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Parks Group Releases Aquatic Park Heights study

By Toni Mester
Saturday April 13, 2013 - 10:20:00 AM

Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP) has published a survey of potential building heights on two parcels adjacent to Berkeley’s Aquatic Park at its northeast corner. The survey was commissioned by CESP during the debate on Measure T, a West Berkeley zoning revision that would have allowed master use permits for large sites in West Berkeley, and was completed after its narrow defeat in November 2012 by 512 votes.

The Berkeley City Council rescinded the master use permits at its March 19 meeting, but the heights survey would still be relevant to future planning efforts since the parcels are eligible for development permits under the current mixed use light industrial (MULI) zoning or by development agreement.

The park advocates consider Aquatic Park within their area of concern because it lies directly across the freeway from the brickyard area of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, and the two are connected by the pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the I-80 freeway. 

The two private properties adjacent to Aquatic Park on Bolivar Drive include an approximately 8 acre site between Addison and Bancroft owned by the Jones family, and nearly 3 acres owned by the Goldin brothers that lie south of Bancroft Way. Both would have been eligible for the master use permits allowing buildings up to 75 feet, but when environmentalists and neighbors objected, the City Council remanded the zoning of these two parcels to the Planning Commission as part of Measure T

The Yes on T committee claimed that the two parcels had been removed from the ordinance while No on T said the parcels were still eligible for MUP designation and that approval by the voters would make it more difficult to protect the park’s open space views. The close vote was decided by provisional ballots counted two weeks after the election. 

The heights survey, conducted by Steve Price (dba Urban Advantage) and surveyor Chris Bailey (Bates and Bailey), shows four heights: 45′ (the current zoning), 55′, 60′, and 75′ (the proposed MUP limit) from three viewpoints: the west side of the Park at lagoon level near the first picnic area, the overlook on the east side of the pedestrian bridge, and the brickyard at the approximate location of a proposed visitors’ center. The viewpoints are shown on slide 3 by three white arrows. Slide 4 magnifies the north end of Aquatic Park; the Plexxikon parking lot is on the bottom right. 

The surveyors used a setback of 50′ from Bolivar Drive at the suggestion of CESP rather than no setback, which is the current MULI zoning, since it is believed that larger buildings closer to the park would not be approved. The existing Plexxikon building (91 Bolivar Drive) is 15′ in height and set back approximately 85′ while buildings on the Goldin site are 15′ and 20′ in height and variously setback. 

Slides 5 & 6 show Bailey and his assistant at work surveying the site; slide 8 is the first composite showing the four heights from the shore. The bifurcation of the lines marking the heights reflects the difference of the ground level on the Jones site between the Plexxikon parking lot and the American soils lot, which on a rise of 18′. 

The curvature of the lines in all the depictions accounts for perspective from the viewpoints. Slides 9 through 12 show the four heights from the shore individually. Slides 13 through 17 show the heights from the pedestrian bridge, first as a composite and then individually while slides 18 through 22 show the same heights from west of the freeway (the brickyard). 

The slides end with drawings of waterfront developments that feature multiple setbacks and heights, selected by Mr. Price and do not reflect the opinions or suggestions of any other person. 

To enter the slide show, click here

Toni Mester serves on the CESP board.