At its 12th public hearing, Berkeley Honda’s planned move to the old Any Mountain building at 2777 Shattuck Ave. finally got the green light at Berkeley City Council Tuesday night.
Three weeks ago, five hours of public comment and council discussion was not enough to break a deadlock. On Tuesday, however, a motion by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín to remand the project to the Zoning Adjustments Board in the hope of finding a compromise between Berkeley Honda and community opponents failed to win a majority (Arreguín, Sophie Hahn, Cheryl Davila and Ben Bartlett voted in favor of the motion, but the four votes did not constitute a majority on the eight-member council). As a result, Berkeley Honda will get its permit automatically next week – 30 days after the Feb. 7 council meeting.
In November 2014, Berkeley Honda left its longtime location at 2600 Shattuck Ave. to make way for a large mixed-use development called Parker Place currently under construction. After struggling since 2008 to find an appropriate new location, the business has said it came to an agreement with the property owner of 2777 Shattuck after Any Mountain requested an early termination of its lease there.
Once again, a long line of local residents delivered more than one hour of comments Tuesday, largely opposed to the project.
“They say the California attorney general’s office is the largest law firm in the world,” said Bartlett after the public comment. “Well, they’ve clearly never met the LeConte neighborhood.”
Several public commenters vowed to take legal action to stop the project. One discussion point at the council was a flawed notice of the public hearing: only 12 days notice was given (rather than the statutory 14) and a wrong date was on one part of the notice. Bartlett and Hahn proposed a motion at the meeting to continue the hearing to another date, to avoid possible litigation over the flawed notice. The motion failed.
City attorney Zach Cowan said at the meeting his view was that the technical problems with the notice did not cause any harm in this case. He thought it was unlikely that they could be used successfully for legal action.
Councilman Kriss Worthington said he thought it was “repeatedly clear” that the law allowed the Berkeley Honda project. As he argued on Feb. 7, he said city planning and policy had cleared the way for the move.
“I’m being asked to do the same thing that the old guard did and it’s not ethical,” Worthington said. “It’s not political, it’s not personal.”
Hahn, who made clear her opposition to the project on Feb. 7 with a 15-minute speech, slightly mangled her Shakespeare in response.
“Methinks he doth protest too much,” she said.