Public Comment

TO: Berkeley City Council members and members of the ZAB, LPC, DRC
RE: 2211 Harold Way

Charlene M. Woodcock
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 04:31:00 PM

We elected our City Council to represent the needs and interests of the residents of Berkeley, not to enhance the wealth of for-profit developers. Since five members of your appointed Zoning Adjustments Board and Landmarks Protection Commission have failed to represent our interests, a number of Berkeley residents have submitted appeals of their decisions on this project.

Before you address these appeals, I hope you will consider seriously the following questions:

1. Our city's most urgent need at this time, due to the unprecedented rise in housing costs, is housing for families and for middle and lower income residents. Why then are there virtually no affordable units being built? The city has approved scores of market rate development projects of four and six floors but nearly all are planned to be rented or sold at market rate or higher. Why allow the biggest of them all, shamefully out-of-scale with the surrounding historic buildings, to pay a reduced in-lieu fee instead of providing 20% or more affordable units? 

2. Numerous Berkeley residents who are concerned about the patently inappropriate siting of this very large building have asked the city to require the developer to provide story poles of some sort to demonstrate the height and volume of the building. The ZAB and the Landmarks Preservation Commission failed to make this a requirement of approval. Will the City Council show more respect for Berkeley residents' request and require story poles to be placed at a time convenient for the public to see them before voting on this project?

3. Where do you propose that the developer establish the project's staging area? It's difficult for a frequent Library or Post Office patron, Berkeley High student, parent, teacher or staff member, or YMCA member to envision where there is space in this very busy area between Kittredge, Milvia, Allston, and Harold Way to set up the multiple cranes and other heavy equipment, and the caterpillars, dump trucks, supply delivery trucks, etc that would be making thousands of trips, coming and going daily in this already very congested area. Have you tried to envision the consequences of construction of so out-of-scale a building on the daily traffic of these narrow streets?
4. Measure R, approved by Berkeley voters in 2010, stated "Downtown buildings should be constructed to the highest green standards and provide a limited number of new structures that are no higher than what exists now." Why are five members of the ZAB and the LPC ignoring these commitments? The highest green standards are now the Living Building Challenge and LEED Platinum. An example of the Living Building Challenge is Seattle's Bullitt Center The proposed 2211 Harold Way project is aiming only at a LEED Gold certification and it is 15 feet higher than the Great Western (169.3) and Wells Fargo buildings.
5. Why would the absurdly inadequate mitigation of a huge detriment, the demolition of our downtown's rich cultural and economic resource, the Shattuck Cinemas, be accepted as a Significant Community Benefit? It is ludicrous that the developer should propose to demolish our theaters and then claim his plan for ten mostly small theaters—mostly below grade with low ceilings and fewer seats—as a Significant Community Benefit. His proposal does not begin to mitigate the loss of our beautifully decorated, easily accessible, comfortably-designed financially successful existing theaters. When the city has serious needs such as a warm pool replacement, retrofit of our handsome city hall, retrofit of the Veterans' Building with its fine auditorium, repair of the city pier, funds for parks maintenance—it is inconceivable that you would allow a developer to demolish a landmarked building that houses the beautifully repurposed Hink's space for very successful cinemas and then call their poor replacement a Significant Community Benefit.
6. The Downtown Area Plan's five-year-old environmental protection, water conservation, energy efficiency standards that are still being applied to 2015 building projects are shamefully out of date, especially given the fact that the state will require Zero Net Energy use for residential buildings in 2020. When a central theme of our Downtown Area Plan was to move Berkeley toward greater energy efficiency, water conservation, public open space, reduced auto traffic, etc, why have no changes been made in more than five years to the energy efficiency standards to be met by developers of new buildings? Gold LEED is clearly deficient in the face of escalating climate change. Berkeley was once known as a visionary city. To permit the construction of many large new buildings without requiring them to be cutting edge in terms of energy efficiency and resource conservation is simply deeply irresponsible.
7. Since we now have an unprecedented number of 4- to 8-story buildings under construction all over Berkeley, may we assume that Berkeley's three building inspectors' ranks have been supplemented by additional, well-qualified, rigorous inspectors, so that we can avoid another Library Gardens tragedy?
8. What city official is responsible for considering the cumulative impact of the unprecedented wave of market rate and luxury development in Berkeley and its consequences to infrastructure, water use, pollution levels, automobile reduction, and Berkeley's prized economic and racial diversity?
I hope you will not be the City Council majority that betrays the social and environmental goals of our 2010 Downtown Area Plan that require provision of housing across economic strata, greater water and energy conservation and efficiency, and reduction of automobile traffic and pollution to make downtown Berkeley a safer, healthier, and more inviting place to be.