Plan Process

 

The Nature of the West Berkeley Planning Process

Planning processes in Berkeley (and many other cities) are typically complex,
contentious, and protracted. These processes often become battlegrounds for people
and groups with radically divergent visions of how an area should (or should not)
develop and change. The West Berkeley Plan process, which has (to date) stretched over
8 years, has certainly been complex and contentious. There were many important
issues--ranging from arts and crafts protection to zoning for industry--over which
participants strongly disagreed. Yet ultimately the West Berkeley Plan Committee
(working with City staff) was able to fashion documents that won consensus approval.
This section of the Plan will briefly describe how this agreement was achieved, how the
West Berkeley Plan process developed, and try to give some of the "flavor" of the
process.

The West Berkeley Plan went far beyond "citizen participation," because it is a
document fundamentally from the "citizens," the "stakeholders" of West Berkeley.


The term "citizen participation" suggests to many periodic citizen input into a process
controlled by others. In the West Berkeley Plan process, various types of citizens--
artists, developers, landowners, manufacturers, residents, unionists and others--were
continuously involved and drove the process. The City Council sponsored the process,
and at one important point gave specific direction for the Plan. City staff from multiple
departments provided technical and logistical information, and worked to keep the
process moving forward. Yet in the final analysis, the Plan is the community's
document. The listing of Plan participants on the inside front cover of this documents
symbolizes that community "ownership" of the Plan.

The "process" for a complex project like developing the West Berkeley Plan has many
components. There were the formal steps taken by the West Berkeley Plan Committee,
the Planning Commission, and the City Council. There were the documents for the Plan
(generally, but by no means always, prepared by staff)--both for action and for
information--that are reviewed and modified by Plan participants. Perhaps most
importantly, there are the interactions between the participants in developing the Plan,
which lead them to new understandings about the Plan and about West Berkeley. It was
this process of people meeting and talking, often arguing vociferously and even
sometimes slamming the other's position, which finally allowed a consensus plan to
emerge.ÊIndeed, this contentious process would lead to the development of a core of
what might be called "plankeepers." These plankeepers had been immersed in the
process to the point where they could--and sometimes would--articulate the viewpoint
of someone who had been directly opposed to them.This section will seek to briefly
characterize all of these aspects of the Plan process.

The Nature of West Berkeley as an area to plan

The subject of this process--West Berkeley--is the largest and most complex area
Berkeley has ever planned for (the other Area Plans are for Downtown, South Berkeley,
and the Waterfront). West Berkeley is Berkeley's manufacturing center, as well as a
residential community of some 7,000 people. When the Plan was initiated, West
Berkeley was clearly changing, with historically unprecedented retail and office uses
replacing some industrial uses. With the freeway and the close proximity of industrial
and residential uses, West Berkeley has some of the city's most challenging
environmental problems. As the first settled part of Berkeley, West Berkeley has
important historic resources. All of this makes planning for West Berkeley even more
complex than usual.

1985-1989: Handling the Issues of West Berkeley

The reuse project at the Durkee Foods factory led to the initiation of the West Berkeley
Plan process. Durkee Foods had primarily been a canning plant, proposed in 1984 for
conversion to office and laboratory use. Many West Berkeley residents and businesses
saw Durkee as a harbinger of dramatic change that was likely to occur throughout the
neighborhood--from fairly low intensity industrial use to much higher intensity
commercial use. Residents feared rivers of traffic flowing their way. Artists and
craftspeople could be priced out by this development process. Some activists were
personally being displaced by the reuse project. One person dramatically demonstrated
his opposition to the demolition of an old factory smokestack by sitting atop it. From a
public policy standpoint, the M (Manufacturing) zone regulations allowed every type of
use--from single family homes to "heavy" manufacturing--and thus provided no
guidance on what the City wished to see on the site. To provide that guidance, the City
Council authorized the development of an area plan for West Berkeley.

The early years of the Plan process--roughly from 1985 to 1989--focused on initiating the
Plan process, developing background data on the area, and handling specific issues in
West Berkeley. The responsibility for Plan development was given to the West Berkeley
Plan Committee--a committee with open membership, led by Planning Commissioners,
one of whom served as committee Chair. Despite its open membership, Plan Committee
participation tended to be fairly stable, with residents, artists and craftspeople, and
property owners well represented in this period, while manufacturers and unions
representing their workers were not.

These years saw important reforms to land use regulation in West Berkeley. Arts and
crafts zoning protecting the spaces occupied by these uses from changes to other uses
was sponsored by the committee. Interim changes to the M (Manufacturing) zone
regulations which instituted a parking requirement for the first time and modified
change of use requirements. The Committee kept a close watch on the progress of its
initiating project at Durkee. It also began the process of defining its goals, policies, and
implementation strategies for the area.

