Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Makes a Good Downtown

Chronicle Guest Speaker:
John King, Writer on Architecture & Urban Design

  • What makes a good downtown for a city of Berkeley's size?
    • A true civic purpose, a reason for being
    • A mix of different things to do when you are there
      • retail—essentials and frills
      • quick places to grab coffee and fine dining
    • An enticing landscape
      • Open spaces
      • Buildings of different eras, scales
    • Different functions for spaces
      • Shops
      • Housing
      • Social activity
    • Genuine crossroads
      • Tightly knit with the community
    • Sense that something is going on, unexpected & fresh
      • 'Un-quantified' measurement of downtown

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Density Bonus Proposal

On Monday night the Berkeley City Council rejected a proposal to have a city density bonus law in place in case Proposition 98 passes in the June 3rd election.

Critics of Proposition 98 claim that it would limit eminent domain actions and would end rent control in the state, thereby ending most attempts to regulate development in California. The state law density bonus allows developers to expand their projects by 35% over local limited in exchange for providing affordable housing. The ZAB formed a sub-committee to draft a proposed measure that would give them more control over projects.

Last Tuesday the council voted 5-4 to send the council a recommendation that it pass the proposal so that the state would have a measure in place in case Prop 98 passes. At the meeting Monday night, Major Bates said that no ordinance was needed because it is unlikely that Prop 98 will pass. The ordinance wasn’t given a place on the agenda for the upcoming April 22 council meeting. If Prop 98 does pass, the policies criticized the ZAB would remain in place until the full consequences of the proposition become clear.

Richard Brenneman,, Council Rejects Interim Density Bonus Proposal, The Berkeley Daily Planet, April 15, 2004, available at http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-04-15/article/29739.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Survey Boosts Funding for Berkeley Homeless

Forty percent of Alameda County’s chronically homeless spend their nights in Berkeley, according to detailed findings released Thursday from a county-wide homeless report.
The $241,000 survey, conducted last year by the Alameda County-Wide Continuum of Care Council, found what casual observers and trained professionals in Berkeley have recognized anecdotally for years. Compared to their brethren across the rest of the county, Berkeley’s homeless are more likely to be adults, unmarried, male, substance abusers and mentally and physically disabled. They are also more likely to be chronically homeless— a category the federal government defines as someone who has been without shelter for the past 12 months.
Survey results will be used to drive the county’s 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness, said Megan Schatz, the care council’s survey coordinator. Completion and approval of the plan is a prerequisite for receiving funding from the Bush administration, which has refocused its priorities over the next decade from providing services to homeless to finding permanent shelter for the chronically homeless.
In Berkeley, 47 percent of the service users are African American and 42.3 percent are white. However, the chronically homeless included more whites and fewer blacks. Seventy-seven percent of homeless service users in Berkeley and 55 percent of housed service users are disabled, compared to 56 percent and 42 percent countywide. Among the more common chronic conditions, 15 percent have been told they have asthma, 8 percent have been told they are diabetic and 11 percent have been told they have tuberculosis. Housed users of services in Berkeley were more likely to report learning disabilities (48 percent to 3.5 percent) and mental illness (44 percent to 38 percent). Homeless users were more likely to report disabilities due to alcohol abuse (14.5 percent to 3 percent) and drug abuse (9.2 percent to 3.5 percent). Among chronically homeless using services in Berkeley, 54 percent claimed to be alcoholics, 48 percent claimed to be drug addicts, and 40 percent claimed a mental illness. In Berkeley, 34 percent of the housed, 60 percent of the homeless, and 65 percent of the chronically homeless service users reported receiving mental health services in the last year. Homeless and chronically homeless service users were nearly twice as likely to receive mental health services as housed service users.
The city has already reoriented its resources towards helping the chronically homeless and combining social services with housing assistance. Despite the city’s budget shortfall, Berkeley government officials have pledged to maintain the level of funding to community agencies that serve the homeless. Of that money, City Manager Phil Kamlarz has shifted $168,000 from other homeless programs to fund an initiative that provides homes and intensive services for the chronically homeless. Berkeley would seemingly stand to gain from the Bush Administration’s pledge to end chronic homelessness, but Micallef said that so far, the federal priority hasn’t translated into a lot of money for cities. Still, she said, Berkeley’s disproportionately large percentage of chronically homeless could serve it well when it seeks federal grants.

Matthew Artz, Survey Boosts Funding for Berkeley Homeless, Berkeley Daily Planet (May 14, 2004), available at http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2004-05-14/article/18854.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

More on Richard Moe and Historic Preservation

A variety of class speakers have introduced the issue of historical preservation in the discussion of downtown development. This article titled “Sustainable Stewardship: Berkeley California” is actually the text of a speech given by Richard Moe, the seventh and current president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation non-profit organization. The speech highlights some main arguments, as well as emerging arguments, from the historic preservation constituency.

Moe states that historic preservation is “simply having the good sense to hold on to things that are well designed, that link us without past in a meaningful way, and that have plenty of good use left in them.” Although this is the core philosophy of historic preservation, Moe notes that the movement has evolved over the course of the last 150 years. Initially, the movement stressed paving and restricting iconic buildings to serve as the country’s patriotic shrines. Around the mid-twentieth century, the movement stressed economic benefit and adaptive reuse. Afterwards, the movement ties together the role of preservation in supporting societal values. Today, Moe argues that historic preservation not only continues to sustain societal values, but also addresses the climate change crisis.

“The challenge is to help people understand that preservation, but its very nature, is sustainability.” The current climate change crisis is characterized by the degradation of the environment and the consumption of energy and natural resources. Moe argues that because the remedy to the climate change crises will necessarily involve the conservation of energy and natural resources, “historic preservation has always been the greenest of the building arts.” Buildings are vast repositories of “embodied energy”, having taken up energy to extract, transport, and assemble building materials. The demotion of such building, as well as any construction thereafter, uses up more energy. Addressing the counter argument that historic buildings are energy hogs, Moe points out that in fact, some older buildings are as energy efficient as new ones. Moreover, since any new building represents an impact to the environment, “the greenest building is one that already exists.”

Moe advocates for a federal policy that will direct growth in existing communities. While land-use planning has traditionally been a matter of state and local government, Moe believes that where the federal government has a huge impact on local development by selecting carefully how to allocate its federal budget. Such federal policy should “stop rewarding unsustainable development,” “enhance the violability and livability of the [existing] communities.” And “encourage reuse and energy upgrades in older buildings.”

