Tonight's Planning Commission is focused on development at the Ashby and North Berkeley BART station. Thread here! Agenda:… #berkmtg
Looks like former Councilmember Laurie Capitelli is subbing for a commissioner who could not attend tonight. #berkmtg Image
Staff reminds the commission that the city has an open survey related to Berkeley's housing element, with a Nov. 14 deadline. Fill it out here:…

BKGD:… #berkmtg
Staff also tells the commission about City Council's recent approval (and tweaks) of Berkeley's ADU rules. BKGD:… #berkmtg
Commission Chair Kapla asks for clarity on what tonight's goal is re: BART plans. He says he believes the commission will only give input, not vote. Staff says the goal is to have a public hearing and take comments zoning amendments, vision + priorities and draft EIR. #berkmtg
Staff says a commission vote is not expected until spring 2022, and the project only THEN will the BART projects go to council. So there's still a lot of time for public feedback and input. Submit feedback on the draft EIR until Dec. 1, 2021. #berkmtg
"There are many more steps to come," staff says: detailed design standards, access plans, funding strategies, choice of developers, etc. #berkmtg
An important study is already underway about El Cerrito and Berkeley re: station access. The city is also studying the concept of a "road diet" on Adeline Street to make it safer for bikes + peds. #berkmtg
ICYMI: Here's our report on the September Planning Commission meeting about the BART projects.… #berkmtg
Here are some of the key elements of the draft EIR. City staffer Justin Horner says preparation began a year ago in November. The focus? The environmental impacts of the project and evaluates alternatives. It looks at proposed policies, not a project. #berkmtg
The EIR looks at the maximum possible buildout, which staff says is 2,400 units, 7 stories, 725 parking spaces for development, and "no BART rider parking" (can someone clarify what this means? having trouble parsing how these last two points relate) #berkmtg Image
EIRs look at possible impacts + mitigations that minimize those impacts. Construction-related noise is listed as a significant impact (e.g. related to pile driving) - even though the project might never involve pile driving. #berkmtg
The document takes a "conservative" stance by looking at, essentially, the most extreme scenarios. It will also consider three alternatives, including one that sets aside more BART parking rather than more units. #berkmtg
"Every comment will be responded to," staff says. The deadline to submit them is Dec. 1. That's the next project milestone. On Dec. 6, there will be one more CAG (Community Advisory Group) meeting to discuss objective design standards, community engagement, next steps. #berkmtg Image
Now: Commissioner questions, then public comment, then Transportation Commission discussion and input. #berkmtg
75% of the people who use North Berkeley BART don't drive there, staff says. They bike, get dropped off, etc. #berkmtg
Commissioner Christina Oatfield asks staff for clarity around language in one of the planning documents related to affordable housing goals and targets. #berkmtg
"The goal for the affordable housing relates to, in part, BART's goal for all of its properties," says staffer Steve Buckley. "We are joining with them" (BART) and intend to exceed the city's goals, with a target of 30% to 35%. BKGD:… #berkmtg
"There's a lot of factors that we can't really predict," a consultant adds: "Thirty-five percent is sort of the floor that we're laying out," but the goal is to secure MORE resources than that. #berkmtg
On parking: When there is rider parking added onto the parking provided for the development, "then there is a trade-off," both spatial AND financial, staff says. #berkmtg
First speaker, Sue Martin, says she's hoping for "6-7 stories max" and says "we don't really need any more" market-rate housing. She urges a nonprofit developer. She says she's concerned about the ability to work at home amid construction noise. #berkmtg
Fundamentally, I don't like the whole concept, says a man who says he lives next door to the North Berkeley BART station: "I don't see how this benefits the community," he says, adding, "It just doesn't make sense to me." #berkmtg
"I think that seven stories is a very disappointing number," says the next speaker, who wants to see even more housing built, and more care for people without housing in Berkeley. #berkmtg
"I'm worried about the parking situation if parking really disappears," says next speaker. "I know that the numbers are small but they do exist" (as far as those who drive to BART. She wants 7 stories to be the maximum. #berkmtg
Next speaker, a local renter, says he is in favor of alternative three in the draft EIR: MORE than the bare minimum of seven stories. He asks commissioners to increase the height limit at North Berkeley BART. #berkmtg
"This is a great way to really attack our housing crisis" and provide more affordable units, says another caller who also supports alternative three. Next caller: "No more than seven stories." These are already the dueling themes of the night. #berkmtg
"The minimums are already way too big for this site," says a woman who believes the North Berkeley site was "miss-classified" as an urban center when it should have been a town center. Next speaker: The third option (more units!) is the most climate friendly. #berkmtg
"This is the climate action choice," says next speaker, on alternative three, which has a max of 12 stories: Count me among those who see more neighbors as a benefit rather than something that needs to be mitigated: "This is such a unique opportunity, let's seize it." #berkmtg
Next speaker, Kelly Hammargren: "We need affordable housing, as much as we can get." She takes issue with the 120% AMI standard, and is concerned about the narrowing of Adeline Street: "I didn't see bird-safe glass included." #berkmtg
