BAHA :: Election 2010 :: Questionnaire for City Council Candidates
  



Election 2010
Questionnaire for City Council Candidates

In our ongoing effort to provide pertinent election information to BAHA members, we invited the 14 candidates running for City Council to answer three questions relating to pressing preservation issues.

Ten candidates responded, and their answers are published below, arranged numerically by district and alphabetically by candidate’s name. We thank the candidates for taking time to respond, and we remind everyone that BAHA does not endorse candidates for public office.


* * * * *

Question 1.
Do you support Measure R?
Specifically, how do you think its enactment would affect historic resources in Downtown Berkeley?

District 1 candidates’ answers

Linda Maio

I support Measure R for a number of reasons. It will help shift housing development from neighborhood commercial streets to the Downtown, making it truly possible for some of the people who commute now to live near their job-sites. Given Berkeley’s stark imbalance between a large number of jobs and far fewer housing opportunities, additional housing near jobs and transit will reduce commute traffic, protecting our neighborhoods and generally benefiting the environment. As an added bonus, Measure R builds in cutting-edge green features in both development standards and amenities. Additional housing Downtown will bring added vitality, give our merchants a boost, increase our business tax base, and add amenities that will make Downtown a more desirable place to be.

The Council has a clear commitment to preserving our historic legacy. BAHA and preservationists often help us fully understand impacts of proposed development on adjacent or nearby historic structures, as does our Landmarks Preservation Commission. We value that interaction and are influenced by this advice in our votes. I rely heavily on it. There are numerous examples of Council’s respect for our historic buildings. Measure R will not destroy historic buildings. As the appellate body for preservation decisions, the Council has repeatedly supported historic preservation. This will not change.

Merrilie Mitchell

NO!!! I oppose Measure R. Measure R dramatically raises height limits, allowing buildings up to 16 stories tall! And Measure R extends Downtown’s boundaries in every direction, more than doubling the Downtown District. Measure R gives developers too much incentive to bulldoze landmark buildings and replace them with high-rises.

It is irresponsible to allow new buildings up to 180-feet tall in a city like Berkeley on the Hayward Fault. Right now we have tall, earthquake-unsafe buildings in the Downtown core that are long overdue for earthquake retrofit. Examples: Wells Fargo, Great Western, and the old Vista College building on Milvia. The fix for Downtown needs to be: preserve our historic resources, earthquake retrofit unsafe buildings clean up pedestrian walkways 24/7, and do regular maintenance, not expansion.

New buildings anywhere near 16-stories tall would ruin the historic character of Downtown and block the needed sunshine and fresh air.

Candidates Antonio Di Donato and Jasper Kingeter did not respond.

District 4 candidates’ answers

Jesse Arreguin

I am opposed to Measure R and I am leading the campaign against it. Despite what proponents claim, Measure R is not legally a plan. Measure R needlessly delays adoption of a Downtown Plan for several years and does not give the voters any real say in the future of the Downtown. Measure R not only throws out 5 years of community process but it also provides no real assurance that we will get the affordable housing, open space and other community benefits that it promises. What Measure R really does is get voter acquiescence on several controversial proposals, such as weakening our landmarks law. Specifically, the proposed Green Pathway in Measure R will allow developers to submit an application for landmarks review; however, if the Landmarks Preservation Commission is not able to act within 90 days, it will be prevented from landmarking while there is a pending use permit application, even if the commission is backlogged with requests, or there is new and important information which justifies a landmarks designation.

A similar Request for Determination process was included in Measure LL, which voters soundly defeated in November 2008. As a former BAHA Board member and someone who worked hard to defeat Measure LL, I am really concerned about the impact that Measure R will have on historic resources Downtown. Measure R also designates an expanded Downtown area, which now includes residential neighborhoods around the Downtown core. Measure R not only fails to include adequate protections from overdevelopment in these neighborhoods, but could make it easier to demolish older buildings, which is not green at all. For more information about Measure R visit FactsAboutMeasureR.org

Jim Novosel

I support Measure R which is also supported by the Sierra Club, the Berkeley Democratic Club and other environment groups as a way to move past the building height wars that have dominated the dialogue on the Downtown Plan for several years.