Equally important were decisions not to make changes. The Committee also
recommended--after bitter debate--that the then proposed expansion of the West
Berkeley Redevelopment Area be deferred until the completion of the West Berkeley
Plan. If there was to be a new Redevelopment Plan, it should occur in the framework of
the West Berkeley Plan rather than preceding and possibly reshaping it. The Committee
also rejected proposals for upzoning--allowing greater density of housing--in the
residential core areas. The Plan would leave zoning in strictly residential areas
essentially unchanged.

1989-1991: Forging a Land Use Concept

Between 1989 and 1991 the Preferred Land Use Concept which is at the heart of the
West Berkeley Plan was forged. Although the Concept was ultimately approved by
Consensus, developing it took a great deal of work, argument, and compromise. The
Concept was the ultimate result of what amounted to a restructuring of the process--
with new participants, new information, and new Council direction.

In early 1989, the Planning Division staff was moving towards the development of
alternative development scenarios for West Berkeley. These alternative development
scenarios would lay out different possible future paths for the area, and would serve as
the working documents for discussing what the Plan's land use proposal would be. The
City's Office of Economic Development (OED) strongly supported the emerging idea
that at least one of these scenarios would emphasize the retention of manufacturing
uses. OED had (in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce) surveyed large West
Berkeley firms--mostly manufacturers--and acquired a new picture of the economic
landscape. Far from being in unmitigated decline, many manufacturers had expanded
and planned to expand in the future. This information was a key intellectual input into
the Plan.

At roughly the same time, several important new participants entered the process. The
Alameda County Central Labor Council (the coordinating body for unions in Alameda
County) announced its interest in a Plan which could affect thousands of its members'
jobs. Such participation by a trade union in a land use planning process was virtually
unheard of, and initially some earlier Plan participants questioned the legitimacy of
their involvement. The United Black Clergy reentered the Plan process, to support the
prospects for well-paid jobs at manufacturing firms for Black Berkeleyans. The Plant
Closures Project (a community organization which works to prevent closing of plants)
worked closely with these groups and worked to develop support for pro-
manufacturing policies in the Plan process. West Berkeley industrial firms were (with
City encouragement) reviving their long dormant Manufacturers' Association, in part so
that they could participate in the Plan and other City processes. The entry of these
groups in turn sparked stronger participation of environmental groups, such as Citizens
Opposed to a Polluted Environment (COPE) who were very suspicious that a pro-
manufacturing policy would lead to increased environmental degradation. By late 1989
the cast of characters was far different from what it was earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, in October, 1989, the City Council also reasserted its interest in the Plan.
The Council's discussions of overall City economic policy for Berkeley reaffirmed the
importance of maintaining the manufacturing base. Therefore, the Council directed that
"The Planning Commission, Labor Commission, and West Berkeley Area Plan
Committee are to review the concept of industrial sanctuaries as a way of retaining
manufacturing and trade jobs and forward comments to the Council." Council also told
the Planning Commission to consider interim protections such as requiring a Use
Permit before any change of use from manufacturing to non-manufacturing use, and to
develop appropriate standards for live-work to assure that it did not encroach on
manufacturing areas. The Planning Commission would ultimately decide that interim
controls were not needed.

At the very end of 1989, three growth scenarios--one focusing on office growth, one on
retail growth, and one on manufacturing retention--were published by the Planning
Department. The scenarios each contained office, retail, and manufacturing-oriented
areas, but in different amounts. The scenarios document allowed participants to
evaluate the impacts and tradeoffs of choosing one scenario or another. The now very
diverse committee struggled about how it might bring the three together. Several
proposals for a "synthesis" scenario were put forth--by the pro-manufacturing coalition,
by environmentalists, and by a group of manufacturers. The Committee did unite in
August,1990 on a wide-ranging set of "Objectives for Designing a Preferred Land Use
Concept" which set both quantitative (e.g. number of jobs to be added in a given sector)
and qualitative (e.g. regulating building scale) goals for the Plan. Working from this
base, staff released a draft Land Use Concept in September,1990.

The Subcommittee Process of 1990/91--Hand to Hand Planning

The 6 months of intense activity which followed release of that document are now
viewed as the heart of the process by many Plan participants. To develop a Land Use
Concept which incorporated both land use and environmental direction, the Committee
decided to split into two subcommittees--one for each subject. This was by no means a
self-evident decision--many feared that splitting into subcommittees would delay,
rather than advance the process. In addition, there was great concern as to how the two
groups' actions would be coordinated. Also worrisome was the Committee's rejection of
a formal structure for representing the different affected interest groups on the land use
subcommittee (informally, representatives of interest groups affected by a provision
were consulted during the process).