Next caller, Larry Orman: Emphasize affordability, not the number of units, as long as it takes! He continues, "On the zoning, the minimum should be the maximum." On the EIR: Add 15 days for public comment. #berkmtg
"Even [a] seven-story I think is really pushing the boundary," a speaker says. She says it's not an appropriate site for the "much taller tower" she thinks could result from a density bonus. She says the BART parking lot was full before the pandemic. #berkmtg
Next speaker says it's a "complete lie" that there are plenty of market-rate units. He says property values are skyrocketing in the neighborhood due to people who don't want more housing built there. Most of the comments tonight have been about North Berkeley, btw. #berkmtg
Building higher-density housing will only benefit "tech workers and UC students," says the next speaker, who wants to see a nonprofit developer that's "not trying to line its pockets." Another vote for a seven-story maximum. #berkmtg
"Taller than that is just too big for this neighborhood to accommodate," says the following caller. (Also wanting a seven-story max.) Currently the documents list 7 stories as a the minimum. Next speaker: "I'm very concerned about the parking situation." #berkmtg
"We're not anti-housing but we also want to keep having our homes respected," that last speaker adds. She says she's concerned about construction impacts, especially given that a recent new (single) stoplight project has already been "a bloody nightmare." #berkmtg
"We have one of the lowest vacancy rates, if not the lowest, in the country," says Paul Bickmore. "It's morally reprehensible," he adds, to talk about "neighborhood context when we have so much homelessness around us." The two are tightly linked, he says. #berkmtg
Build more units overall if you want more affordable units, build less parking if you want fewer people to drive, says the next speaker, who supports option three. It's the best way to tackle the housing crisis and climate change, she says. #berkmtg
Next speaker: Neighborhood resident of three decades says she wants the most reasonable alternative, which caps the project at seven stories and prioritizes affordable units and a nonprofit developer. #berkmtg
"I really doubt there's a housing crisis in Berkeley," next woman, another longtime local resident, says. "I don't think this is going to really solve the homelessness problem in Berkeley." Also wants a 7-story cap. She says this project is not a benefit except to BART. #berkmtg
"I hear folks on this call saying that this will change the community. I grew up in a suburb. I hear that," Nico Nagle says. "I was born in the Bay Area. I'll probably never live here in my lifetime. It will probably never be affordable to me." #berkmtg
"This is somewhat of a scam, building so densely," says a woman who also believes building more housing makes housing more expensive. #berkmtg
Apologies: I'm back. We had some breaking news to handle. It sounds like public comment is winding down. Should be moving to the commission soon for its feedback on BART plans. We'll have more of the blow-by-blow on that coming up. #berkmtg
All right, back to the commission. Chair Kapla says he's "go around the horn" for feedback: "We are not making recommendations at this point," but folks can share what they want included: "There is not an action item tonight." #berkmtg
Commissioner Elisa Mikiten says she has three pages of thoughts and comments. She asks for the EIR to include traffic impacts beyond the study area. She's the one who asked about how reduced parking might impact travel over the Bay Bridge. #berkmtg
Staffer Alisa Shen says a "big unknown" with these large sites is circulation (traffic flow), which will become clearer once objective standards are determined. Mikiten is trying to determine the proper scope for this discussion, given all the other processes underway. #berkmtg
"Really we're talking about 10-11 [stories]" with a density bonus for 35% affordability, Mikiten says. #berkmtg
"At some point you start forcing smaller and smaller units," Mikiten says. She says family housing, larger unit sizes etc. are housing needs that are not being built right now. She says she's concerned about a "density minimum" will fit into the "height maximum." #berkmtg
"I'm sorry if I'm confusing everybody but this is really a web of regulations," Mikiten says. #berkmtg
Berkeley uses the "maximum volumes" that can be achieved for the base project, Shen says, which is then used to determine what a density bonus would look like. The city starts with the "buildable envelope." #berkmtg
Mikiten asks for open space to be added to a list of possible uses and also questions a proposed location for new retail and the idea of "mini front yards." Quick time check: She's been weighing in for about 30 mins; its a nine-member commission + she's the first to go. #berkmtg
"I think the notice was misleading," says Chair Kapla, after Commissioner Twu notes that the agenda says "make a recommendation" to council. Another commissioner adds, "I thought we were taking action." He says he'll provide comments in writing due to the time. #berkmtg
That was Commissioner Jeff Vincent, who asks whether there will be a developer agreement. Shen: "We don't know that yet." Vincent asks why live/work was not allowed and says he's in favor of public comments about multimodal transportation, narrowed streets, etc. #berkmtg
He suggests removing language around returning to street width to "pre-BART levels" because the goal is really, in his opinion, "BART 2.0." Some of the language is too prescriptive, he adds: "These are once-in-a-generation projects," and wants more flexibility. #berkmtg
Vincent says he sees the current language, which applies to both stations, as unfortunate and could see a different way forward. Shen responds that the zoning DOES allow live/work but that appears in a different section. #berkmtg