Richard Moe, Sustainable Stewardship: Berkeley, California. March 29, 2008, available at: http://www.preservationnation.org/about-us/press-room/speeches/sustainability-berkeley.html

J. Cheung

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Charles Hotel Proposal

Follow this link, then download the DAPAC Proposal. The sketches of what the building would look like are near slides 12-18.


Building preservation becoming green trend

Scott Lindlaw, Building preservation becoming green trend, Assoc. Press, April 6, 2008, available at http://www.helenair.com/articles/2008/04/06/weekly_features/at_home/top/50hg_080406_preservation.txt (last visited April 9, 2008).

According to this article from the Associated Press, Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, spoke recently at the First Church of Christ in Berkeley on preservation and sustainability.

Moe, as the article suggests, represents a contingent of preservationists whose basic message is that preservation of existing structures can be and often is more energy-efficient than new construction.

Describing the energy embodied in structures, Moe says: “It takes energy to manufacture, to extract building materials, more energy to transport them to a construction site, still more energy to assemble them into a building...All of that energy is embodied in the finished structure — and if the structure is demolished and landfilled, the energy locked up in it is totally wasted.” And so his argument goes that “buildings are vast repositories of energy.”

Scott Lindlaw, the article’s author, attempts to quantify that embodied energy in numerous ways throughout the article. Citing to the National trust for Historic Preservation, for example, Lindlaw offers that “the construction and operation of buildings sends up twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as the entire U.S. transportation sector.” And according to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (which advises the White House and Congress on historic preservation policy, notes Lindlaw), a “typical 50,000-square-foot commercial building ‘embodies’ the equivalent of 640,000 gallons of gasoline.” Moreover, that same 50,000-square-foot building built new would release as much carbon as 2.8 million miles worth of driving.

The article does not, however, advocate a program of strict preservation. Rather, Lindlaw acknowledges the trend for urban infill and cites to Paul Mackie of Seattle’s Western Red Cedar Lumber Association for the hybrid position that “both renovation and new construction” are needed. And Mackie continues: “Using sustaintable building materials like wood – especially western red cedar—that have the best environmental values are great choices.”

Still, Moe is cited for the final perspective that our practice of “out with the old, in with the new” is merely something engrained in the American mindset and culture. “…[B]ut it is changing, thank goodness,” says Moe. “[W]e’re changing that.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Berkeley's new cause: Make homeless behave

After months of hand-wringing, the Berkeley City Council in November passed a law to hire monitors to patrol city streets and parks and report inappropriate behavior by the homeless and others to police and social service agencies.
The plan makes it easier for police to enforce a law against camping in public places. It bans lying down on commercial streets during the day and bars smoking on sidewalks on main commercial corridors.
It was Berkeley's reputation for tolerance and generous social services that helped attract so many homeless. One study estimated that 40% of Alameda County's chronically homeless reside in Berkeley even though the city represents only 7% of the county's population.
In recent years the city's openness to the unorthodox has given way to discomfort over aggressive panhandling and public urination and defecation.
Frustrated by homeless encampments, Berkeley residents and merchants recently helped reject a plan to build a public plaza near what is known as the Gourmet Ghetto in North Berkeley, home of Alice Waters' Chez Panisse restaurant. Residents and merchants feared that the homeless would just take over.
Mayor Bates said Berkeley residents are no different than residents of other cities with significant homeless populations and they do not want to see poverty. But, he said, the city was not shunning the disadvantaged.
Maura Dolan, Berkeley's new cause: Make homeless behave, Los Angeles Times (Nov. 29, 2007) available at, http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-homeless29nov29,0,1339539.story.

Richard Moe on Preservation and Sustainability

Our speaker last night mentioned Richard Moe's talk on preservation and sustainability. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on it. Moe made some interesting points about older buildings and energy efficiency:

"Buildings designed before the widespread use of electricity feature transoms, high ceilings, and large windows for natural light and ventilation, as well as shaded porches and other features to reduce solar gain....

"According to a formula produced for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, about 80 billion BTUs of energy are embodied in a typical 50,000-square-foot commercial building. If you tear the building down, all that embodied energy is wasted.

"What's more, demolishing that same 50,000-square-foot commercial building would create nearly 4,000 tons of waste....

"Once the old building is gone, putting up a new one in its place takes more energy, of course, and it also uses more natural resources and releases new pollutants and greenhouse gases into our environment. ... It is estimated that constructing a new 50,000-square-foot commercial building releases about the same amount of carbon into the atmosphere as driving a car 2.8 million miles. ..."

Jon Carroll, “Searching for Bernard,” SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, April 8, 2008, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/04/08/DDUE1008UQ.DTL

Sunday, April 6, 2008

B-Town’s Silent Majority


According to an Internet survey on KitchenDemocract.org, nearly 87 percent of Berkeley registered voters said the city should implement Mayor Tom Bates’ “Public Commons for Everyone Initiative.” However, this majority is considered a silent majority and rarely voices their opinions at council meetings. Instead, the public reaction to the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative has been negative with homeless activists declaring that the initiatives pick on the poor and criminalize the homeless.

The Public Commons for Everyone Initiative has several proposals for controlling the homeless problems in Berkeley. They include extending the hours of public restrooms and making sure there are enough signs directing people to them. Another is a law that would allow the police to ticket anyone who urinates or defecates in public instead of having to arrest them on misdemeanor charges. A third proposal is to ensure that police actively enforce existing antisocial laws, such as prohibitions against spending the night in parks or on city streets when there are shelter beds available.

Another initiative that may be most significant in affecting homeless behavior is the mayor’s plan to ban smoking in commercial districts. Studies have shown that homeless people are more likely to smoke. Therefore, this initiative may result in forcing many of the homeless off Telegraph and Shattuck Avenues. Interesting, this initiative met with the least resistance from homeless rights activists.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

When the homeless lose or abandon stuff, it gets frozen

Here’s an interesting article about abandoned possessions left by the homeless.

Berkeley not only tolerates its homeless people, it also takes good care of their stuff when they abandon it in shopping carts. The city of Berkeley stores abandoned shopping carts left by the homeless in a huge container for up the 90 days. The items in the container are refrigerated at a temperature of 0 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit.

In 2003, Berkeley bought the 40-foot-long, 8-foot-wide refrigerated container for $8,200 because public works officials complained that the shopping carts, which were then stored at the city's outdoor corporation yard, were vermin-infested. The city needed a place to put the container, so it signed a five-year, $61,500 lease with Caltrans for land under the University Avenue overpass at Interstate 80.

