711 Harrison Street Ursula Sherman Village Use Permit (partial)


711 Harrison Street Ursula Sherman Village Use Permit 02-10000017 to expand the BOSS Homeless Shelter from a maximum occupancy of 100 residents to 132 residents by adding 10 – 12 shared residential units to provide transitional housing and support services within three new buildings, and for a minor addition to the existing emergency shelter. For Board Action July 24, 2003

Application Basics                     
Applicant: boona cheema
Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS)
2065 Kittredge Street  Suite E, Berkeley  94704
Owner: City of Berkeley

A.  Permits Required:

  1. Use Permit to add floor area, under Section 23E.80.30.A
  2. Administrative Use Permit for joint use of parking spaces, under Section 23E.28.060

B.  Special Requirements (beyond primary zoning district): None

   V.      Setting and Background Information

1.   Surrounding Area:  The applicant proposes to continue use of .84 acres of property owned by the City of Berkeley as a homeless shelter. The remainder of the approximately 5-acre property is developed with soccer fields, a skateboard park, parking, and other park facilities. The surrounding area the City property is industrial.  Cordornices Creek is located approximately 200 feet north of the project.  The City’s Solid Waste Transfer Stations is located approximately 250 feet west of the project.

2.   Existing Structure and Uses:  The main existing structure on the portion of the property controlled by the applicant is a one-story dormitory with a former warehouse attached to the west, forming an “L”-shaped structure.  There are also three temporary trailers on the site that provide office space for support services for children and adults.

The use of 711 Harrison Street as a youth hostel to serve transient youth was established in 1971.  BOSS has operated the emergency shelter since 1976, and the Use Permit was modified in 1992 when a 633 square foot addition to the shelter’s dining room and kitchen was approved. The shelter has a permitted capacity of 100 people; however, it does not generally shelter more than 75 people in the existing structure.  As an emergency shelter, people may stay for up to 120 days; however, in response to special needs, people sometimes stay longer.

Prior to City ownership, BOSS leased the property from the University.  A lease with the City will be presented to the City Council following certification of the Environmental Impact Report.

3.   Permit Chronology and Key Dates:  The following timeline lists the key dates related to the application process.  BOSS has a significant time constraint.  A building permit must be issued by November 2003 or a $500,000 state grant will be lost.  ZAB action before the summer recess is essential for the applicant to conform to this deadline.  The Permit Streamlining Act deadline for action is six months from certification of the EIR.

VI.   Project Description

Proposed Addition:  The table above provides details regarding zoning standards for the project. The project meets all zoning standards.  A Use Permit is requested to allow shared parking with the City’s soccer fields. The maximum capacity for the project is proposed to be increased from 100 to 132 people.

Ursula Sherman Village proposes the addition of transitional housing to an existing emergency shelter, and a minor addition to the shelter.  The new transitional housing would provide 10 – 12 shared residential units located within three new, 2-story buildings to provide shelter for 16 – 18 families and eight single adults.  The new buildings include office and other space for various support services for residents, such as counseling, meetings, a village supplies store, and a children’s center.  The buildings would surround a central lawn and patio area.  Raised beds for vegetable gardens are proposed in the northeast corner of the site. Pedestrian access to the site is provided from the west (parking lot), south (Harrison Street), and east (driveway - abandoned 4th Street) sides. 

The applicant’s statement and supplemental information, distributed with the June 26, 2003 staff report to ZAB, provides detailed information about operating characteristics.  In summary, the primary dormitory facilities are currently used by 56 single adults and are open from 5 pm to 8 am. There is also an existing small family dormitory, where approximately six families are allowed to stay 24-hours although most leave the site during the day for work or appointments. The applicant’s statement indicates that the number of residents who remain on-site during the day is estimated to increase from approximately 10 – 15 people to 30 – 35 people. There is an existing Children’s Learning Center which serves approximately 12 school-age children during the day; this number will increase to approximately 25 – 30 children with the expansion.

As indicated above, the emergency shelter is designed for a maximum stay of 120 days.  The transitional housing is designed for residents to stay for a maximum of 20 months.  The increased length of stay was one of the issues considered during environmental review because the air quality will affect the residents who stay for a longer period of time.

