This Week – East Bay Update

Oakland Passes Major Citywide Rezoning of Residential and Commercial Areas

On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council finally passed a major rezoning of all of the city’s residential and commercial zoning districts, thus capping a 2+ year process that included over 50 community meetings since the fall of 2008 and review by four different city panels. The rezoning becomes effective on April 14, and project sponsors have the option of using the old zoning or the new zoning for projects whose applications are submitted between now and then.

Prior to the rezoning, Oakland’s General Plan and Planning Code contained numerous inconsistencies in how the city’s residential and commercial zones are regulated. This has led to an overly-confusing system of land use regulations and an inefficient entitlement process. The rezoning will resolve these issues by making the General Plan and Planning Code consistent and reducing the burdens of the entitlement process.

Every residential- and commercial-zoned property in Oakland has been rezoned. Effectively, this will not constitute a major change in the type and size of development that is permitted on most of the affected properties. In most cases, the zoning has been updated to make the development controls more clear. However, some areas of the city have been identified as “grow and change” areas, where higher densities and more uses will be permitted. These areas include San Pablo Avenue, Telegraph Avenue south of Highway 24, the MacArthur corridor, Martin Luther King Way south of Children’s Hospital, Broadway south of 51st Street, International Boulevard and East 12th Street. Height limits are being established on certain major corridors in order to better relate future growth to the surrounding neighborhood. A number of last minute changes to heights and zoning were made in these areas by the City Council.

For land use professionals working in Oakland, the rezoning will make the analysis of development potential for properties in the city much easier. The rezoning proposal that went to the City Council can be found at Note that the City Council did make some minor changes. Contact us with any questions regarding the rezoning.

Berkeley Tries Once Again to Update Downtown Area Plan, Zoning

Moving slightly north, Berkeley this week attempted to restart (a third attempt) its process to adopt a new Downtown plan, to be followed by a rezoning of the downtown area.

The Downtown plan process has been long and complicated to date. In 2009, the City Council adopted a new Downtown plan after a four year public process. The plan was subsequently rescinded in February 2010 by the City Council once a petition containing more than 9,000 signatures was organized calling on the city to send the plan to voters for approval. One of the more controversial elements of the 2009 plan was to increase height limits generally to 85 feet, with exceptions for a handful of buildings that could have reached up to 225 feet in height.

In April of 2010, the City Council adopted a new Downtown plan, and placed an advisory measure on the November ballot regarding the more controversial aspects of the plan. In November, voters approved Measure R with 64% voting in favor. The measure called for height limits to be increased to 75 feet, with exceptions for a handful of buildings that could reach up to 180 feet in height. The measure included permit streamlining provisions for projects that provide environmental, affordable housing or local hiring concessions above that required by the City code. The measure also calls for enacting green building standards and implementing a Transportation Demand Management plan to discourage car use.

This week, Berkeley published its new draft Downtown plan which incorporates both the 2010 Downtown plan and Measure R. The Planning Commission held its first hearing on the plan on Wednesday, and will spend the next two months or so working on the plan, with an eye towards approving it and sending it to the City Council at a hearing on May 18. Planning Department staff is currently drafting underlying zoning controls to be considered by the Planning Commission this summer. The City Council is expected to take up both the Downtown plan and the zoning amendments in September. At that time, Planning Department staff may also incorporate a new Streets and Open Space Improvement plan, with accompanying new development fee, into the Council’s discussion.

The 2011 Berkeley Downtown plan can be found here:

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient. Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein. Reuben & Junius, LLP is a full service real estate law firm. We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law. We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

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