Downtown Plans Dominate District 4 Race

Related Articles »

  • Printer Friendly Printer Friendly
  • Comments Comments (0)

With the Berkeley City Council elections only five days away, discussion on how to revitalize the Downtown area continues to dominate the District 4 race alongside a city ballot measure that would implement policies to address the future of the area.

Two-year incumbent Jesse Arreguin faces Jim Novosel - an architect and planning commissioner who has been endorsed by Mayor Tom Bates and several council members, including Linda Maio, Darryl Moore, Laurie Capitelli, Susan Wengraf and Gordon Wozniak - and Bernt Wahl, a UC Berkeley engineering professor and CEO of Factle, a Berkeley mapping company.

While Wahl said he will support the community's decision on Measure R - which sets goals for the city's Downtown as it goes to voters next week - Arreguin and Novosel have taken opposing sides on the measure, with the incumbent steering opposition to the proposal, heightening conversation on the direction of the Downtown.

Several drafts of a downtown area plan developed by the City Council, the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission have met opposition due to some contentious issues - some surrounding the height of buildings - preventing the city from adopting a plan.

"We have plans that we've developed throughout our five-year downtown planning process," Arreguin said. "I don't know why we're not moving forward with just passing one of them and why the council needed to go to the voters to get direction on approving a plan."

While Arreguin has consistently said the measure is "a plan to make a plan," Novosel said its passage would not restart the process of developing a plan - rather, it merely deals with the contentious height issue.

The measure asks voters if the city should limit the number of new Downtown buildings to five - two of which would be residential buildings with commercial businesses on the ground floor and no taller than 180 feet, one hotel not to exceed 180 feet and two mixed-use or office buildings not to exceed 120 feet. These would be exceptions to the city's maximum building height of 60 feet.

"Let's get rid of the height issue as an issue," Novosel said. "That's the one that every stumbles over ... once Measure R passes the plan is in place."

In Novosel's own plan to transform the Downtown into a pedestrian-friendly space, he outlined four points to revitalize the area. His plan aims to increase the number of residents and businesses, create safe pedestrian plazas - including one along Center Street - create a transit terminal at Berkeley Square and reroute traffic around the Downtown Berkeley BART station to allow for more parking.

"The idea is mainly to make the Downtown a social and service center for the neighborhood residents ... (and) have activities that would draw the people into the areas of the downtown," Novosel said.

Wahl said the city could use his company's geographic information technology to mark potholes, assess crime and even determine which lots are the most appropriate for specific businesses in terms of location and size. Using this technology could increase the city's efficiency on fronts other than the Downtown as well, he said.

Yet amid discussion on how to best approach the Downtown, Arreguin said the future of the district's legacy of a progressive voice hangs in the balance. Given Novosel's support from the majority of the council, Arreguin said he expects Novosel, if elected, will vote on a consistent basis with the group and will not have an independent voice on the council.

"This election really is a referendum on whether we will have minority voices on the council, and there's a concerted effort in Districts 4 and 7 to try to get rid of people who do present a different perspective," he said, "There should be people who are pushing the council in a more progressive direction, and I think that's good for democracy."


Stephanie Baer is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

Comments (0) »

Comment Policy
The Daily Cal encourages readers to voice their opinions respectfully in regards to both the readers and writers of The Daily Californian. Comments are not pre-moderated, but may be removed if deemed to be in violation of this policy. Comments should remain on topic, concerning the article or blog post to which they are connected. Brevity is encouraged. Posting under a pseudonym is discouraged, but permitted. Click here to read the full comment policy.
White space
Left Arrow
City Government
Image City proposes major cuts to budget
Amid a grim national, state and local economic recovery forecast, the city ...Read More»
City Government
Image Local concern builds over Highway 13 construction
Some community members remain concerned that the ongoing expansion...Read More»
City Government
Image Sit-lie debate focuses on homelessness
Tonanzin Klote sits cross-legged with a feather in her cap and flowers tied...Read More»
City Government
Image Location restrictions could be ahead for Berkeley...
In response to a string of competing drug stores in B...Read More»
City Government
Image Downtown Area Plan takes steps forward
Years of planning, a referendum campaign and ballot initiative later, the m...Read More»
City Government
Image Some customers angered by SmartMeter opt-out plan
After being directed to create a SmartMeter opt-out proposal by th...Read More»
Right Arrow

Job Postings

White Space