The project was scaled back in March 2003 due to reduced funding.  The Village Center was reduced in size by approximately 30%.  All of the information in this report represents the March 2003 submittal. 

The applicant indicates a need for some flexibility regarding the floor plans.  BOSS is looking at alternatives that will provide the best living environment for shared housing and may increase the number of units in the Sankofa House from four to five; however, the units would accommodate ten families either way.  Similarly, the Village Center may increase from four to five units, while serving the same number of residents. The footprint of the buildings and the capacity of the project will be the same with either interior floor plan, and will be as established by Use Permit. The tables below provide more detail on the size and occupancy of components of the project.




Existing Dormitory

6,926 sq ft

56 single adults
6 families

Dormitory Additions

801 sq ft

No change

Transitional Housing – new construction

11,712 sq ft
10 – 12 shared units

16 - 18 families
8 single adults

Existing trailers (to be removed)

1,800 sq ft

Office/Support Services - for residents only (adult and children)

New construction:  Office/Support Services

4,456 sq ft

Office/Support Services - for residents only (adult and children)

Sankofa House:  A new building as described below is proposed to be located in the southwest corner of the property.

Sankofa House




First Floor

3,504 sq ft

Two 2-bedroom apartments
Counseling room

10 families

Second Floor

3,398 sq ft

One 2-bedroom & one 3-bedroom apartment

Picante House: Located along the north property line, new construction is proposed for the first floor of the building and the existing “Picante House”, located at 1345 6th Street will be moved to the site and used as the second floor.

Picante House




First Floor

962 sq ft

One 1-bedroom apartment & laundry room

2 single adults

Second Floor

962 sq ft

One 2-bedroom

2 families (includes a manager)

Village Center:  The largest new building is located at the northwest corner of the property and includes services on the first floor and housing on the second floor as described below

Village Center




First Floor

4,040 sq ft

Childcare & services

Residents only

Second Floor

3,302 sq ft

Four 2-bedroom apartments

6 families & 6 singles, up to 30 people

A condition of project approval is recommended that will allow design flexibility in these specific areas, as well as building or site changes to address potential flooding (the final building height/elevation of ground floor), noise impact, or air quality without requiring the project to come back to the ZAB.  The condition requires approval of design changes by the Zoning Officer in
consultation with the subcommittee, with final design review by DRC.  See condition numbers 2 and 9 in Exhibit 3 of the attached resolution.

VII.   Issues and Analysis

Commission/Community Review:

Community Concerns:  In addition to the usual public notice to surrounding property owners and residents, the following Commissions received notice of availability of the Draft EIR:  Housing Advisory Commission, Planning Commission, Homeless Commission, Citizens’ Environmental Advisory Commission, and Solid Waste Management Commission.  A public meeting was held on June 9, 2003 to provide the opportunity for a more informal discussion of issues.  The only people who attended were City staff, consultants, representatives from BOSS, and BOSS residents.

Letters were received in support of the project from eight people, some current or former residents of Harrison House.  A petition in support of the project was signed by 19 people. Two letters were received which urge the City to approve the project at a different location, citing air quality and other environmental concerns with location of the project in an industrial area.

Commission/Committee Reviews:  Details of the Design Review Committee actions are provided above.  The Citizen’s Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC) has had the project on their agenda for several months; however, they have not made a recommendation for approval or denial. 

On July 10, 2003 the Community Health Commission discussed the project, and voted 7 to approve, 2 not to approve, with 1 abstention.  Environmental justice was an important issue raised by the Commissioners in opposition to the project.

The Solid Waste Management Commission received a presentation on the project from BOSS on June 24, 2002, and discussed their concerns on August 26, 2002.  On January 27, 2003, they again discussed the project and requested that their recommendation --- for the project not to proceed because it would be incompatible with solid waste management services and programs that are critical to the City's health and welfare -- be forwarded to the Council. A key concern for the SWMC was that expansion of a residential project proximate to the Solid Waste Transfer Station may affect the ability for the transfer station to expand in the future, if such expansion (in capacity or type of materials accepted) is planned.  No expansion is currently planned.

