Ecocity Amendment, Berkeley

In the summer of 2000, Ecocity Builders’ Kirstin Miller and Berkeley Planning Staff member Andrew Thomas suggested that concerned community members write a list of crucial policies that could nudge the General Plan toward becoming an Ecocity General Plan.

The Ecocity Amendment to the 2001 Berkeley General Plan represent a set of principles and policies not only necessary, but common sense and practical in reshaping the city into a sustainable future.  As a comprehensive and long-range set of policies, the General Plan is a vital and powerful tool guiding public decisions in future years.  The Ecocity Amendments demonstrate a commitment to ecological principles that will set in motion a course towards improving and sustaining the health of future generations of people and natural resources of the East Bay bioregion.

Over a hundred signatures from businesses and community leaders were gathered in support of these wide-ranging Amendments, many of which were incorporated into the following 2001 General Plan revision language.

The Policies & their Impacts

Policy LU-17: Downtown Development Standards

E. Convene a Planning Commission task force to evaluate the need for and appropriateness of a new downtown hotel and conference center/ecological demonstration/mixed use project, taking into consideration:

  • Market demographics
  • Traffic and transit conditions
  • Hiring and employment policies
  • Public amenities and community accessibility
  • Urban design
  • Green building principles
  • Daylighting Strawberry Creek

Impact:

Ecocity Builders participated in the 2004 Planning Commission Task Force on a Downtown Hotel/Conference Center/Museum Complex and Public Open Space to continue to push forward a downtown “Heart of the City” agenda comprising the daylighting of Strawberry Creek and high-density, mixed-use and transit-oriented land uses.

Currently in progress, an update of the Downtown Area Plan will call for incorporating green building principles in new development, implementing the Ecocity Builders/Hood Design proposal for a Strawberry Creek Plaza project on Center Street, and utilizing urban design and landscaping approaches to enhance public green open spaces; transit, commerce, and the arts; and the overall pedestrian environment.

Policy LU-20: Downtown Pedestrian and Transit Orientation

Continue to explore options for the partial or complete closure of Center Street, Addison Street, or Allston Way to automobiles to promote the pedestrian and commercial vitality and enhance

Continue to explore costs and plans for the daylighting of Strawberry Creek.

Implement capital improvement projects that reinforce the pedestrian, transit, commercial, arts, and entertainment orientation of the Downtown and improve the quality of life for visitors and residents of the area.

Encourage development of public spaces, plazas, and restoration of natural areas in the Downtown and other areas of the city where appropriate to enhance the pedestrian environment.

Impact:

Ecocity Builders is actively leading and facilitating the planning, design, and implementation of a Strawberry Creek Plaza slated for Center Street between Oxford St and Shattuck Ave.  The Downtown Area Plan in progress will identify specific capital improvement projects that will boost the vibrancy of the downtown art and commercial district incorporating pedestrian-oriented public spaces and amenities.

Policy EM-27: Creeks and Watershed Management

Whenever feasible, daylight creeks by removing culverts, underground pipes, and obstructions to fish and animal migrations. Seek funding sources to acquire and preserve land within creek corridors for restoration or daylighting.

Establish, where appropriate or feasible, pedestrian and bicycle paths along creekside greenways to connect neighborhoods and commercial areas.

Encourage daylighting of creeks on public lands as well as along creeks that are substantially open and accessible to the public.

Ensure that creek daylighting proposals include appropriate landscaping, allow for adequate access, and carefully consider the urban context, the impact on existing recreational spaces, and the economic impact on the property and nearby properties.

Work in cooperation with adjoining jurisdictions to jointly undertake creek and wetland restoration projects, to improve water quality and wildlife habitat, to allow people to enjoy creeks as part of urban open space, and to create creekside transportation corridors for pedestrians and bicycles, as described in the 1995 Joint Watershed Goals Statement.

Impact:

On the heels of our pioneering daylighting projects in West Berkeley, others have followed suit. These early creek restoration projects has had a ripple impact internationally, with cities like Seoul, Singapore, and many others exploring the opening and rehabilitation of their waterways. Codornices Creek, which Berkeley shares with adjacent Albany, has received more than $3.3 million in grants for 10 water quality and habitat restoration projects spanning the hills to the Bay. Restoration projects have been incorporated into adjacent educational institutions (e.g. Blackberry Creek at Thousand Oaks School, 1995; Codornices Creek at St. Mary’s School, 2008; and Codornices Creek at University Village, 1996).

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