Why does the city store the abandoned shopping carts? Deputy City Attorney Matthew Orebic asserted that the city is abiding state law, which requires storage of lost goods. He concedes, however, that it is unclear whether the law applies to unattended shopping carts because they may not be lost. Given the lack of clarity, the city opted to do what was safe and fair, that is, to make sure that it are not violating any laws and to be fair to homeless persons.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Solutions to homeless problem hard to find

Every winter, Key West sees a large increase in its homeless population and the call for action takes on a more desperate tone. The city often claims it is unfairly burdened by vagrants who panhandle on the streets and sleep on the beaches. The same sunny weather that drives the crucial winter tourism rush also attracts an inordinate number of homeless from the snow-blown streets of northern cities.
The city made major efforts in the last year to push the homeless from public areas, including the city's last stretches of wetlands, but has run up against a wall. A no-panhandling law went into effect for the Duval Street strip and Mallory Square, severing a main source of sustenance for homeless and leading to a number of arrests. Though the panhandling ban may be considered a success, a new law banning homeless from camping in wetlands has gathered dust for months. The city cannot enforce the ban, which would effectively eliminate the last safe area for the homeless, without risking a major lawsuit. Miami and Orlando have both been sued for barring the homeless from life-sustaining activities such as sleeping in public. The courts ruled in favor of plaintiffs who argued that the cities must provide an alternative for homeless that are roused from sleep.
So the city has been struggling to create a "Safe Zone" where the homeless could go and not be bothered by authorities. Such camps are not popular with the public and few are willing to allow one in their neighborhood.
The road ahead will likely be long and difficult, as it has been for years.

Travis James Tritten, Solutions to homeless problem hard to find, KeyNews.com, http://www.livableoldtown.com/solution_to_homeless.htm.

Letters to the Editor, Daily Planet

Here are some excerpts from The Berkeley Daily Planet’s Letters to the Editor that provide various perspectives on the development of downtown. It illustrates some unique angles and viewpoints that developers most likely face when handling projects in Berkeley:

“It is indeed alarming to witness the dominoes falling in Berkeley as elected representatives and city officials bow down to real estate developers, telecommunications giants, and university/corporate collusion called scientific experimentation and “green” progress . . . Will Berkeley become just another bedroom community for commuters, while long-time residents, taxpayers and voters are driven out of our community? And where will we go? . . .Berkeley’s citizens, leaders, and city officials concerned with housing and public health need to ally with counterparts in neighboring cities and San Francisco in a united fight for the rights of all people for decent housing and public health.” Marianne Robinson

“It seems that every edition of the Planet brings forth another letter from another technophobe decrying the cell phone towers proposed for the UC Storage building . . .I understand that conservatives fear change; different religions, different types of people, new buildings, and new technologies are all pretty scary until you get to know them better.” Fred Massell

“Another thousand times no, no and no on the proposed building of a new sports facility on the western edge of the Memorial Stadium . . . We have lived on the north south axisroad across the eastern edge of the campus less than a mile from the stadium for many years. We walk to football games and arts events on campus. Since the Haas Business School was built, where do all those people park? . . . congestion continue to obliterate the most beautiful and last natural edge of my Campus . . .Put our talented athletes nearer our degraded and neglected downtown! Put the athletic support staffs for all of Cal’s illustrious, popular sports teams, the vehicles and fans’ access where there is more parking than exists at the eastern edge of campus.” Judith Holland

“Letters to the Editor,” The Berkeley Daily Planet, January 11, 2008, available at: http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-01-11/article/28904.

J. Cheung

The Berkeley City Council Wakes Up and the Daily Planet Hates It

An interesting article appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet on Friday, March 28th (yes, I admit it, I have the Daily Planet bookmarked and I read the online version every day. It’s good for a laugh, if nothing else!), concerning a study of regarding matters that could have great impact on the downtown area.

The article, “Council Approves Controversial $40K Height-Profit Study,” begins with an odd recounting of what appears to be an even stranger occurrence, the performance of a song lauding Berkeley’s efforts to reduce its waste stream. From this unconventional jumping off point, however, the article gets down to the heart of the matter. Well, actually, that’s not true. It next describes a tax initiative to fund a new warm-water aquatic facility for seniors, and then documents the adoption of a “non-controversial” measure regarding condo conversions in the city, a measure that will “streamline the conversion process,” whatever that means in this bureaucratic nightmare of a city.

Finally, after covering these other matters, the article takes up the issue that the headline announces: the Height-Profit study. By a 6-1 vote, the Council approved spending $40,000 “for a study of the relationship between building height and developer profits.” After DAPAC rejected a staff proposal to undertake such a study, which will determine the economic viability of DAPAC’s proposed density adjustments to the downtown area, the Planning Commission took the issue directly to the City Council, which authorized the study. The lone ‘nay’ vote, Councilmember Dona Spring, would seem to have already undertaken her own economic analysis, claiming that this study is merely an end-run by developers seeking to build “point towers” around the normal funding process, and predicting that “they’ll say it’s unprofitable unless they go to 18 stories.”

While the Daily Planet’s coverage of the issues surround DAPAC can hardly be said to have shown themselves worthy of the vaulted Fox News tag-line, “fair and balanced,” this article seems particular offensive. After proclaiming how “controversial” the study is, the Planet decides to cover a few other matters before the city council before delving into the subject at hand, and then deigns to cover only the opinion of the sole opposing vote to the measure, hinting at a pro-developer slant to the Council’s decision in the process with the term “developer profits.” Fair coverage would have included a statement from a supporting Councilmember, and framed the greater issues surrounding the proposed density adjustment by considering the possible beneficiaries of high-rise towers in the area beyond the developers themselves.

The benefits of the newly approved study are self-evident: it will give the Council objective economic information regarding the realistic viability of the DAPAC proposal, which the Council can then use to modify the proposal as it sees fit. If the study finds DAPAC’s proposal economically viable for developers it could ease the plan’s adoption by allowing an up-or-down vote on the plan as it stands. If the study finds the plan uneconomical, however, the Council will at least have information on what height levels will be required for developers to turn a profit on new projects in the downtown area, allowing the subsequent debate to, at a minimum, be predicated on realistic assumptions. Considering Mayor Bates’ assurances that Berkeley has plenty of money in its budget, spending $40,000 on this study seems reasonable when its benefits are considered, especially given the enormous impact that the DAPAC plan stands to have. The Daily Planet’s brief, obscure, and one-sided coverage, however, leaves the reader with a sense of distrust for the Council and for the plan in general, and thereby does the city a great disservice.

Judith Scherr, Council Approves Controversial $40K Downtown Height-Profit Study, THE BERKELEY DAILY PLANET, Mar. 28, 2008, available at http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-03-28/article/29579.

Seniors moving into the city

Hey all,

There is a good article in today's SF Chron discussing the increasing numbers of seniors who are moving back to the city after their kids have left home.