B.  Zoning/General Plan/Area Plan Conformance:The property is zoned MU-LI (Mixed Use-Light Industrial); however, the Zoning Ordinance states that the “existing shelter shall not be considered a non-conforming use and may add floor area with a UP (PH).”   With an approved use permit, the project will be consistent with zoning.  West Berkeley is primarily an industrial area and the West Berkeley Plan was written to protect such use, while recognizing that some areas including a mixture of uses such as office and housing. The General Plan and West Berkeley Plan also recognize the need for housing and services and, given the specificity of the zoning for the site, the project is consistent with both Plans. 

D.  Environmental Impact Report (EIR):

 Purpose/process:  The purpose of an EIR is to provide information to the decision-makers about potential significant environmental impacts, to ensure that a fully informed decision is made. 

If it is determined that an environmental impact remains significant after mitigation, a “statement of overriding consideration” must be made for the project to be approved.  In other words, it must be determined that, on balance, the economic, legal, social, technological, or other benefits of a proposed project outweigh unavoidable adverse environmental effects.

The public review period for the Draft EIR (DEIR) ended on July 7.  Two letters were received, which question aspects of the environmental analysis and indicate that the project should be constructed on a different site without environmental problems.  Six letters and a petition signed by 19 people were submitted in support of the project; these letters did not provide comments about the EIR.  The Final EIR (FEIR), which responds to comments about environmental issues, including those raised by Board members at the DEIR public hearing, is presented to the Board for adoption. 

Summary:  Several environmental concerns have been raised about expanding housing in an industrial area.  The applicant submitted background reports regarding several potential environmental impacts.  The reports were reviewed by City staff and by the EIR consultant.  It was determined that there were potential adverse impacts in the following areas:  air quality, hazardous materials, hydrology and storm drainage, and noise.  The focused EIR addressed these issues in detail. 

It was determined that less-than-significant impacts were anticipated in the following areas:  aesthetics, agricultural resources, biological resources, cultural resources, geology and seismicity, water quality, land use, mineral resources, population and housing, public services, recreation, transportation, and utilities. The EIR provides information about each of these areas, including mitigation measures regarding geology and seismicity, which have been accepted by the applicant.

Detailed information is provided below about air quality, and a brief overview of the other primary environmental issues follows.

 Air Quality:  Air quality in the area around Harrison Park has been studied extensively. The City conducted air monitoring following construction of the Gabe Catalfo Fields.  The monitoring site was selected to collect the most conservative data for the soccer fields, and happens to be adjacent to the Ursula Sherman Village site. The DEIR provides a summary of the studies that have been completed, as does the previously distributed “Berkeley Transfer Station Air Quality Evaluation and Recommended Mitigation Measures”, prepared for the City by Environmental Science Associates (ESA). Also summarized in the DEIR, the “Qualitative Human Health Risk Assessment for Airborne Particulate Matter at the Harrison Street Park, Berkeley, California” was prepared for the City by Charles E. Lambert, PhD, DABT, and addresses health risk for users of the park and residents at the homeless shelter.  This report, dated April 25, 2003, is attached.

While CEQA primarily addresses the environmental impacts that a project creates, it also requires analysis of exposure of “sensitive receptors to substantial pollutant concentrations”. The City studied the particulates and hexavalent chromium in air. No detectable hexavalent chromium could be found in the air. The 24-hour average level of suspended inhaleable particulate matter (dust) that is 10 micrometers or smaller in diameter (PM10) complies with the federal standard, but does not meet the state air quality standard. The levels for PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) exceeded federal standards and were generally 1.5 times greater than identified at most BAAQMD monitoring sites.  

Even with mitigations, levels could not be guaranteed to fall to state thresholds and, therefore, the EIR states that the impact is considered significant.  It should be noted that the Bay Area is currently in nonattainment for the annual and 24-hour state PM10 and the annual state PM2.5 standard.

