UC Extension Update
There has been quite a bit happening regarding the proposed development of the UC Berkeley Extension site at 55 Laguna. Most recently, the Landmarks Advisory Planning Board voted to landmark the campus. The Planning Commission will review their recommendation on May 24th. There has been some dispute over what the impact of a landmark designation will have on adaptive re-use of the site and whether the community is supportive of such a designation. HVNA is on record as favoring the listing of the campus on the National Register of Historic Places, and favoring adaptive re-use of the site, but has not taken a position on a local Landmark designation. We urge you to make your feelings heard in writing or in person at the Planning Commission hearing, scheduled for 1:30pm on Thursday, May 24th, in Room 400, City Hall.
The Commission held a hearing on April 19th regarding the draft EIR for the proposed development. This allowed people to testify on the environmental impacts of the project, not the merits of the project. Public testimony was heard and written comments were accepted by the Planning Department. The Department will now review and respond within two to four months. Then the Commission will act to certify the EIR.
The proposed development at 55 Laguna has gone through several changes since it was first proposed. The neighborhood and others have been very vocal in pointing out shortcomings and in debating the merits of this, or any, development. HVNA is on record as opposing the developer’s proposal as of July 2006, and urging the Planning Department to work with an open community process, rather than reacting to the developer’s proposals, in revising the plan, in particular regarding historic preservation, public use zoning, open space, adequate recreation and community space, housing for LGBT seniors and/or people living with AIDS, parking ratios and more.
After many meetings and discussions, the Planning Department has indicated they will hire an unbiased firm to conduct a survey of what community benefits are needed in the area, both currently and in the future. This study would be administered by the Department, although partial funding is likely to come from the developer. We will continue working with the Department and Supervisor Mirkarimi’s office to ensure any survey is conducted in a neutral manner and that the community is aware and involved. While different people may have different views, if everyone is able to participate in an open and honest process, we can all feel comfortable with the result.
The Planning Department has also taken the position that Waller Street is still owned by the City. The developer and UC contest this position, and each side has hired experts to advocate its position. This issue will have an impact on whatever happens on the site.