Berkeley City Council discusses updating zoning ordinance, affirms new landmark

Mikaela Raphael/Staff

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Berkeley City Council held two special meetings Tuesday to discuss the city Planning and Development Department’s ongoing projects and address appeals to land proposals.

At the first meeting, Carol Johnson, the Planning and Development Department’s acting director, presented initiatives to update zoning ordinance — which currently can restrict businesses entering an area — and implement more sustainable strategies to assist the city in meeting the greenhouse emission reduction goals. Additionally, the city affirmed the designation of a new city landmark and postponed action on an appeal against a new wireless communication center.

In her presentation, Johnson highlighted some of the key accomplishments and ongoing efforts of the department, such as addressing the tragic Berkeley balcony collapse with the exterior elevated elements program and receiving a grant to building an energy microgrid on a new downtown parking structure. The department is also working to update the language of the zoning ordinance.

“I think that amending the zoning ordinance is really important … since it’s so poorly written,” said city councilmember Susan Wengraf.

Wengraf added that because updating the ordinance may allow for the removal of housing quotas and other business limitations in certain zoning districts, it would further support the city’s economic development and preservation of housing.

Johnson said at the meeting that the department is considering hiring consultants to help them decide how to best update the ordinance and create changes that address community concerns.

Additionally, the council discussed plans to reduce greenhouse gas emission to 33 percent below 2000 levels by 2020 in accordance with its Climate Action Plan. According to City Manager assistant Timothy Burroughs, who provided updates on the initiative’s progress, the city has approximately reduced emissions by 13 percent based on available data up to 2014.

Burroughs said that the city Office of Energy and Sustainable Development is considering implementing Community Choice Aggregation — a state policy that allows local government to provide green energy while maintaining the existing electricity provider for transmission and distribution.

After the Planning and Development Department updates, the council held a public hearing where it affirmed the the declaration of the Bennington apartments on 2508 Ridge Rd. as a city landmark. According to the agenda memo, two of the first houses constructed in the development of Daley’s Scenic Park tract were moved to the current Ridge Road location and incorporated into the apartment complex in 1915.

The other appeal was a community petition against the construction of a new wireless telecommunication facility for Verizon Wireless. The facility would include 12 antennas and be built above an existing three-story multifamily residential building located on 2750 Dwight Way. The appeal was postponed to the council’s Nov. 15 meeting.

Contact Roann Pao at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @roann_pao.