Monday, March 31, 2008

Parking Crunch

I found an article entitled “The Parking Crunch Myth” which examined whether changes in organization of office space lead to a parking crunch as many people believe. As office put more employees in smaller spaces to save costs, many are worried that parking will become an increasing problem.

The article states that it is important for employers to accurately assess the demand for parking. This assessment involves a consideration of the correct occupied floor of the building, the percentage of employees who drive cars, and the density of employees within the building. The trend in recent years has been toward more demand for parking, often above what the buildings can handle. However, recent studies comparing current parking demand ratios to those in the 1980s reveal that parking demand hasn’t increased as dramatically as many people believe. The evidence of dramatic increases in parking demand involve isolated areas.

However, employers should be aware that parking planning is still important. Parking demands may be shifting in coming years as more people telecommute. Some new considerations include incentives to carpool, discouraging reserved parking, re-striping spaces to accommodate smaller cars, leasing spaces from nearby properties that have little weekday traffic, and adding parking decks to lots.

John Dorsett, The Parking Crunch Myth, Today’s Facility Manager, May 1998, available at http://www.walkerparking.com/documents/dorsett_crunch_myth.pdf

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Parking Paper Outline

Parking Paper Outline:

  1. Why this is an issue
    1. Current state

i. Garages

ii. Map

iii. Meters

iv. Employer permits

    1. Proposed developments

i. Charles Hotel

ii. Asian Art Museum

    1. Increased car use
    2. Consumer impacts
  1. Considerations in adopting a solution
    1. Wide variety of solutions
    2. Factors that affect parking demand
    3. Policy/pricing factors
    4. Spillover problems
    5. Incidental costs
    6. Transportation and land use objectives
    7. Who bears the costs?
    8. Measure demand Costs
    9. Considerations specific to downtowns
    10. Methods:

i. Copy other cities

ii. Consult data

  1. Possible solutions
    1. Parking Pricing

i. Techniques

ii. Objectives

iii. Getting the right price

iv. Benefits/Costs

1. Efficiency

2. Reduced car use

3. Efficient land use

4. Revenues

5. Transaction costs

6. Financial costs

7. spillover

8. Reduces cruising

v. New technology meters

1. Pay and display

2. Pay by space

3. in vehicle meters

4. mobile phone

vi. Examples:

1. Aspen

    1. Min/max
    2. Increase capacity

i. Increase curb parking

ii. Decrease size

    1. Employer
    2. Subsidize
    3. Remote

i. Example: Chattanooga

    1. Re-design
    2. Car stackers
    3. Information
    4. Residential
    5. Eliminate reserved parking
    6. Reduce demand

i. In lieu

ii. Shared

    1. Freezes
    2. Reduce demand

i. Ex: Portland

    1. Enforcement
  1. Examples
    1. Pasadena
    2. SF
    3. Redwood City

Saturday, March 29, 2008

NYTimes Travel on Berkeley


Friday, March 21, 2008

Green Building Paper Outline

Better for The Environment: New Green Buildings or Retrofitting Old Buildings?

I. The Goal: Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
a. California’s AB 32, City of Berkeley and UC Berkeley initiatives
b. LEED certification program: requirements and goals

II. Constructing New Green Buildings
a. Environmental Costs of construction: energy and materials
b. Environmental Savings: energy efficiency, offsets, other measures
c. Net Benefit or impact

III. Retrofit Existing Buildings to Achieve More Energy Efficiency
a. Environmental cost of leaving buildings as they are
b. Environmental costs of retrofitting existing buildings
c. Environmental Savings: energy efficiency, offsets, other measures
d. Net Benefit or impact

IV. Comparing New Green Buildings and Retrofitted Buildings

V. Implications for Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan
a. Common ground for environmentalists and preservationists?
b. Recommendation for DAPAC

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Homelessness / PCEI Paper -- Outline

Proposed Structure for Homelessness Paper:

  1. How do homelessness/crime issues relate to DAPAC? [Robert]
    1. How The Presence of The Homeless Inhibits Economic Growth
    2. How Crime Inhibits Economic Growth

  1. The Situation in Berkeley [Linda; Farhad; Efren; Jenny]
    1. Current rates / facts

i. How present are the homeless in Berkeley?

ii. What are current crime rates downtown?

iii. Is there a relationship between the presence of the homeless downtown and downtown crime rates?

    1. Berkeley’s Past (Unconstitutional) Measures to Address Homelessness

i. Measures N and O (1998)

ii. Judicial decision declaring the measures unconstitutional violation of First Amendment

    1. Berkeley’s Attempts to Address Homelessness Downtown

i. The Public Commons for Everyone Initiative (PCEI)

ii. Other Relevant Legislation or Policies / Other Social

1. Housing the homelessness

iii. Financial impact of Berkeley’s programs

    1. How Other Cities Have Tried to Address Homelessness

i. Case examples of what works and does not work

ii. Comparison to Berkeley

  1. Public Commons for Everyone Initiative [Jesse; Matt; Beverly; David]
    1. Why The PCEI Will Fail to Address Homelessness in Berkeley

i. Eighth Amendment Cruel & Unusual Analysis [Beverly]

ii. Fourteenth Amendment Due Process / Void for Vagueness Analysis [David]

iii. The merits of criminalization on homelessness [Matt]

iv. Straight Policy Discretion Analysis [Jesse]

    1. Proposed Solutions

i. A Redrafted PCEI Ordinance [Jesse, Matt, David, Beverly]

TDR Paper: Outline (Draft 1)

I. Introduction to TDR
a. Definitions and TDR Basics (Allison)
b. Why TDRs could help downtown Berkeley: addressing gaps in DAP (Allison)
i. Density
1. DAPAC height limits and cost-effective building
2. Environmental goals
a. Berkeley Greenhouse Gas plan
ii. Historic Preservation
1. Parcel assembly
2. Balancing new development with effective preservation of historic buildings
c. Legal Issues with TDRs (Natalie)
d. TDRs in Berkeley: existing plan (Josh)

II. TDRs and Density
a. Benefits of dense development (Hana)
i. Environmental
ii. Economic
iii. Safety
b. Case Studies of TDRs to achieve dense development (Hana)

III. TDRs and Historic Preservation
a. Historic Preservation in Berkeley
i. CEQA (Meg)
ii. Ramifications of listing (Meg)
b. Case Studies of Historic Preservation TDRs (Natalie)

IV. Implementation Recommendations (Sara and Michael) – Does it make sense to include sub-sections specific to recommendations for achieving density and for achieving preservation?
a. TDR Bank
b. Sending/Receiving Areas
c. Densities (?)
d. Is anything missing?