The City has never considered the quality of the ambient air in a CEQA review before. Staff was not able to get sufficient assistance from air and health agencies or other jurisdictions to determine the most appropriate approach when a project is proposed in an area where air quality does not meet state standards and is generally worse than other areas in the region. Although projects are constructed in other parts of the state that do not meet air quality standards, it does not appear that EIRs have been prepared in these circumstances. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has started to map air quality to provide a tool for planners, but nothing is available at this time. In deciding to prepare an EIR to primarily address the air quality issues, staff took the most conservative approach, especially given that there are environmental justice issues raised by expansion of a homeless shelter in an area with poor air quality.  Project residents, including children, are more likely to be “sensitive receptors” in comparison to the general population, which would typically have fewer heath problems.

PM10 and PM2.5 are among the most harmful of air pollutants.  They can aggravate chronic respiratory diseases, especially affecting children, the elderly, and those suffering from asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, or lung disease.  

The annual concentration of PM10 in the project vicinity exceeds state standards as well as concentrations measured at several CARB monitoring stations in the Bay Area. The EIR states that the concentrations at Gabe Catalfo Fields are generally two times greater than those identified at most Bay Area monitoring sites.  The annual concentration is; however, lower than some southern California and Central Valley monitoring sites. The Lambert report indicates that PM10 standards are often exceeded in various areas of the state, especially in southern California.  It should be also be noted that BAAQMD monitoring stations are not generally located in industrial areas.

The documents note that the PM10 levels will vary within the project site. Studies have shown that dust from the City’s Solid Waste Transfer Station contributes to the high PM10 levels downwind of the transfer station. The Gabe Catalfo Fields monitoring site is close to, but not at the 711 Harrison project site.  While a dispersion analysis concluded that PM10 levels decrease as the distance increases from the transfer station, the development is not sufficiently far away to ensure that state and federal standards will be met.

The Lambert qualitative health risk analysis concluded that the project site would not be an ideal location for long-term housing for families and cautioned against moving children or adults with preexisting respiratory or cardiac illness into the project site, as exposure to PM10 over an extended

period of time could exacerbate both acute and chronic existing conditions.  The assessment indicated, however, that healthy adults would probably not be at a significant risk.

The ESA Report includes recommendations that the Solid Waste Transfer Station could implement to improve air quality.  However, until improvements are in place, the conclusions of the EIR would not change.  Ideally, the improvements will eliminate the impact of the transfer station on the surrounding area, but this is not certain. According to the Public Works Department, mitigations planned this year included increased wet sweeping, reduced idling of garbage trucks, installation of catalytic converters for the loaders and trucks, replacement of diesel trucks with 100% biodiesel and CNG vehicles, replacement and repair of the skylights in the garbage tipping building to control air currents, and installation of new 16-foot high fences with planting.  The additional recommendations contained in the ESA report will be evaluated and implemented as feasible.

The EIR suggests mitigation measures that the project can implement to reduce the adverse impact of poor air quality.  Specifically, an HVAC system or an air filtration system with positive air pressure could treat the outdoor air supply before circulation indoors. This would be most important during the hours when the Solid Waste Transfer Station is open.  However, the outdoor air would remain affected by the high PM10 levels and, given that the transitional housing is designed for families with children and for a childcare facility, it is expected that the outdoor area will be used extensively.

A recent report prepared for the applicant by Taylor Engineering provides more information about systems to improve indoor air quality. The mitigation measure specifically calls for removal of particulate matter with diameter equal to or greater than 0.5 microns, with a removal efficiency of at least 90. The Taylor Engineering report recommends installation of a dedicated and filtered outside air system (DFOAS), which can meet this requirement.  The consultant indicates that this system would use high efficiency filters (not necessarily HEPA filters).  The Taylor Engineering report also provides specific recommendations for the building, which may affect the roof, attic, and windows. A condition of approval recommends administrative approval of these design details in consultation with DRC.

 4.  Hydrology and Storm Water:  When Codornices Creek floods, water backs up along the railroad tracks and in other areas because the culverts under I-80, the railroad tracks, and some of the streets are undersized.  The University and the Cities of Berkeley and Albany recently sent a letter to Caltrans and Union Pacific Railroad Corporation, requesting that they enlarge their culverts. Caltrans responded, requesting hydraulic studies and indicating that they will review the situation.

