Should the council affirm the Zoning Adjustment Board’s (ZAB’s) approval of a Use Permit to allow general office use, in one existing ground floor tenant space adjacent to street frontage at 1820 Solano Ave?
Who is listening?116,206 people have read Open Town Hall
Who is listening?11,257 people have read Open Town Hall here in Berkeley
Who is listening?To date, 134 people have read this topic
Who is giving feedback?35 people wrote or supported statements. That's 1.8 hours of public comment @ three minutes per statement.
CURRENT SITUATION AND ITS EFFECTS
On September 25, 2008, the ZAB discussed and approved the project (7-Y, 0-N, 1-Abstain, 1-Absent). On October 15, 2008, Zelda Bronstein, on behalf of the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association, appealed that decision with the City Clerk’s office.
The Solano Avenue Commercial District requires a Use Permit to allow office use on the ground floor adjacent to street frontage. On May 16, 2008, James Gould submitted an application to allow general office use on the ground floor level, adjacent to street frontage, for the building located at 1820 Solano Avenue. After discussions with staff, Mr. Gould narrowed the project scope to request general office use (excluding medical practitioners) in up to one ground floor commercial tenant space. The office use approval would be 'floating' and available for any one of the existing ground floor tenant spaces that are less than 1,521 square feet and have approximately 12 feet of storefront. Medical offices are excluded from this approval, as they require a higher parking ratio than general office use. The owner exercises this Use Permit when he or his representative chooses the one space for general office use. The office use approval is not transferable to another tenant space and any subsequent changes in use for any of these four tenant spaces would be subject to the applicable zoning requirements for such changes.
Staff received an email in opposition to the project from Elizabeth Sklut, President of the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association, on September 23, 2008. At the meeting, the ZAB briefly discussed the project and approved it on consent (7-Y, 0-N, 1-Abstain, 1-Absent). In approving the project, the ZAB found that the project:
- Meets all development standards of the C-SO District as detailed below.
- Is similar in use intensity to the “permitted by right” previous retail use and will, therefore, not increase impacts to the surrounding community.
- Facilitates the leasing of a retail space that has been vacant for more than half a year, thereby encouraging the economic vitality of the District.
- Maintains the District’s pedestrian orientation, while contributing pedestrian clientele to the existing retail businesses;
- Repairs the current interruption of ground level retail and compatible service facilities by providing flexibility and increased options for leasing a vacant space;
- Does not generate an increase in traffic or parking demand beyond that of the previous retail use, as the required parking requirements are equivalent; and
- Does not result in the saturation of this District by one type of use, as this approval is for ground level office use in one tenant space of up to 1,520 square feet, which represents 11% of the linear street frontage of one commercial building within the District.
Download Additional InformationCity Manager Recommendation (2.6 MB PDF file)
Feb 24 Update
Open Town Hall participants overwhelming favored approving the Use Permit to allow general office use, in one existing ground floor tenant space. Several merchants and neighbors spoke against granting the Use Permit, citing concerns that an office use would generate less foot traffic than retail use. After a lengthly discussion on the merits and demerits associated with mixing office and retail uses in a commercial area, a consensus emerged that only office uses that encouraged foot traffic should be allowed.
The Council approved a motion asking staff to come back to Council on March 24th with revised findings that incorporated the Council concerns. The motion passed 8-Yes to 1-N. I voted against the motion for the following reasons:
- the strong support expressed by the OTH participants for granting the Use Permit,
- having one-sixth of a building devoted to office space would not change the character of the business district and
- although having retail is desirable, having a vacant storefront is worse than an office.
March 19 Update
A complete staff report will be made available here.
March 24, 2009Read More >