Downtown Area Plan Set for November Ballot

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Correction Appended

The Berkeley City Council inched towards a new Downtown Berkeley area Tuesday night, when it voted 6-2 with one abstention to discuss a proposed five-page ballot statement that, among other provisions, would provide the framework for a yet-to-be drafted plan.

The statement - presented by Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmembers Darryl Moore, Laurie Capitelli and Linda Maio and slated for November's ballot - specifies that it aims to meet the city's climate goals "by concentrating housing, jobs and cultural destinations near transit, shops and amenities; preserving historic resources, enhancing open space, promoting green buildings."

Drawing from five years' worth of downtown renovation proposals, it allows residents to vote on 12 policies intended to improve the downtown area. These include encouraging businesses to adopt green practices and placing housing units closer to public transportation.

"The ballot statement puts forth the framework and specific guidance for the council to draft a plan," Bates said in an interview Wednesday. "I (want) the voters to have a chance to weigh in on what kind of a downtown they wanted."

The statement directs the council to create a new Downtown plan after the election based on the statement's 12 policies. Opponents said they are especially wary of this aspect of the statement, emphasizing that if passed, the council would be delaying the plan for another year.

"It has taken us a long, long time to get where we are," Worthington said. "That's why it's so frustrating that the new proposal has five pages that says someday we're going to have a plan."

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, who has worked on the project since its inception, said he was "offended" that after "thousands of hours" of his own work, the plan is once again being delayed.

Efforts to revitalize Berkeley's Downtown have sparked over five years of debates, meetings and one referendum campaign.

The rescission in February 2010 of a more than 100-page previously passed plan opened doors for new proposals. The ballot statement incorporates nine of its 12 policies from the rescinded plan.

After the plan was withdrawn, Bates, Capitelli and Councilmember Gordon Wozniak presented the Green Pathway plan, which was then given to the Planning Commission for further refinement and Bates and his colleagues continued to work on the five-page statement for the November ballot. The statement also draws two of its 12 policies from the Green Pathway plan.

"Just how detailed of a plan should you put on the ballot?" said Julie Sinai, Bates' chief of staff. "If you put the entire plan, you have to print the entire 100-plus-page plan and at that level of specificity, that would be confusing and complex."

The council will meet again July 13 and the statement and its language will be discussed.


Correction: Tuesday, October 26, 2010
A previous version of this article may have implied that there was more than one referendum campaign for the city's Downtown Area Plan. In fact, there was only one.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Rebecca Xing at [email protected]

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