Its enactment will not affect our cherished historic building resources. Tall buildings fit comfortably with short ones. Look at how the comfortable the Wells Fargo Building stands next to the 2-story Bentley’s building. Or, look how Cancun Taqueria (old YWCA) sits between the 7-story Gaia Building and the Brower Center. The Downtown is a mixture of tall and short buildings as well as different styles that merge together creating its unique character and setting.

Furthermore, I will propose as the Council member for District 4, the creation of a Downtown Landmark District where there are clusters of historic buildings. This will ensure that our cherished building heritage will be respected as new buildings are designed and proposed.

Eric Panzer

I strongly favor Measure R. Measure R will bring needed jobs and homes to Downtown Berkeley. New workers and residents will patronize our local businesses, generate tax dollars, and add to Berkeley’s vitality. Measure R encourages the green growth we want and need and helps us achieve our environmental objectives. Measure R responds creatively and flexibly to recent economic conditions and judicial rulings. For green projects that meet our affordability goals, the Green Pathway will untangle Berkeley’s labyrinthine planning process. There are many buildings in Downtown Berkeley that are truly worthy of our veneration and protection; Measure R will in no way jeopardize these historic gems. I can think of few better ways to promote and interact with our architectural heritage than to construct high quality, environmentally conscious, farsighted new buildings to stand proudly and harmoniously alongside the old. I join the Sierra Club, Assemblywoman Skinner, Mayor Bates, and the League of Women Voters in wholeheartedly supporting Measure R.

Candidate Bernt Wahl did not respond.

District 7 candidates’ answers

Cecilia “Ces” Rosales

Yes, I support Measure R. According to the argument in favor of measure R it “preserves historic and cultural resources. The new Plan will ensure that a comprehensive, independent analysis of potential impacts on historic sites will be reviewed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission prior to approving any project.”

I am running for office because I want to see Berkeley move forward with sustainable economic development and, to me, this means sustaining the historical gems of Berkeley. Our architectural and historical structures and sites are a vital part of our identity as a city and as a community.

I expect that historic resources in Downtown Berkeley would be evaluated, protected and preserved and the Landmarks Preservation Commission will lead the effort by reviewing permits and designating sites and structures of special historical and architectural interest.

Kriss Worthington

Berkeley deserves a progressive Downtown Plan that includes real affordable housing for the poor, disabled and seniors, workforce housing for families and young adults, transit improvements, and stronger labor and environmental standards. Unfortunately there is no actual plan on this ballot. Measure R is a plan to have a plan, someday. It is one more needless delay after years of needless delay.

I am focused less on building heights and more on affordability. I have successfully fought for hundreds of beds of student housing, and am still fighting for more. I proposed and won millions of dollars for affordable housing. I opposed a project with 7 affordable units out of 97. When it returned with 97 affordable units I became its activist champion. These are the kinds of issues I focus on.

The proposed labor standard would apply to few, if any buildings. Lowest common denominator may be good enough in math but it is not good enough for Berkeley.

AC Transit sent two letters requesting Downtown transit improvements. I have repeatedly supported making most of those kinds of changes.

For decades I have sponsored items for a downtown creek restoration/pedestrian walkway.

I succeeded at getting many progressive amendments in the Climate Action plan and I am preparing to propose progressive amendments when we actually get to this plan. Given all the expenditures and delay of this measure, it would have been better to adopt a consensus plan and have 95% of the policy in place already.

Although Measure LL was voted down by the voters, this is another assault on landmarks, but this time wrapped up in positive sounding language that actually does very little.

Candidate George Beier did not respond.