The EIR indicates that the water surface elevation for a 100-year event in the vicinity of the project site is estimated to be 13.4 NGVD, and that the project site elevation is approximately 11.5.  Mitigation measures require construction of a berm or that the structures be raised to ensure that the lowest floor elevation is exceeds the highest anticipated flood inundation level. The current finished floor level for Sankofa House (the lowest structure) is 12.4; it is estimated that some of the new buildings may be required to be raised one to three feet. 

Additional analysis of hydraulic data is needed to determine the anticipated water level at the site during a 100-year event. The mitigation measure states that if additional information indicates that the highest anticipated flood level elevation is lower than 13.4 NGVD, a lower level of protection can be approved.  Therefore, flexibility in the final height of the structures is needed and a condition of approval recommends administrative approval of the final height, in consultation with DRC.

Ground water is 3 – 6 feet below the surface.  A ground water protection plan is be required for any subsurface construction.

5.  Hazardous Materials:  The primary issues of concern are hexavalent chromium (Chromium VI) and the underground storage tanks (UST) located below the existing building.  As indicated in the EIR, Chromium VI would not create a health hazard unless people have direct contact with groundwater.  Mitigation measures address this issue for construction workers; no other form of direct contact is likely.  There are two underground storage tanks that the City plans to remove this summer.  The tanks must be removed before any construction in the area near the tanks.

6.  Noise:  The impact of existing noise levels on residents is a concern, given the proximity to the railroad tracks, freeway, and industrial uses. A mitigation measure requires reduction of interior noise through construction techniques. A condition of approval recommends administrative approval of any design changes in consultation with DRC.

7.  Alternatives:  As required by state law, the DEIR describes various alternative locations for the project. Any of the off-site alternatives could be “environmentally superior” because they are not proximate to the transfer station.

It is generally recognized that the existing location of the homeless facility is not ideal, nor is expansion of the use in an industrial area ideal.  However, given that the City already owns the property where the existing shelter is located, the extreme need for transitional housing for homeless families, and fiscal realities, successful construction at other locations is not feasible.

Open the public hearing and take testimony.  Staff recommends that the Board adopt the EIR and mitigations, adopt a statement of overriding consideration and findings, and approve the attached resolution and associated exhibits to APPROVE the project.

Resolution Approving the Use Permit for the Ursula Sherman Village and Adopting Findings Re: Impacts, Overriding Considerations, Mitigation Measures, Alternatives, and Other Matters

Exhibit 1: CEQA Findings
Exhibit 2: Findings for Permit Approval
Exhibit 3: Conditions of Approval
Exhibit 4: Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program
Exhibit 5: Approved Plans
Qualitative Human Health Risk Assessment for Airborne Particulate Matter at the Harrison Street Park, Berkeley, California
Taylor Engineering letter, dated June 12, 2003

Public hearing notice and attachments
Letter from Community Health Commission Chair, July 17, 2003
Response to Comments document (Final EIR)

Previously Distributed
1.   Ursula Sherman Village Draft EIR, May 2003
2.   Berkeley Transfer Station Air Quality Evaluation and Recommended Mitigation Measures, ESA

Distributed with June 26, 2003 packet
1.  Site plan, roof plan, and floor plans (from Draft Environmental Impact Report)
2.   Notice of Availability of Draft EIR, including summary of mitigation measures
3.   Zoning Project Application Forms: 2/14/02, and applicant statement dated 2/13/02
4.   Revised applicant statement: 10/2/02, includes information about parking
5.   Additional information related to 10/02/02 submittal:  10/18/02 memo regarding alternative housing locations, 10/23/02 letter regarding parking, & 10/31/02 parking survey
6.  March 13, 2003 letter with reduced project submittal (project as reflected in the DEIR)

Five of the current residents have cars. There are currently 16 staff members, of which 10 have cars.  It is estimated that the maximum number of cars on site at one time is ten.

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