Pending Use Permit
City of Berkeley Corporation Yard

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Use Permit
City Report Dec 17, 2002

 

City of Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board Environmental Review Officer
L A Wood, June 25, 2003

Re: Pending Use Permit for 1326 Allston Way, City of Berkeley Corporation Yard

Dear Sirs:


I am unable to be present for the public hearing scheduled for the City of Berkeley Corporation Yard and Use Permit discussion on June 26, 2003. However, I do want to add my voice of concern to those in the immediate community over the proposed use permit and the lack of a creditable community process. Last year, when this project was first day-lighted to the neighbors, I wrote an editorial directed at this use permit. Because it is still very relevant today, I have attached it as part of my formal comments.

Process
The City of Berkeley’s Public Works Department (the developer) has been described as a 500 pound gorilla who does anything it wants. This is has been the experience for neighbors regarding the maintenance yard’s operations and property development for at least two decades

Most recently, this “bully” behavior was displayed at the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and then again at the council hearing on the landmark designation. I have attached a copy of my complaint to this process so you might better understand how bankrupt this public process has become for neighbors.

When the City Council deliberated the landmarks question last year, they opted to wait till 11:30 at night to hold the public hearing. This required the Council waive its rules of practice/process. Because of this variance in the rules, few families waited to speak. The political maneuvering insured that there would be little public debate of the project. Perhaps even worst, Council refused to allow the landmark applicant (me) the opportunity to counter the many landmark misrepresentations of the developer, Public Works. The net result was that the developer, Public Works and its project, went completely unchallenged.

The City of Berkeley’s “hardball” approach to the public process should stop. It’s time that the City and Public Works begin to follow the normal zoning, LPC, and development process and requirements imposed on other developers/businesses. No demolition or construction should be allowed until there is an updated Master Plan for the Corporation Yard and a completed environmental review. The Yard’s current Master Plan is over fifteen years out of date. This is what the project demands and what the City would clearly demand of others private developers.

Landmarks
I authored the landmarks application at the LPC and believe it would be a tragedy to lose any of the original Ratcliff building. This landmark may well be the most significant in Berkeley, especially to the development of the city and our municipal government. The Public Works has argued that some of the original building should be torn down. They acknowledge the buildings significance but claim they should knock it down because of the costs. This is the cry of nearly every developer faced with a landmarked building. Few developers ever want to invest in such a building. This is hardly a legitimate reason to destroy this or any city building designated a landmark.

I encourage each of you to read this history contained in my application. I also encourage you to uphold the LPC designation and concern that all the original building be preserved. I ask that you not grant a demolition permit for any of the original footprint of the Radcliff as delineated in the LPC application. This building is a very important part of our Berkeley History and should be preserved. Sincerely,


Attachments:
Corporation Yard Needs More than Makeover Berkeley Daily Planet
2-21-02, L A Wood
Landmarks Designation Appeal 12-9-02, L A Wood

Ratcliff Appeal sent to City Council c/o City Clerk by fax which includes photos.


Mayor and City Council City of Berkeley Council Agenda: December 17, 2002
Toni Horodysky Berkeley, CA

Re: Landmark Status for Corporation Yard Ratcliff Building and Environs

There should be no doubt in your minds that the Walter Ratcliff Building at the Corporation Yard is a historic and architecturally significant structure worthy of Landmark Status.

This building, designed by Berkeley's first City Architect, was built in 1913. It was one of the first industrial buildings in the United States to be designed to blend into its surrounding neighborhood and to present a friendly face to its environs. This brick building has beautiful detailing and looks more like a school or Art studio than its true function.

Here are two early views of the Ratcliff Building:
Note: sent to City Council c/o City Clerk by fax which includes photos

The real question behind this Appeal by the Public Works Department is whether a City Department is subject to the same standards and rules as ordinary business and homeowners in this City.

The Public Works Department did not have the courtesy to attend and speak at the Landmarks Commission hearings, although the meetings were continued for several months providing much opportunity to do so.

Public Works Department is in violation of its Use Permit, gradually having placed 20 large storage containers on the property, all without benefit of Use Permit.

In its Application for a Use Permit during its last construction project in 1988, the Public Works Department in its CEQA report and in its Use Permit proposed rebuilding a Sound Wall along the southern border of the property and expanding off-street employee parking by restriping and removing several small structures on the northern side of the lot. It took eight years and protests from neighbors to get the Sound Wall built. The employee parking has never been increased.

Further, during this construction project, plans shown to the community in the Use Permit were revised, and a new building was constructed which encroached upon the adjacent Strawberry Street Park, in clear violation of Measure L.

The Public Works Department met with neighbors in March to discuss plans for work at the Corporation Yard, and stated repeatedly that they had no plans for construction or demolition at the site. In fact, they have a Master Plan, approved by the City Council in July 1988 which includes demolition of a nearly half of the Ratcliff Building.
As a follow-up to the issues raised at the March 20, 2002 Community meeting on April 2, 2002, we submitted a series of 25 questions to Patrick Keilch of the Public Works Department, regarding Corporation Yard changes.

Following are excerpts from our questions and his replies of July 3, 2002:

1. Please confirm that you have no plans for any construction at the Corporation Yard as stated at the meeting.
[Keilch, Patrick] At this time, we have no plans for construction at the Corp. Yard.

2. Please confirm that there is no Master Plan for the Yard. What was the date of any previous Master Plan?
[Keilch, Patrick] Our research up to this time has found no approved Master Plan for the Corp. Yard.

3. Please confirm that you have no plans to raze and replace the Quonset hut or any other buildings or parts thereof, other than moving the Lawn Bowling storage facility from the Corporation Yard.
[Keilch, Patrick] Correct, we have no such plans to raze or replace such buildings.

17. Why were the mitigation projects of the 1987 Use Permit never completed? Such as: planting trees along Allston Way, restriping employee parking lot to create 22 more spaces, demolishing 3 small buildings along Allston way to create additional employee parking. Why did it take 10 years, including one year of protests, to build the planned wall along Bancroft Way? [Keilch, Patrick] Obviously, because the City did not take the actions or allocate the resources to do these things or took longer to make the decision and allocate the resources for measures which were completed. This certainly legitimate question but is a comment to make a point, I believe, as much as a question.

18. The 1987 Use Permit shows the proposed Paint Building as a long, narrow building along the west property line with Strawberry Creek Park. The drawing of the Corporation Yard at present shows a shorter, wider building that straddles the property line, encroaching into the Park. When and why were the plans changed? Measure L requires a two-thirds vote of the citizens to change the use of park or open space. On whose authority was Measure L violated? [Keilch, Patrick] We don't have the research yet to answer all these questions. This is information we need to research more to determine. I'm asking Alex and Planning to further elaborate on this.

So the question before you today is whether a City Department is subject to the same standards as anyone else in the City.

We ask you to deny the Appeal and designate the Ratcliff building and its environs as a City Landmark.


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