March 7, 2006

Mayor Tom Bates
Berkeley City Council
2180 Milvia Street
Berkeley, California 94704      HAND DELIVERED

Re: Proposed Landmarks Preservation Ordinance Revisions

Dear Mayor Bates and Members of the City Council:

The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) wishes to express again its serious concern that the Mayor’s ongoing “Recommendations for Landmarks Ordinance revisions,” the latest of which is dated March 3, 2006, continue to reduce significant landmark preservation provisions and protections that are currently established in Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO).

It was as a result of citizen demands in the 1970s that the LPO was written specifically to safeguard those buildings, sites, and districts that give Berkeley its local character, reflecting the traditions and patterns of history in all of Berkeley’s neighborhoods. Toward this end, the ordinance created a Landmarks Preservation Commission that would be responsive to the public and to neighborhood values.

The proposed revisions being suggested tonight for staff preparation of ordinance language continue to raise questions and appear to reduce significant LPO provisions and protections. These include the following:

  • Establishing the position of an Historic Preservation Officer that would diminish the authority of the Landmarks Preservation Commission;
  • Creating time lines that would thwart the public process of participation in a timely and deliberate manner when an historic resource may be threatened;
  • Creating an artificial “assessment” process that would pre-evaluate a potential resource, favoring the use of outside consultants to preempt the public initiation process;
  • Creating a procedure for property speculators to seek determination that a property is not an historic resource before a development permit has been submitted, and be exempt from initiation;
  • Diminishing future protections for potential Structures of Merit by replacing the local criteria standards with those of the California Register;
  • Creating a new “tier,” the Historic Points of Interest, as a replacement for the local potential Structure of Merit, that would have no historic resource protections and would thus clearly thwart the intention of the CEQA process.

BAHA continues to urge the City Council to respect the purpose and provisions already contained in the LPO, as a certified California preservation ordinance that provides for proper procedures and review criteria consistent with State, Federal, and local guidelines.

Sincerely,


Wendy Markel, President

cc: Jill Korte, Chair, Landmarks Preservation Commission
      Susan Brandt-Hawley, Law Offices


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