Public Comment

Berkeley’s Green Downtown & Public Commons Initiative

From Jesse Arreguin, Sophie Hahn and Austene Hall
Friday May 09, 2014 - 11:18:00 AM

In November of 2010 Berkeley’s citizens approved a “Green Vision” for the Downtown that promised preservation of historic and cultural resources; green buildings and environmental features; affordable and family housing; safe, lively and enhanced public space; good jobs; enhanced public transit; public parking and more.

More recently, in response to threats to privatize public assets such as the Post Office, the need to designate Berkeley’s Civic Center core as an area dedicated to civic and community uses has gained urgency.

This Initiative provides specific provisions to implement Berkeley’s Green Downtown Vision and to preserve our Civic Center as a Public Commons.

Protection for Public, Historic and Cultural Resources & Civic Center Overlay to Preserve the Heart of Downtown as a Public Commons  

  • Creates Civic Center zoning overlay to enhance public, historic and cultural resources at the heart of the Downtown, including Old City Hall, Veterans Memorial Building, Civic Center Park, Downtown Y, Berkeley Community Theater and Central Post Office
  • Uses allowed are Libraries, Courts, Museums, Public Safety, Government, Public Education, Non-Profit Arts/Environmental/Community Service/Historical Organizations, Live Performance Theatre, Public Market
  • Restores Landmarks Preservation Review and provides protections for adjacent downtown neighborhoods

Green Building and Enhanced Environmental Measures: 

  • Bike Parking, Electric Vehicle Charging and Car Share spaces
  • LEED Platinum or Gold (depending on building size) and a high Energy Efficiency rating
  • Environmental practices such as no new net water runoff, depaving of spaces, permeable surfaces, rain catchment and bio-filtration systems, and on-site composting
  • Payment of a Fee to support alternative transportation
  • Funding for the City’s Streets and Open Space Improvement Plan (SOSIP), to enhance green and public spaces

Affordable and Family-Sized Housing:

  • Affordable housing at 20 or 30%, depending on building size
  • Family Housing at 20% in larger buildings (2 and 3-bedroom units)

Jobs and Fair Wages for Berkeley:  

  • 50% Berkeley Hire requirement. If not enough Berkeley workers available, East Bay Green Corridor and then Alameda County workers, and 16% apprentice labor
  • Construction, building & maintenance, hotel and security workers paid prevailing wage

Parking for Residents and Commerce, and enhanced opportunities for Public Parking: 

  • Parking no longer can be waived down to zero spaces - must build at least 30% of the requirement plus all Handicapped, Car Share and EV spaces, plus bike parking
  • Incentives to build full parking requirement and to make spaces available for public parking

Improvements for Parks and Public Spaces: 

  • Funding provided for Streets and Open Spaces Improvement Plan, to implement the existing, well articulated plan for improvements to streetscapes, public life, access, sustainability, and other public amenities.
  • Public Restrooms required in buildings over 75 feet

Funding for Loans to Berkeley Businesses and Entrepreneurs: 

  • Projects required to contribute to Berkeley Revolving Loan Fund, providing capital for loans to small business

Other Provisions: 

  • All community benefits now detailed and included as specific requirements (previously very vague)
  • Expedited review in exchange for electing Green Pathway
  • Maximum height limits in all Subareas remain the same – except that
    • In Corridor (60 feet) and Buffer (50 feet) subareas, previously allowed additional height is removed.
    • In Core and Outer Core, heights remain the same, including 5 previously-allowed taller buildings