July 12, 2005

Mayor Tom Bates and
Members of the City Council
City of Berkeley
2180 Milvia Street
Berkeley CA 94704

Re: July 12, 2005 Agenda Item # 36:
      Revised Landmarks Preservation Ordinance

Dear Mayor Bates and Members of the City Council:

On behalf of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, we urge the City Council to follow the Landmarks Preservation Commission's thoughtful recommendation that the City hire an “outside, impartial, preservation and regulatory expert” to study and recommend ordinance revisions that comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and the Permit Streamlining Act. This recommendation has been seconded by the Office of Historic Preservation.

It has been explained to me by Calvin Fong that although the Council is holding a public hearing tonight on the LPO, a new public hearing will be scheduled and noticed in a few months on a revised LPO.

In the interim, it would surely be advisable to seek input from an historic resources and planning expert. The proposed revised LPO, in whatever form it ultimately takes, should also be subjected to CEQA review, because a “project with an effect that may cause a substantial adverse change in the significance of an historical resource is a project that may have a significant effect on the environment.” (Guideline 15064.5(b).) The revised LPO may result in “substantial adverse change” including demolition, destruction, relocation, or alteration of a historic resource that would “materially impair” historic significance. (Guideline 15064.5(b)(1).) Material impairment occurs when a project demolishes or materially alters in an adverse manner the physical characteristics that convey historic significance or account for inclusion in an official register of historic resources. (Guideline 15064.5(b)(2).)

As our prior letters (oddly, not provided to you with the staff report) have outlined, proposed revisions to the LPO reduce protections to historic resources and therefore may result in their demolition or alteration. This would be a significant environmental impact. The currently proposed competing and confusing ordinances only enlarge the need for an objective CEQA process to determine long-term impacts and to protect the City's historic resources. It may be that the City Council will ultimately approve a new LPO that does reduce protections, but it surely cannot consider doing so without the benefit of an Environmental Impact Report to analyze potentially significant effects and to propose alternative provisions to reduce or eliminate those effects.

We know that the City wants to adopt a revised LPO and to do so expeditiously. That being said, the future of Berkeley's resources and unique cultural legacy warrants adoption of the finest ordinance possible. In the interim, minor amendments to the LPO could correct any inconsistency with state law.

Thank you for your consideration. Please contact me with any questions.


Susan Brandt-Hawley

cc: Dan Marks
      Zach Cowan

See additional letters and comments on the LPO revisions in
Preservation Discourse.