Planning commission to discuss long-awaited Downtown Area Plan tonight

The city of Berkeley’s planning commission will meet Wednesday night to discuss the next steps toward implementing the city’s latest draft of the Downtown Area Plan — a vision to revitalize the area through the promotion of environmental sustainability and community-oriented design.

On Wednesday night, the commission will discuss amendments to the language of the plan, as well as map changes and design guidelines, according to the planning staff’s report.

“Our intent was to take things from Measure R and make sure they’re accurately in the downtown area plan,” said Wendy Cosin, interim planning director for the city.

The plan’s current draft incorporates the commission’s latest revisions and recommendations while conforming to guidelines in Measure R  —  a ballot measure which was approved by voters in November and lists 12 policies for the city to undertake in implementing the area plan with the goals of concentrating housing and jobs near public transportation, promoting green development standards and designating maximum building heights in the downtown area.

Although building height was a contentious issue for many prior to the passage of Measure R, the measure designates 60 feet as the maximum height for buildings in the downtown area, with 75 feet allowed with a use permit on Shattuck and University avenues.  The measure also allows for two residential buildings and one hotel to be built at heights up to 180 feet, while an additional two office spaces can be as tall as 120 feet.

According to Cosin, staff will take zoning ordinance amendments to the planning commission at its next meeting in two weeks, after which the commission must set a public hearing.

“I’d say six weeks after the planning committee takes action, we could take it to the council,” she added.

The measure defines the downtown area as the area bounded by Hearst Street, Dwight Way, Oxford Street — which becomes Fulton Street south of UC Berkeley campus  — and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Sarah Mohamed is the lead city government reporter.