District 8 candidates’ answers

Stewart Jones

Although I believe that Berkeley’s Downtown needs revitalization, I do not support Measure R. Measure R is an unfortunate example of “green”-washed rhetoric that does not even require stringent green building standards, nor does it acknowledge the importance of embodied energy and recognize that re-use of older buildings is the best “green.” Rather, it promotes new zoning for out-of-scale corporate development which would make the Downtown a less enjoyable place for Berkeley’s commercial and residential life. Measure R will fast track the Landmarks process for the developers’ advantage while threatening our historic resources. It is another attempt by the City Council to undermine the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, which Berkeley voted to keep in place in the 2008 elections—thanks in large part to BAHA members.

Jacquelyn McCormick

Berkeley should be the leader in green, sustainable redevelopment options that will not only save our environment but also provide for long term revenue growth both for the businesses and for our city. Our downtown area, including Telegraph Avenue, needs to be revived. I see Measure R as a vision statement, not a viable plan for appropriate and sustainable development.

There are other plans, ready to be implemented, that were built on consensus. These plans have actual mandates for green development and for community benefits. Measure R provides for an entirely new plan, to be developed by staff and City Council and applied in an arbitrary manner. There is no real traffic plan to support the additional rise in downtown population for businesses or residential buildings.

In order to preserve the original Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, the voters voted no on Measure LL in 2008.  Measure R, once again, attempts to circumvent the landmarks ordinance by truncating the time for the Landmarks Commission to respond to development project impacts on our existing buildings.

Gordon Wozniak

I support Measure R because I want to revitalize the Downtown.  For five years the Community has been debating how to create the perfect Downtown plan. While we have been debating perfection, the Downtown has continued to stagnate.

Rather than spend an additional five years searching for perfection, it is time to try a modest experiment to see if we can actually improve our Downtown. Measure R policies would require that buildings be constructed to high green standards with specified public benefits. A “green pathway” would streamline the permit process for developers who voluntarily offer additional public benefits. It will result in major public improvements, such as, plazas, wider sidewalks, and “park blocks”.

Measure R requires new development to be reviewed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and does not allow the demolition of historic buildings. Historic resources in the Downtown will be protected.

* * * * *

Question 2.
Measure R would allow two mixed-use buildings and one hotel that could reach 180 feet in height and be located anywhere within the Downtown Core. Should Downtown Berkeley have any new buildings taller than 120 feet? Please elaborate.

District 1 candidates’ answers

Linda Maio

The two tallest buildings we presently have Downtown are around 180 feet high. The number of prospective development sites within the Downtown core is very limited. To help achieve a more desirable density of housing Downtown, Measure R will permit up to three additional carefully sited buildings in the core—two for homes, one for a hotel—at heights no greater than those we have now. Clearly, design and quality are key. The proposed height is intended to make it financially feasible to build and keep rents or purchase prices realistic. The new Arpeggio building on Center Street is 9 stories, which I am estimating to be about 120 feet. Due to the cost of construction at this height (steel frame is required), the units are being marketed at K$800, way out of reach of the average employee. The proposed height in the Plan will make apartments a lot more affordable and provide more opportunities for commuters to live near where they work. More housing density near jobs, greater affordability, is the aim. The hotel prospect is important to our tax base. Visitors are presently going elsewhere, to adjoining cities, for their hotel needs. That makes no sense.

Merrilie Mitchell

Downtown should not have any new buildings over 87 feet, the Height Limit in Berkeley’s existing Downtown Plan. Seven stories and 87 feet is tall enough for any building in Berkeley, and too tall if the building is wide at base (please visit the Pleasant Hill BART Station/Transit Village site to see what block-long, seven-story buildings are like). Central Berkeley is already very densely developed. We do not need new high-rise buildings at this time.

Candidates Antonio Di Donato and Jasper Kingeter did not respond.

District 4 candidates’ answers

Jesse Arreguin

While the proponents claim that Measure R is just about a few buildings no taller than “our existing tall buildings,” that is simply not true.

Measure R “advises” the City Council to include buildings at up to 180 feet if the City Council develops a Downtown Plan. Berkeley City Attorney Zach Cowan said during the Council’s discussion about Measure R, that Section 4 of the measure, the section that includes the heights and limits on the number of taller buildings, is not legally binding. So the Council could conceivably pass a plan that allows for buildings above 180 feet and allows for a greater number of these towers.

