A moratorium on new fast food restaurants and convenience stores along a portion of University Avenue in downtown Berkeley may soon be lifted. The Berkeley City Council is scheduled to consider a Planning Commission recommendation to lift the ban Tuesday night, Feb. 24.
The ban on new fast food restaurants and carry-out food stores on University Avenue between Oxford Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way was first adopted by the council in 1999 at the request of the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA) and with the support of then-Councilmember Dona Spring, who represented the downtown area on the council.
In 2002, Spring successfully beat back an attempt to rescind the ban. The Daily Planet reported that Spring “said that lifting the moratorium would unfairly blight University Avenue, while other major thoroughfares [such as College, Solano, and San Pablo avenues] maintained strict limits.”
“Why should University Avenue become the dumping ground for fast food?” Spring said at the time.
But the Berkeley political and commercial landscape has significantly changed since then. The economic downturn has taken a deep bite out of Berkeley's retail tax base and has caused vacancies in many downtown commercial spaces. The DBA is now in favor of lifting the fast food/carry-out store ban on University Avenue. Spring has died. Her successor on City Council, Jesse Arreguin, told the Planning Commission last December that he was personally in favor of lifting the ban.
Arreguin, who had only been elected a month before, also said he needed more time to talk with downtown area merchants to find out their feelings on the matter. The commission decided to move forward immediately, voting 6-2 to recommend lifting the ban, with commissioners Roia Ferrazares, Larry Gurley, Jim Novosel, Harry Pollack, James Samuels, and Dorothy Walker voting yes, Commissioners Patti Dacey and Gene Poschman voting no.