Paper Outline - Eminent Domain


Broad Questions to Answer
1) When is eminent domain legal?
2) When is eminent domain advisable? When is it unadvisable?
3) How does DAPAC square with the answers to #2?
4) Are there Berkeley-specific issues that make this a particularly good/bad idea?

  1. Eminent Domain: Basic Intro
    1. General Intro: Definition & Mechanics
    2. Legal Precedents
      1. Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. 26 (1954): Landmark case upholding private to private transfers as part of urban renewal schemes.
      2. Hawaii v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229 (1984)
      3. Kelo v. New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005): Recent endorsement of private→private transfers.
  2. Responses to Kelo
    1. Legislative Responses
      1. Sensenbrenner Bill: in response to Kelo, would deny federal funds to cities that use eminent domain to transfer property from one private party to another.
        1. http://www.counterpunch.org/adler07292006.html
    2. Academic Responses
      1. “Eminent Domain for Urban Redevelopment - An essential tool for development? Or an unnecessary intervention in the market.”
        1. http://ideas.repec.org/a/uct/ctecon/05-win-1.html
    3. Public Responses: Newspaper articles, etc.
  3. Practical Guide to Eminent Domain
    1. New HUD guidelines – Jan 4 2008
      1. http://www.hud.gov/offices/pih/centers/sac/eminent/
  4. Case Studies: Cities that have employed eminent domain
    1. New London (Kelo)
  5. Berkeley Profile w.r.t. Eminent Domain issues
    1. Past experiences
      1. Ashby BART – specific resolution not to use ED
    2. Demographic / Infrastructural / Geographical / Geological characteristics
    3. Issues w/ Historic Preservation & Eminent Domain?
  6. Recommendation: What role should Eminent Domain play in downtown redevelopment?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mortgage crisis is creating new 'slumburbs'

Carol Lloyd, Mortgage crisis is creating new ‘slumburbs,’ March 16, 2008, S.F. Chron., at C-1.

This past Sunday, an article appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle discussing the effect of the mortgage crisis on suburban developments and how it could lead to an increase in the building of walkable urban developments.

According to the article (citing Richard Florida’s new book, “Who’s Your City”), “super cities” like San Francisco are attracting a disproportionate number of educated, creative workers. These people keep the housing prices relatively high within the urban core despite the state of the US economy at large. Outside that core, however, suburbs are experiencing “unprecedented decline”:

“Stockton, with nearly 5 percent of all its households at some stage of foreclosure, got the honor of ringing up the second-highest foreclosure rate nationwide, after Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.”

Carol Lloyd, the article's author, goes on to identify other areas that ranked high on that foreclosure list:

“Other sprawling California regions dominated the list: Modesto at No.3, Merced at No.4, Riverside-San Bernardino at No.5, Bakersfield at No.7, Vallejo-Fairfield at No.8 and Sacramento at No.9.”

These foreclosures draw attention to the importance of urban living, according to Christopher Leinberger of the Brookings Institute in Washington. Leinberger contends that edge suburbs are already turning into slums, and that neighborhoods populated with isolated, car-dependent single-families are not sustainable because:

(1) New suburbs tend to be far from public transport, social services and commerce;

(2) As compared to redeveloping older, sturdy urban buildings, it is difficult to create multifamily housing out of existing production-built suburban housing; and

(3) The suburbs, which depend on developers’ fees and property taxes for community needs, are financially vulnerable.

The article points out parenthetically that Leinberger’s suburbs do not include “older inner suburbs like Berkeley or Palo Alto that have walkable urban neighborhoods and public transit.”

Lloyd finishes on a positive note, citing to John Norquist, president of the Congress for the New Urbanism, for the opinion that walkable neighborhoods are being built well and that they are a desirable thing. And she cites again to Leinberger, who believes that building walkable urban developments offers no guarantee of a city’s success but is an essential first step.

The experts, Lloyd says, believe this could be an evolution of the American dream toward a “far healthier, more ecological vision.”

Paper Topic

I will be writing for the paper about homelessness. Specifically, I am going to discuss the constitutionality of the ordinance. There are 2 questions I am addressing. 1. is this ordinance void for vagueness under these cases? and 2. is the failure to designate a civil or criminal regime a violation of due process?

Downtown Planners Confront Homeless, Housing Need

In 2006, the city turned its attention to the poor and the homeless who frequent, sleep and panhandle along downtown streets.
There are multiple ways the city hoped to address the problem. One goal of the DAPAC plan should be a call for increased cooperation between the university and city on housing issues involving the poor and homeless. In addition, the new plan should include setting a priority on the need for housing and social services in the downtown; calling for a costly seismic retrofit and improvements at the Veterans’ Memorial Building at 1931 Center St., where many services for the homeless are now located; and adding more incentives for developers to create housing for the homeless and extremely low-income tenants, possibly through expediting the city approval process for projects that include the units.
The reality of street life in Berkeley is more complex than simple stereotypes would suggest, committee members learned. For one thing, many of the downtown panhandlers who seek the change of passers-by along Shattuck Avenue and other downtown streets aren’t homeless.
In addition, Berkeley’s homeless population is unique, in part because the city has 40 percent of Alameda County’s chronically homeless, largely single males, Micallef said. One reason may be the perception that Berkeley is friendlier to the down-trodden.
Another attraction is that Berkeley has its own mental health program, and people who are mentally ill feel more comfortable here than anywhere else. But the city also spends a disproportionate amount of funds on emergency services for the homeless, and those costs would probably drop if more housing could be found.
What the homeless really need, however, is housing. But, for one thing, Berkeley doesn’t have many of the vacant buildings that can be transformed into a single room occupancy (SRO) residence, with shared kitchen and bath facilities, or other types of housing. And another reality is the long time lag between approving new housing and its eventual opening.
Another problem is money—not only funds to build new units but the cash to help their tenants make the transition from street life. Housing alone isn’t a solution without social services to support the needs of a population with chemical dependency, mental health and other issues

Richard Brenneman, Downtown Planners Confront Homeless, Housing Need, Berkeley Daily Planet (Oct. 20, 2006), available at, http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2006-10-20/article/25350.

Paper Topic

I'm writing for the Infrastructure paper and I will be focusing on the parking problem in downtown and possible solutions. I think the Infrastructure group is going to use green building as an element to tie our three parts together.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dacey v. City of Berkeley

If anyone is interested in the writ of mandate that today's guest speakers were talking about regarding the lawsuit against Patrick Kennedy here is the link:


Click on "Case Summary"
Enter the case number as RG07314238

Monday, March 17, 2008

Coalition Support for Increased Density Housing

Emmet Pierce, Coalition stands up for density; Housing Action Network seeks to build public support, The San Diego Union-Tribune, March 2, 2003.