Additionally, a developer could be eligible for a density bonus under state law, which would allow the building to exceed the 180-foot height limit.

Also, there is not limit on the heights and number of taller buildings that the University can build in Measure R.

I do not believe that we need to build buildings above 120 feet to create the housing we need and to revitalize Downtown. We have had many new housing developments in the last 10 years that have been at or below 120 feet. There is no reason why we need to allow developers to go above that height. Anything taller would not only dramatically change the character of our community, it would compromise the historic character of the Downtown and create pressure to demolish properties with older and historic buildings. It would also affect our quality of life by obstructing views and covering Downtown streets in shadow making the area undesirable for residents and visitors.

Jim Novosel

The building height issue is one that has caused the most controversy with all of the Plans that have been devised in the last 5 years. Otherwise, all these Plans contain the same provisions and goals for green buildings, affordable housing and continued economic revitalization. To decide the height issue, the Council placed Measure R as a “sense” motion. It asks citizens to support the idea that 3 hypothetical new buildings, located immediately around the BART station, could be built up to the height of our two existing tall buildings. The 180’ height is a reasonable compromise from the DAPAC public proceedings which approved a 225’ height for tall buildings.

I believe that our Downtown can comfortably support these 3 new buildings and that they will positively affect the Downtown’s historic character and urban life. Our present two tall buildings are not so beautiful that they should stand forever alone as representing the best that we can build. New energy-efficient and green buildings could establish the identity of our Downtown as the center of Berkeley’s public life and as an important place to live, visit and explore. These buildings must be carefully designed, and as a Council member I will propose that at least 20% of the building’s land must be dedicated to landscaping and public open space.

An example of such a building idea is the 5-story, 60-unit residence at 2161 Allston Way across from the Brower Center. A magnificent 80-year-old oak tree was saved, and 25% of the land was dedicated to a public courtyard and a through block pedestrian walkway. These features become public amenities that enliven our city life, and make living in a city enjoyable, friendly and interesting.

Eric Panzer

Yes. Berkeley has strong stated commitments to combating climate change, providing housing, and preserving the character of residential neighborhoods. Allowing modest density downtown helps us meet these commitments. If we are to encourage transit use and environmentally friendly lifestyles that are conscious of resource and energy use, we must have more housing close to our transit hubs and employment centers. Berkeley must not merely pay lip-service to its environmental and housing objectives. Allowing three buildings of heights less than or equal to our current tallest is a very modest way to achieve that crucial housing and move towards these goals. These buildings will enhance Berkeley’s livability, quality of life, and vitality by providing high-quality housing for our citizens, new patrons and job opportunities, as well as resources for improved public spaces.

Candidate Bernt Wahl did not respond.

District 7 candidates’ answers

Cecilia “Ces” Rosales

Development of Downtown Berkeley is overdue. As a city that is host to one of the most respected universities in the country, we need sustainable development and we can do this by tapping into the vibrant 35,000 to 40,000 people who work, live, or study on campus. Berkeley needs thriving businesses that can support this population. A revitalized Downtown will attract and create new jobs. It will increase our economic vitality and it will provide the resources to improve public safety and strengthen and grow the tax base so that community does not rely heavily on our homeowners, tenants and students to provide resources that improve our quality of life.

Measure R states that the new Plan “allows two residential buildings and one hotel no higher than the Wells Fargo and Great Western Buildings.” From this description I assume that the two residential buildings will be 120-feet high and the hotel, about 180 feet in height. I do not have any problems with the height suggestions. I think these building heights are a good fit in the downtown and not in other parts of the city.

Kriss Worthington

Some people seem to believe in Trickle-Down Development, where anything that is built is automatically good for the community, because it creates construction jobs and creates permanent housing or retail or office space. This neglects to understand the externalization of the costs of affordable housing, open space, transit and parking, and labor policies for the workers. My concern for the downtown is not focused primarily on the height of the buildings, but more on the lack of affordability in housing, and labor policies that apply only on buildings with more than 100 units. That means the Åglabor policiesÅh will rarely if ever be applied.

