City defers decision on appeal to overturn Berkeley Honda project

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After approximately five and a half hours of presentation, public comment and debate at Tuesday’s special Berkeley City Council meeting, a motion to overturn the approval of Berkeley Honda’s new dealership location on Shattuck Avenue fell one vote short of passing.

The Zoning Adjustments Board approved Honda’s permit Sept. 8, permitting the company to move its location to 2777 Shattuck Ave. and 2747 Adeline St. But Berkeley resident Louise Rosenkrantz appealed the decision Sept. 27 with the support of several other Berkeley residents, alleging that the approval violates environmental law and will create unsafe traffic conditions.

At the Tuesday night hearing, three council members abstained from a motion to overturn the ZAB decision while four — Sophie Hahn, Ben Bartlett, Jesse Arreguin and Cheryl Davila — voted in favor of it.

“It’s a circus. … This is the 30th month of the public process and the 11th public hearing they have gone through,” said Ali Kashani, a consultant representing Berkeley Honda. “(Berkeley Honda’s) service department is currently at 1500 San Pablo, their owner is kicking them out, and they have to leave.”

In a presentation before public comment, Shannon Allen, the city’s principal planner, told the council that the staff found Honda’s permit neither violates environmental law nor presents safety concerns. She said the staff recommended upholding ZAB’s decision to approve the project.

The meeting saw a large turnout, with approximately 50 community members waiting in the City Hall lobby because the room was at maximum capacity. Though the majority of the crowd came on behalf of the appellant, about 15 Berkeley Honda employees also attended the meeting to advocate the approval of the project.

“Here we are trying to shoehorn into a site that Honda admits is not optimal,” Hahn said to the council. “I do not believe this project meets the standards of our code, and I cannot make a non-detriment finding, so I vote to overturn the ZAB’s approval.”

The item will be continued at the council’s Feb. 28 regular meeting for further consideration.

Malini Ramaiyer is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @malinisramaiyer.