My contribution to the TDR memo will focus on the environmental, economic and safety benefits of high density development. This relates to the topic of TDRs in that increased density (via increased height) is our primary justification for the historic preservation TDR plan we are proposing.

As one of my continuous areas of interest has long been economic development, I began my research there. I came across this article in my research and found it interesting particularly because it focuses on San Diego, another California City, and one that has also undergone a TDR program.

The article highlights the activism of an organization that advocates along the principle “that a poorly housed work force will lead to a weakened economy” and applied this principle to the development of high-density residential development in San Diego.

I would also be interested to hear any other views on this issue – so please comment!

Price Tag of Parking

I found an article entitled “Price Tag of Parking.” The author argues that there is really no such thing as free parking. Even parking that is provided at no cost often carries a high price for parking providers. The costs associated with no cost parking include investments in land, construction costs, property and sales taxes, and maintenance and operating costs. These parking costs are usually passed on to the operator of the facility. For example, a mall owner will charge higher rent to cover the costs associated with parking. Higher rents usually translate into higher prices for customers.

The article suggests that owners should carefully consider whether more parking is needed before building new parking since this will involve additional costs. Construction costs for one parking space can be anywhere from $6,000 to $15,000. In assessing parking demand, owners should ask three questions: How long will patrons park? How many times will each space turn over? When will demand exist?

Even if more parking is needed, building a new structure isn’t necessarily the best approach. Owners should consider other options such as operating a shuttle service from remote parking, employing policies to discourage people from driving, building a surface lot on an existing vacant lot, re-striping existing facilities to increase supply, or implementing parking management strategies that allow existing parking facilities to be used more efficiently.

John Dorsett, Price Tag of Parking, Today’s Facility Manager, February 1998, available at http://www.walkerparking.com/documents/dorsett_price_tag.pdf

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Upcoming Ballot Initiatives on Eminent Domain and Rent Control

Propositions 98 and 99 – Eminent Domain and Rent Control

On June 3rd, California voters will be given the choice to vote for Propositions 98 and 99, dealing with eminent domain and rent control. The current landscape surrounding these issues is as follows:

With regards to rent control, Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose all currently have some measure of rent control, limiting the amount a landlord can increase the rent charged for a unit during a tenant’s residence. Landlords are free to set the rent at any level when tenants change, however.

Respecting eminent domain, Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) held, in a 5-4 decision, that eminent domain, the right of the government to seize private property for public purposes, allowed cities to seize private property and transfer it to other private owners to further economic development. The Court held that seizure and transfer of property from one private party to another qualified as a “public use” if the new use creates new jobs, increases tax revenues and help to revitalize a depressed urban area. Kelo has generated substantial public backlash and considerable uncertainty. Propositions 98 and 99 are, to great extent, the result of this backlash.

The basics of the propositions are:
Prop. 98 limits the government’s ability to employ eminent domain to seize private property for public uses and eliminates rent control throughout California.

Eminent Domain Effects:
  • Private property may not be taken for other private use under any circumstances (i.e. Kelo-type seizures would be prohibited).
  • Property may only be taken for public uses like freeway construction, parks, or schools.
  • Open spaces and farms may not be seized for the sale of natural resources.
  • If the government’s purpose change after the seizure, the property must be offered for repurchase to the original owner at the seizure price.
Rent Control Effects
  • Tenants living in rent-controlled areas continue to receive the benefit of rent control until they move.
  • Once a unit turns over to a new tenant, that unit is no longer subject to rent control.

Prop. 99: In response to a perceived “hidden agenda” behind Prop. 98, evidenced by the substantial financial backing of apartment and mobile home owners, the California League of Cities proposed Prop. 99. The League of Cities claims that the real motivation behind Prop. 98 is the elimination of rent control in order to profit landlords. Prop. 99 also deals with eminent domain, but has no provisions regarding rent control. Under Prop. 99, the government would be prohibited from taking owner-occupied homes for sale to another private party. Prop. 99 is drafted such that if both propositions are passed, the proposition receiving more votes will become law.

• www.yesprop98.com/facts
• www.eminentdomainreform.com/compare9899
• Tom Chorneau, Eminent Domain Measure on Ballot, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, MAR. 10, 2008.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tensions between Berkeley High School students and Downtown area merchants

Because Berkeley High School does not have a cafeteria, about 90 percent of students rely on Downtown merchants for lunch, according to a Berkeley High School junior.

When students leave campus for their 50-minute lunch break, some of them steal from food stores, according to local merchants. Nevertheless, the same local merchants admit that much of their income comes from Berkeley High School students.

In response, some students complain that the merchants are “rude” and discriminatory. For instance, one student alleged that the merchants stereotype black teenagers as “gangbangers.” In general, the distrust of high school students leads some merchants to kick out students who are in large groups. Kicking out students in large groups affects black students in particular, because, as one student put it, black students tend to travel “in packs.”


Landmark Berkeley Ice Rink to Reopen

The Berkeley Ice Rink was scheduled to be shut down about a year ago. The property was going to be used as development property, however a nonprofit group stepped in to raise about $12 million within the next two years to save the landmark.

The ice rink has had several skaters such as Kristi Yamaguchi, Peggy Fleming and Brian Boitano start their career there. It was open for 70 years before being shutting down sometime a year ago.

This is another example of the landmarking and attempting to save older buildings which could be used for more productive development. Society thriving on decay anyone?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Building Reuse is Green, Says Leading Architect

Richard Brenneman, “Building Reuse is Green, Says Leading Architect,” The Berkeley Daily Planet, Mar. 11, 2008 (available at http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-03-11/article/29433).

The Berkeley Daily Planet featured an article this week summarizing green development perspectives held by architect and green building expert Sandra Mendler.

Mendler, who spoke as a Green Building and Development panel member at the UC Berkeley Energy Symposium, explained that retrofits can generally match the efficiency standards of new construction. She further offered that retrofitting an existing building is generally greener than tearing it down and building a new one. Her conclusions echo findings made by DAPAC in their preparation of the Downtown Area Plan.

Other panelists at the symposium included Steve Selkowitz and Charles Huizenga of Lawrence Berkeley and Gail Brager of UC Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment. Each shared Mendler’s perspective that the current levels of emissions stemming from building energy use identified buildings as major targets for conservation efforts.

Among the factors contributing to energy use, “90% of a building’s embodied energy derives from five material choices: framing (steel, concrete or wood), enclosure systems (glass, masonry or metal), flooring, roofing and partitions.” Mendler offered, for example, that aluminum requires tens times the energy to produce as steel.

