Downtown Plan Draft EIR Now Available for Comment

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday January 27, 2009 - 06:04:00 PM

The first draft of the key regulatory document required before the city and UC Berkeley can sign off on a new downtown plan is now available online. 

The draft environmental impact report for the Downtown Area Plan is posted at the city’s website at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=33630. 

The document is also available for physical examination at the city’s central library and in the planning department offices at the Permit Service Center, 2120 Milvia St. Copies are also available for purchase at the center. 

The massive document, prepared by Oakland consulting firm Lamphier-Gregory, will undergo one revision after public comments have been heard. 

The Berkeley City Council must certify the final EIR incorporating the public comments and the university must also give its approval before the document can become final. The unusual dual approval process results from the settlement of a suit by the city challenging the university’s Long Range Development Plan 2020. 

In exchange for settling the suit, the city will receive mitigation payments from the university, while the university gets to have veto power over the plan. 

The university will scale back on payments if the City Council doesn’t approve the EIR and the plan by May 25. 

The suit was sparked by the university’s revelation that it plans 850,000 square feet of new off-campus construction in the city center, including offices, parking facilities, a museum and other facilities. 

The EIR provides a maximum framework for new development downtown that can be approved without the need for developers to prepare a separate EIR on many of the impacts of their projects, City Planning and Development Director Dan Marks told planning commissioners earlier this month. 

The commission will conduct a public hearing on the draft EIR during its regularly scheduled Feb. 18 meeting. 

Members of the public may make comments on the plan by e-mail or post to Matt Taecker, the planner hired by the city and UC Berkeley to help develop the document. The addresses are mtaecker@ci.berkeley.ca.us or at his office at the Department of Planning and Development, 2120 Milvia St., Berkeley, 94704. 

More information on the plan will be available later on the Daily Planet’s web site and in the print edition.