The absence of an affordable housing policy to replace the inclusionary ordinance which was wiped out on rental construction by the Palmer decision, is a significant flaw.

Candidate George Beier did not respond.

District 8 candidates’ answers

Stewart Jones

Downtown Berkeley should have no new buildings taller than 120 feet as proposed by Measure R. Such large projects would appear to only address the needs of UC management and corporate developers rather than those of Berkeley’s citizens. I believe Berkeley can stimulate economic development in the downtown without having to build skyscrapers. The existing Downtown Area Plan already allows for appropriate density increases, just look at all the recent development. While we are expected to address urban sprawl, we should not cut off our nose to spite our face and compromise our own quality of life in the process. Instead of building a high-rise hotel and condominium tower at the Bank of America site, let’s plan a plaza and a market hall featuring local enterprise and sustainable agriculture that reflects the City’s values and would stimulate economic vitality.

Jacquelyn McCormick

Most Berkeley citizens believe that preserving the city’s historic buildings is integral in keeping Berkeley’s charm and architectural character.  I have heard no compelling reason to have buildings taller that those that currently exist.

Gordon Wozniak

Under Measure R the maximum height in the Downtown would be five stories, with five exceptions. Three new  buildings could be as tall as the Wells Fargo building, but would be restricted to locations with one block of the BART station. Two buildings could be on intermediate height.

Concentrating housing and future growth in the Downtown will make Berkeley greener and relieve development pressure and traffic impacts in our neighborhoods.

Yes, Berkeley should allow a limited number of buildings as tall as the Wells Fargo building, which is 180 feet.


* * * * *

Question 3.
The University of California is expanding beyond the campus. Should new UC buildings outside the campus conform to the City of Berkeley’s zoning laws as regards height and bulk?

District 1 candidates’ answers

Linda Maio

Yes. The University has entered into agreements with the City regarding the height of off-campus University buildings. Good neighbors, good citizens play by the rules. The University needs to be a good “institutional citizen” and follow the rules of the city that hosts it. I expect the University to abide by Berkeley’s standards and will work to develop agreements to that effect.

Merrilie Mitchell

Yes, UC development should absolutely conform to our City’s zoning laws. The City Council should be enforcing Measure N, which was adopted by Berkeley voters in 1988 with a 70% affirmative vote.  Measure N was put on the ballot by then Mayor ( now State Senator) Loni Hancock

Measure N states:
  1. It shall be the policy of the City of Berkeley that all land use plans, development and expansion by public agencies follow city laws, the City’s General Plan and Zoning Ordinance and the California Environmental Quality Act.
  2. The City Manager and the elected representatives of the City of Berkeley shall use all available lawful means to ensure that public agencies abide by the rules and laws of the city [...]

Measure R would negate the intent of Measure N by dramatically raising height limits in a radically expanded Downtown, so as to accommodate UC’s large-scale expansion plans.

Candidates Antonio Di Donato and Jasper Kingeter did not respond.

District 4 candidates’ answers

Jesse Arreguin

Yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, UC is exempt from local zoning laws. I would not only lobby the University to follow city zoning laws, but I would work on the state wide level to make sure that legislation is introduced to require UC to conform to local land-use regulations. However, we need to make sure that any re-zoning does not allow for out of scale development, thus enabling the University to build at dramatically increased heights.

Another important issue are the fiscal impacts of new UC development. The 2004 City-commissioned Fiscal Impact Study roughly estimated that the fiscal impacts of the University on the city is $13 million a year. The secret settlement agreement with UC capped the amount of compensation at $1.2 million a year. In 1988, 75% of Berkeley voters enacted a city policy (Measure N) to “use all available lawful means” to require UC to “abide by the rules and laws of the city and . . . pay taxes and fees . . . to support their fair share of city services.” This policy was ignored by the City Council in 2005 when it entered into the LRDP settlement agreement, and has been ignored by the University. I would support re-opening the settlement agreement to require the University to increase its compensation for fiscal impacts, but ensure that in the future, that the City is adequately compensated for the impacts that new UC development has on our streets, sewers, storm drains, police, fire and other public services.