The article concludes with a plug for buildcarbonneutral.org, where builders can go to calculate the green-ness of their projects.

Center Street Plaza

The Berkeley Planning Commission Task Force evaluated the proposal to build a hotel/conference center/museum complex in the heart of Downtown Berkeley. The report found that the proposed 200-room hotel and conference center and relocation of the UC museums downtown could significantly boost the Downtown economy and add nearly $1 million per year to direct City revenues.

The Task Force found that Center Street between Oxford and Shattuck is ideally suited to become a public open space closed to cars. Center Street is the major pedestrian link between the campus and Downtown. More than 10,000 walking trips per day are made on this block, while there is relatively little automobile traffic. This block’s dimensions are: Length- 460'; curb-to-curb width- 42'; total right-of-way- 80'; width of sidewalk on the south side of the street- about 22'; and width of sidewalk on the north side- 16'. Making Center Street a pedestrian block will encourage more people to walk to and from campus, bus, and BART Downtown. Trees can be planted to provide landscaping and open space.

The proposed hotel and conference center would be strategically located at the most significant transit point in Berkeley. That said, it could still generate significant traffic by hotel guests, conference-goers, museum visitors, and employees. A project transportation plan can reduce traffic impacts. The report outlines a number of strategies to reduce car use: locating parking underground; raising parking rates for all-day use; and/or providing hotel guests with a day’s free transit by means of a BART excursion ticket, perhaps a policy contributing to LEED certification.

Other suggestions for the plaza:

● Use of the hotel/conference center should flow easily to and from the street and encourage spilling into Downtown.

● Include ground-level and second-story cafes, restaurants and retail developed in conjunction with the hotel, preferably with outdoor seating.

● Feature ecological amenities that relate to the civic, environmental, arts, and economic values supported by the Berkeley General Plan.

- Jayni Foley

Report of the Planning Commission Task Force on a Downtown Hotel/Conference Center/Museums Complex and Public Open Space (April 27, 2004), available at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Planning_(new_site_map_walk-through)/Level_3_-_General/DowntownAreaDocs.pdf

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Another Permit for Patrick Kennedy

The Berkeley Zoning Board Adjustment approved three projects in Berkeley last week: 1) add a restaurant downtown, 2) build a bio fuels station in south Berkeley, and 3) permit a child care center for Pixar employees in West Berkeley. With regard to the most relevant project to downtown Berkeley, the first project, developer Patrick Kennedy now has a blanket use permit to establish a 13, 974 square foot full service restaurant and bar (able to serve alcohol) at the former location of the Act 1&2 Theater on the 2100 block of Center Street. Kennedy sees potential for a Spanish or Latin restaurant with live entertainment. On behalf of Kennedy, Niloo Nouri expressed, “We wanted to have the full-service restaurant necessary to attract a good reputable high end name to Berkeley.” Board member Sarah Shumer opposed the permit and expressed concern over the nature of the blanket permit, as well as the availability of parking that would accompany the development of the restaurant. Vice chair Bob Allen, in favor of the permit, asked rhetorically, “If we are not going to allow this type of a development, what use can we allow downtown? . . . Do we want more of a ghost town than we have now?” From another perspective, Doug Hambleton, Berkeley police chief, expressed concern over the noise and supervision issues.

Riya Bhattacharjee, “ ZAB Approves Center Street Restaurant Permit, BioFuels Station,” The Berkeley Daily Planet, Volume 9 Issue 96, March 7-10 2008, at 3.

Becky O'Malley Editorial on Our Class

Becky O'Malley posted an editorial reflecting on what she wanted to say to our class today.


Homeless Shelter

I found an article in the Berkeley Daily Planet about one of the homeless shelters in Berkeley. It's a useful article to get a feel for what a shelter is like. St Mark’s Episcopal Church, with funding from the city, operates an emergency storm shelter. When the weather looks bad, the church posts signs through out the city letting people know that the shelter will open at 7pm and provide beds for the night.

Prior to 2002, the emergency shelter was provided by a number of churches on a rotating basis. In 2002, J.C. Orton, the operator of the shelter, was approached by the city. The city expressed interest in creating a permanent emergency shelter with funding from the city. Orton stated that the hardest part of creating the shelter was finding a venue. Orton contacted the churches that were involved in the rotational shelter program, and St Mark’s was the only one that expressed interest.

The doors at St Mark’s are open from 7-9pm for people to sign in. Each person is given a pad, a sheet, and a blanket for the night. The sheets are collected in the morning and are taking to the Laundromat. There are usually between 50 and 60 people, mostly between the ages of 26 and 55. There are usually 4 to 6 times as many men as women. The people using the shelter leave by 7am the next morning.

The article describes some personal stories from various people who have used the shelter. Most describe the difficulties they face in trying to find employment and a permanent place to live. One person expressed concern that the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative Berkeley will lead t more harassment of people who live on the streets.

Lydia Gans, St Mark’s Provides Shelter in Bad Weather, The Berkeley Daily Planet, January 29, 2008, available at http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-01-29/article/29041.

Monday, March 10, 2008

University Ponders Prospects for People's Park

People’s Park is about to reach its fortieth birthday and it needs to change. UC Berkeley has embarked on a comprehensive process to re-think how People's Park can better serve the campus and the broader community.
Despite the diversity of perspectives of the park's many stakeholders, most recognized the park's historical significance and had a strong interest in revitalizing the park to serve the community. Stakeholders also shared a common goal of having the park be a welcoming and safe open space.
Several intriguing possibilities were suggested as part of the park study, including using the park as a performance and fine arts public venue or as a learning space devoted to sustainability, health and wellness or global peace pursuits.
As a next step, the advisory board recommended that the university hold a design competition to solicit detailed plans for the park's redesign. The board has also recommended creating a new task force devoted to addressing issues of homelessness in and around People's Park.
Whether the park ultimately includes outdoor exhibits, a cafĂ©, an amphitheater or meditation spots – or not – the goal is to create a park that can truly serve the community and campus.

University Ponders Prospects for People's Park, Cal Neighbors (Cal Neighbors, Berkeley, Cal.), Winter 2008, available at, http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2007-11-06/article/28293.

An Interesting Twist on Historic Preservation: “Twenty-first Century Pre-war Apartments”

Jennifer Bleyer, ‘Pre-war’ Apartments Rising Just Down the Street, March 9, 2008, New York Times, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/09/nyregion/thecity/09prew.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=%22historic+preservation%22&st=nyt&oref=slogin (last visited March 10, 2008).