The subcommittee process was citizen based planning at its most intense. The
subcommittees met as often as once a week over a 5 month period. In the Land Use
Subcommittee, questions both great and small were argued. For example, should the
proposed Mixed Use district allow residences? After much arguing, committee
members realized that 2 mixed use districts (with logical borders between them) could
be created--one with, one without houses. At the same time, the subcommittee members
argued knowledgeably and passionately over how a block should be characterized and
thus what district it should be put in. A map of proposed districts was colored in block
by block. Sometimes the staff person's hand was poised to color in a new block where
there was apparently consensus, when the cry "Wait!" would come up from a dissenter.
Ultimately the subcommittee would produce a consensus land use districting map
literally signed by all its participants. While the map emerged from this unavoidably
political process, it also reflected a coherent overall vision of West Berkeley with
logically defined areas for heavy industry, light industry, mixed use, retail commercial
development, and residences.

The Environmental Subcommittee was equally intense. Some environmentalists entered
the process convinced that retaining industry and environmental protection were
incompatible. Their fears were somewhat assuaged by the participation of
manufacturers such as Peerless Lighting, who demonstrated how their company
devoted substantial resources to meeting environmental mandates. All members of the
committee made a commitment that they wanted to retain jobs so long as the
environment could be maintained or improved. In a meeting called by environmentalist
Councilwoman Nancy Skinner (who represented part of West Berkeley), Berkeley based
environmentalists were also exposed to their regional cohorts who had experience in
cities such as Richmond. These groups outlined strategies for fighting polluting
industries without losing jobs. Planning Commission Chair Carl Anthony had strong
credentials with both labor and environmental groups, and personally embodied the
idea that environmentally sound industrial development was possible and necessary.
Meanwhile, the City had initiated an evaluation and restructuring of its hazardous
materials program, which helped build community confidence that the City would
enforce regulations. This subcommittee wrote a broad set of possible environmental
strategies and implementation measures, most of which were incorporated into the
Plan.

The emergence of consensus documents from the subcommittees was greeted with
exhausted relief, even joy, by Plan Committee participants. Yet despite their exhaustion,
participants--in the spirit of keeping the plan--had grown scrupulously respectful of
each other's viewpoint. It came to be understood that if people opposing your
viewpoint were absent in a meeting, you should not seize that advantage, but should
wait until they returned and a full discussion could be had. The two documents were
broadly compatible, if differing in emphasis. Planning, economic development and
environmental health staff--all of whom staffed the subcommittees--felt that the
proposals met the previously stated objectives and were generally implementable. The
Planning Commission unanimously endorsed the Concept in February, 1991. So did the
Council (giving the Plan a standing ovation) in April, 1991, even though some were
surprised at the lack of divisiveness when the Concept was brought to them. The
Council at the same time created the Citizens Environmental Advisory Commission to
oversee the hazardous material program, and other issues involving hazardous
materials.

1991-1993: From Concept to Plan

To many, the West Berkeley Plan process seemed to be "over" in April, 1991, when the
City Council approved the Preferred Land Use Concept. Indeed, at that point the
Concept began serving as a policy guideline for development decisions in West
Berkeley, and it had already begun to reshape the City's hazardous materials and
environmental enforcement. But the Plan had to be transformed from an essentially two
subject Concept to a multi-subject Plan, which could be adopted as an amendment for
West Berkeley to the Berkeley General (or Master) Plan.

The work over the next year had two thrusts: to develop Elements on various subjects
(e.g. transportation) for the West Berkeley Plan, and to resolve issues that were noted as
unresolved in the Preferred Land Use Concept. Staff developed draft Plan elements and
the West Berkeley Plan Committee critiqued them in great detail, staff redrafted sound
Elements which were more satisfactory to the Committee--each Element went to them
at least twice, usually more often. Short term subcommittees with groupings of
interested/ knowledgeable people on specific issues--such as urban design and
economic development--met, but there was no repeat of the intensive subcommittee
process. In August, 1992, the Committee celebrated the publication of complete draft of
the Plan.

Completing a Plan draft provided a document which could be the subject of
environmental review--in this case the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process. The
Planning Commission (which also voiced strong endorsement of the Plan) and the City
Council approved the draft Plan as the Preferred Alternative for environmental review.

A Draft EIR was released in April, 1993, and comments on it accepted through July,
1993. Those comments and responses have been released along with this version of the
Plan. The EIR found that there were no environmental impacts arising out of
implementation of the Plan (as opposed to region-wide problems) which could not be
mitigated.

This description of the process is being presented before the end of the process. To
approve the Plan, the Planning Commission must first certify that the EIR adequately
assesses and responds to potential environmental impacts. Then it would need to
approve the Plan, recommending approval to Council. Should Council approve the
Plan, the Plan process itself would be done, but a crucial rezoning of all of West
Berkeley to bring zoning into conformity with the Plan must follow, as should other
implementing steps. We hope and trust that the plankeepers of West Berkeley will
actively participate in the Plan's implementation. The planning of West Berkeley
continues.