Adopting LPC chair Jill Kortes motion, the commission recommended that the City proceed with caution, comply with CEQA, and engage in a public EIR process that moves in a deliberate fashion towards a strong and clearly implementable ordinance.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission cannot recommend the June 2004 LPC proposed revisions to the Landmarks Preservation and Zoning Ordinances for the following specific reasons:
- The Precompletion Review Process presents a significant increase in workload for city staff and LPC alike and needs some reconsideration (the question of workload was not adequately researched during the drafting of the LPC proposal).
- The implementing procedures for the Precompletion Review Process have not been fully explored and developed and it is unclear if the process is workable.
- The Precompletion Review process limits public participation in the initiation and designation for landmarks from what currently exists.
- The proposed revisions, as prepared by staff, give to ZAB the authority for determining the level of environmental review under CEQA, even though LPC unanimously requested that LPC be provided that authority because its members are more qualified to assess the impacts of development projects on historic resources (the revisions are purported to reflect the LPC opinion, but in this case actually reflect staff opinion).
The Landmarks Preservation Commission cannot recommend the June 2005 Planning Commission proposed revisions to the Landmarks Preservation and Zoning Ordinances for the following specific reasons:
- Authority for determining the level of CEQA review for historic resources is given to ZAB when that authority is more appropriate for the LPC, as its members have more expertise to assess potential impacts of development projects on historic resources.
- The proposed Planning Commission revisions provide for three separate processes for initiation and designation of a property where only one exists today. The City is setting its staff and citizens up for additional confusion.
- The Request for Review within the context of a development project limits public participation in the initiation and designation process for landmarks from what currently exists.
- The Request for Determination outside the context of a development project is particularly egregious since without a project, there is no force, no momentum to gather the latent public interest, and no pathway for public notice and public participation is provided in these revisions, even if public concern was otherwise piqued. The implementing procedures outlined are complex, no forms have been prepared or tested, and its practicality is questionable. The proposed process is also unusual in that historic preservation ordinances are typically predicated upon defining, not eliminating resources. The best goal is for the Landmarks Commission to work within its currently established practices and procedures for initiation and designation of historic resources. No additional process outside the context of a development project is necessary or acceptable.
- The proposed changes to the Structure of Merit designation and the lessening of its associated protections are unacceptable. Structures of Merit are particularly important in providing context for landmarked structures and for their part in conveying the history of streetfronts, blocks, and neighborhoods. The designation remains an essential tool for illustrating important patterns of development and important eras of historical, social, and cultural development where no other tool exists. In a city such as Berkeley that has been slow to formally survey its loosely identified historic districts (e.g., Lorin District, signed as such but not designated) and to develop tools (e.g., historic preservation overlay zones) to protect distinct and historically important districts, the Structure of Merit designation plays an important tool in relaying history and protecting the diversity that history displays. The proposed changes would eliminate protection for Structures of Merit under CEQA, eliminate Commission review of alteration permit applications and place decisions on alteration permits squarely in the closet of the Zoning Officer without benefit of the expertise of the Commission, without public input, and without a process of appeal.
The LPC concluded by recommending that an independent third-party expert be retained to analyze the existing LPO and the two proposed revisions and make recommendations. The commission expressed the belief that revisions required to comply with the Permit Streamlining Act can be relatively simple and straightforward.
Download the complete motion (MS Word, 44 K).
Read CEQA attorney Susan Brandt-Hawleys letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.