"I'm glad we're not making a motion tonight because I think we have a little ways to go," says Commissioner Barnali Ghosh. "This is a challenging project, it's a challenging process. It's so big, we're planning for so many years out." It's hard to convey the complexity. #berkmtg
Ghosh on the visioning document: She says it doesn't speak enough about the residents, an aging population, the disability community, internal climate refugees, etc. #berkmtg
Ghosh: Agrees with the idea of accommodating larger unit sizes, a higher standard of maintenance, communal space, high-speed internet, more specifics on "what kind of open space we want at the site," e.g. a tot lot, family friendly #berkmtg
"Signaling to developers that this is a place for families is really important," Ghosh says. She also asks if developers might look into prefab units or other construction solutions that are quieter, less disruptive: "Construction technology is changing all the time." #berkmtg
"The piece that is missing is better public transit," Ghosh says. "We're removing parking but we're putting residents who are gonna take BART right there.… I want to put that in that context." She says she doesn't think driving/parking will be as big of an issue. #berkmtg
"I would like to see us go taller and a lot of that has to do with design flexibility," says Ghosh, who was part of the CAG process. "I'm really disappointed that staff is recommending seven stories. Twelve stories would be great." She says to push for 8-9 stories. #berkmtg
That will allow for better design and larger units, Ghosh says: "I really want to see us going higher, and going higher in both sites." She says it's a benefit to the city to go higher: more neighbors, more transit users, better for the economy #berkmtg
She says it's also "kind of shocking" to hear people use the existing neighborhood heights to justify shorter buildings: "We have to start making sacrifices here. But I also don't think of density as a sacrifice." She wants a bigger envelope and a more creative design. #berkmtg
Shen says the height that's proposed came from the CAG process and also input from consultants as far as economic feasibility: "A 12-story building is not something that's seen often" because of lack of financial viability, Shen says. Ghosh says, 9 is good! #berkmtg
Commissioner Laurie Capitelli says state building standards are changing to allow more wood where steel is now required. He says he's concerned re: a proposal not to count land over the tunnel in floor-area ratio. He also asks about the same standards for both stations. #berkmtg
Shen says the objective design standards WILL be different for each station but the idea was to have equity as a starting point. #berkmtg
"We're in the pickle we're in because of our zoning," Capitelli says. "We as a community down-zoned twice in the 1970s. The zoning that is allowed in Berkeley today is less than it was in the 1970s." #berkmtg
Capitelli: That was the result of the NPO, the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance, which led to reduced density and "virtually citywide downzoning." He says there were some good reasons for it and some not so good ones. #berkmtg
Commissioner Alfred Twu says nursing homes should be considered in this zone and supports alternatives three and four, because more units mean more affordable units and more flexibility. #berkmtg
Commissioner John Moore III asks about a proposal for a plaque or other recognition at Ashby BART to ID it as a "historic resource"; Shen says the area was associated with civil rights activism + the under-grounding of the station: "It's really the history of the site." #berkmtg
Commissioner Christina Oatfield says she was relieved to learn "during this meeting" that there would be no vote on adoption tonight: "The work is not done yet." She asks for more language around affordability goals and says 35% affordable "is not sufficient." #berkmtg
Shen says the zoning is constrained by state law (AB 2923), which limits what the city can do in terms of zoning + affordable housing: As we have laid out, she says, "it's a floor of 35%" but the hope is a new bond source to get to even more, up to 100% for Adeline. #berkmtg
"It will take over $300 million for 100% affordable housing," Shen says. She says affordable housing developers were concerned about setting a higher floor because it would take up so much of the city's affordable housing money. #berkmtg
Vice-Chair Savlan Hauser says her focus was the idea of planning for conditions that remain unknown, with tremendous change coming in the next 50 years: "We should not be limiting ourselves to a constrictive height." Also likes option three. #berkmtg
These site are rare and expensive to develop, she says, and wants to allow for maximum flexibility at this point in the conversation. She is excited about more neighbors and more vibrancy. #berkmtg
Chair Robb Kapla says he wants "a lot of affordable units" — he's less concerned re: percentage than total units, including for families. He says he'd like to see some goals around total units rather than a ratio: "I'd rather build homes for people than for cars." #berkmtg
"The majority of folks wanted us to go higher," Ghosh notes, according to her tally, especially around North Berkeley. She thanks the community for coming out, even though it turned out there was no vote and this is still the feedback stage. #berkmtg
And, again, the comments period goes through Dec. 1 on the draft EIR. Details on the city website: #berkmtg @RebeccaForBART
@RebeccaForBART And that's a wrap on the BART item! The only other action item is the Planning Commission's 2022 meeting schedule. Details here:… - but this is @emraguso signing off! Night #berkmtg folks!
* Oops, apologies, forgot where I was for a minute. This should have read "Planning Commission." /er

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4 Nov
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