I found this article in the New York Times yesterday highly amusing. It is also something of a play on, and at the same time critique of, the concept of historic classifications and preservation.

The article looks at a new high-rise residential development that recently sprouted up on the Upper West Side of New York City which is advertising its condos as “Twenty-first Century Pre-war Residences”. The article discusses the marketing value of these types of classifications.

Of course, the pro-development, New York City attitude highlighted in this article is better juxtaposed than compared to Berkeley’s anti-development sentiment, but I found it an interesting perspective for comparison, particularly for those of us planning to write on TDRs and historical preservation in this context.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Berkeley Council passes plan to stop bad street behavior


Berkeley’s City Council voted unanimously 9-0 last summer to pass the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative, a sweeping plan that seeks to address aggressive and disruptive behavior on the Berkeley’s streets. The goal of the PCEI is to improve the city’s common areas for everyone who lives in, works in, and visits Berkeley. The initiative cracks down on a wide range of behavior on the Berkeley’s streets that is regarded to be inhospitable to residents, visitors, and merchants. For example, PCEI bans smoking near buildings in commercial areas, lying on the sidewalk, public urination and defecation, drinking in public, possessing a shopping car, and shouting in public.

Another objective of PCEI is to use the criminal justice and social service systems to force the homeless population of Berkeley into counseling and rehabilitation. While Berkeley has various resources and services for its approximately 800 homeless people, many do not utilize these programs or are not reached by social workers.

Homeless advocates have fought passionately to stop the initiative, which they argue victimizes the city’s most vulnerable residents by criminalizing their behavior. They argue that the $2 million per year cost required to fund the program would be better spent on housing.

Even so, the PCEI is hoped to revitalize Berkeley, especially the downtown and northern end of Shattuck Avenue, where merchants, residents and visitors have been complaining for years about disruptive street behavior.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

City to Study Costs of Proposed Development

Sameea Kamal, "City to Study Costs of Proposed Development," The Daily Californian, Mar. 6, 2008 (available at http://www.dailycal.org/article/100771/city_to_study_costs_of_proposed_development).

According to The Daily Californian, the Berkeley Planning Commission voted (6-3) to study the economic feasibility of the DAPAC downtown development plan before approving it. The study is estimated to potentially cost Berkeley $25,000 to $30,000.

Will Travis--we know him as DAPAC’s chair--voiced his support of the Planning Commission’s decision, while opponents criticized it as a tool for delaying development.

The main argument for the study was something we have heard more than once over these past few weeks: the cost of adding to a project the two additional stories permitted under DAPAC’s plan would outweigh the developer’s expected income.

The Commission will request approval for the funding at an upcoming City Council meeting, and the Council will then have to contract out for the study. Any findings would not be expected until June.

See also Richard Brenneman, Planners Make First Move to Challenge Downtown Plan, Berkeley Daily Planet (Feb. 29, 2008) (available at http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-02-29/article/29344/print).

David Jackson summarized Brenneman's article for the blog on 3/5.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Is "The Main Street USA Approach" right for Berkeley?


The “Main Street Approach” is a “community-driven, comprehensive methodology” to revitalize business districts, premised on encourag[ing] economic development within the context of historic preservation in ways appropriate to today's marketplace.” The Approach emphasizes that it is an “incremental” plan that is “not designed to produce immediate change,” and cautions against following in the footsteps of plans that fail to address the root causes of economic decline, choosing, rather, to go for quick-fix solutions like arena’s or pedestrian malls. Bolstering its claims, Main Street USA touts statistics proclaiming the creation of an average of 250 new jobs over 10 years, and cumulative net growth of new businesses totaling an average of 70 over the same period.

Me: “Wow! That sounds great! Where do I sign?”

Main Street USA: “Well, as it turns out, Berkeley is already a success story!”

Me: “Bees in the what now?”

Berkeley is listed among the success stories of the program, under the title “Berkeley, Calif., tackles social issues and alters perception of crime.” Listed among the achievements of the DBA’s adoption of the Main Street USA Approach are changing the city’s attitude towards the downtown area, tackling social issues (read: Homelessness), and altering the perception of crime downtown. To hear them tell it, Berkeley is already a thriving community with a strong economic outlook and a firm grip on the issues of homelessness and crime.

To understand how this might be, one need only look at the date of publication: 1997. Now, I have no idea what Berkeley was like in 1997, but I have no reason to doubt that it was well on its way towards fabulous revitalization. Berkeley circa 2008, however, appears to present a different perspective. Nevertheless, the Main Street USA Approach does appear to contain some useful advice for those contemplating a redevelopment scheme. The Approach emphasizes that the scheme must be comprehensive and incremental, incorporate Self-Help in the form of true commitment by the residents and business owners of the rewards of the program even if it requires changing their attitudes, emphasize quality in every aspect of the project, working with the existing strengths of the city, and implementing the plan in a way that yields frequent visible changes to remind those involved that the project is underway and is succeeding.

Applying these principles to the DAPAC plan, it appears that Berkeley may have a few lessons to learn. First, the DAPAC plan appears to fall victim to the urge to cut in broad swaths rather than making incremental gains. This is evident in the plan’s call for a pedestrian walkway on Center Street and the Day-Lighting of Strawberry Creek. These would constitute radical changes to the streetscape of the downtown area, not the incremental but visible improvements advised by Main Street USA. Second, from the accounts given by the various speakers and the narrow passage of the DAPAC plan (along with the veiled allegations that even some of those voting in support of the plan did so only because they doubt is real viability), Berkeley cannot claim to have built a consensus among the interested parties.

Still, all is not necessarily lost for Berkeley. Scanning the list of the “nuts-and-bolts ingredients” of a successful program, Berkeley’s situation does not seem hopeless. Of the seven ingredients listed, Berkeley satisfies five: (1) a traditional business district exists, with (2) a decent concentration of remaining businesses; (3) the area is committed to revitalizing the downtown, and (4) has adequate human and financial resources to do so (according to Mayor Bates, at least); finally, (5) there is a commitment to maintaining historical buildings. What Berkeley lacks is (1) broad-based support for the revitalization plan and (2) consensus among the affected parties. From this, it appears that Main Street USA would advise Berkeley to attempt to build a consensus in the community over the need for and implementation of a revitalization plan. Realistically, this seems unlikely. Given the creation of the DAPAC plan and the commencement of construction of the Brower Center and the new UC Berkeley Art Museum, though, the area does appear to be moving forward with incremental changes that have the potential to yield visible improvements in the area. Perhaps the success of these programs can be an end-run around the so-call consensus pre-requisite, turning public opinion in favor of the redevelopment plan after its implementation rather than before.