Jim Novosel

The DAPAC proceedings had supported the expansion of the University beyond its historic Oxford Street border. These proceeding also established height limitations to which the University has agreed. These heights will become our zoning laws as regards the height and bulk of buildings once the Downtown Plan is created.

What is now important is to consider is how the University will develop our streets and open spaces as they develop their property. We first need to establish the Downtown Plan so that the University can be informed of the City’s requirements. I believe that the University should bring the natural features of the campus onto its Downtown properties it develops them. I envision rows of trees, park like courtyards and a string of natural mid-block path ways stretching from Ohlone Way at Hearst Street along Walnut Street, University Hall, Terminal Place and alongside the new Art Museum to the proposed Center Street Public Square. Without a Downtown Plan, we will lose the opportunity to guide the University on how it can improve our streets and open spaces.

Eric Panzer

Ideally, the University would choose to comply with Berkeley’s zoning laws for buildings constructed outside the main campus. Nevertheless, state laws grants the University latitude to disregard the City’s stated zoning; this creates conflict and results in the expenditure of precious resources. The City and the University should and have worked together to create mutually beneficial plans. Neither the City nor the University can thrive without the other; I support pragmatic plans and policies that strive for compromise and reflect needs on both sides of this symbiotic relationship.

Candidate Bernt Wahl did not respond.

District 7 candidates’ answers

Cecilia “Ces” Rosales

I believe new UC buildings should confirm to the City of Berkeley’s zoning laws. The campus is a valuable mix of open space and buildings. It is a beautiful campus and it can add to the quality of life for Berkeley. UC Berkeley is a popular campus and for good reason many people would like to attend it. Since their property is within city limits, then they should be made to observe Berkeley’s zoning laws regarding height and bulk, just as other property owners have to comply with those laws. I want to see buildings that will enhance and blend in with the environment with a creativity that I find lacking in many new building constructions, like that of the new Trader Joe’s building. It looks like a box and feels like a box. It crowds the public sidewalk. Is that the best our architects can come up with? I do not think so. Berkeley is a great city and we can do better. We need to move Berkeley forward while preserving the best of our past.

Kriss Worthington

Yes. The U.C. highest level of administration seems to be constantly acting in disregard for what is best for the students, or the employees, or the faculty, or the neighborhoods, or the City. The City should be standing up for and with all those groups to advocate that the Administration should treat people and the environment with more respect. While the University Administration gives lip service to respecting City zoning laws, that usually seems to mean they might think about it, but there is no requirement to obey the zoning laws. Similarly they recently removed more property from the tax rolls. The City should be working in solidarity with the students and employees against the UC administration’s insensitive policies.

Candidate George Beier did not respond.

District 8 candidates’ answers

Stewart Jones

Yes, the University should conform, but it is a Catch 22 because Measure R, as proposed by the City Council, is specifically written to accommodate the University by changing Berkeley’s zoning laws. People need to remember that the current City Council has already capitulated to the University and made deals favoring the planning interests of the UC rather than interests of the tax payers, residents and existing small businesses. The City Council’s Settlement with the University over the 2020 UC LRDP gave UC control of our Downtown planning process (West Berkeley is next). I believe the City must expect the University to adhere to the existing zoning laws that already provide appropriate incentives for a revitalized and dense downtown as regards to height and bulk.

Jacquelyn McCormick

Today, the University could build as tall as they choose. The city must work closely with the university to ensure that any of their development complies with Berkeley’s zoning laws with regard to height and bulk. It is my opinion that the current Helios project at Hearst and Oxford does not comply.

Gordon Wozniak

As a State agency, the University of California is not legally bound by the City’s land use and zoning controls. It had, however, agreed to abide by the Downtown Area Plan passed by the Council in 2009.

* * * * *