build up to 117 feet. The Arpeggio building on Center Street is an example of a structure that used both the bonuses.
Under Measure R, the area defined as “downtown” will be expanded to run from Hearst to Dwight streets and from MLK to Oxford/Fulton streets. Buildings in this core area will generally have a 60-foot height limit, with some exceptions. Developers can apply for a permit to build to 75 feet on Shattuck between Hearst and Haste, and on University from Oxford to Milvia. However, developers building to this height will waive their right to apply for extra height under the “state density bonus,” The cultural bonus will be eliminated.
Under Measure R, the city will also permit the construction of five high rises in the downtown core. Three of these can be 180 feet high (height of the Great Western Building or about 15 stories high) and must be located within a one-block radius of the downtown BART station. Two must be residential towers and one must be a hotel. The city will also permit development of two towers of 120 feet. (These would be about 10 stories high). These could be either residential or office space.
What supporters of Measure R say: Increasing the density of the downtown core is the most environmentally friendly position. It will bring people downtown to live, reduce suburban sprawl, and get them out of their cars. The new condos will attract empty nesters and affluent professionals, which will in turn attract new retail.
Opponents of Measure R say: The new high rises won’t solve Berkeley’s housing supply problems because it only encourages housing for the rich. There is already enough student housing downtown, and a city economic feasibility study suggests that new condos would have to sell in the $700,000 to $1 million range to be economically feasible for developers. This is too expensive for average people.
Supporters of Measure R say: To build the 180-foot buildings, the measure requires developers either to set aside 20% of their units as affordable or pay into a city housing trust.
Opponents of Measure R say: The expanded definition of the downtown core, coupled with the possibility of building five high rises, will push tall buildings into new areas. They won’t be clustered around the downtown BART station. Sam Zell’s Equity Residential, for instance, has applied for a permit to create 200 units of housing in six buildings on University Avenue between Shattuck and Walnut. The project will be known as Acheson Commons.
Currently, the height limit in that area is 60 feet. If Measure R is adopted, Equity Residential could apply to build one of the 120-foot towers, bringing a high rise to a new area of the city, according to Susan Cerny, a board member of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and an opponent of Measure R. That’s why Sam Zell has donated so generously to the Yes on R campaign, said Cerny. If it passes, the value of his real estate will increase significantly, she said.
Measure R does not specify where any of the 120-foot high rises can and should be built, according to Matt Taecker, a principal planner for the city. If passed by the voters, that detail will be determined by the City Council. However, the EIR prepared for the May 2010 version of the downtown area plan does extend the possible location of 120-foot high rises to Hearst Street, so Cerny appears to be correct in stating that Equity Residential could probably try to build a tower, said Taecker. But it wouldn’t be the first high rise north of University. UC Berkeley is already building the 100-foot Helios Building nearby on Berkeley Way. The 180-foot high rises would be restricted to within a one-block area around BART.