BERKELEY -- Making change in West Berkeley is complex. An initiative that will be on the November ballot if sponsors gather 2,600 signatures, addresses development issues in the area between San Pablo Avenue and the Bay.
West Berkeley adjoins sensitive Bay and Aquatic Park waters and wildlife, its manufacturers are in the throes of technological change; its retail -- Fourth Street and the Berkeley Bowl -- is flourishing, its private schools are growing and freeway traffic increasing.
It has offices and labs, a public school, preschools, a hot housing market, and is probably the best place in the East Bay to buy a boa constrictor.
Interspersed among it all are a mix of single-family homes and apartments, longtime residents and newcomers. Some of them fear that overdevelopment and gentrification will force out current businesses and residents. Others welcome the jobs and tax revenue more intense development can bring.
Dr. Richard Rodgers, a Fifth Street resident, is sponsoring "The West Berkeley Community Protection Ordinance of 2014," an initiative aimed at preserving the 45-foot allowable height limit for new construction required by the two-decades-old West Berkeley Plan.
The initiative also increases city support for the public and private recycling and reuse businesses in the area.
West Berkeley Plan height limits "shall not be increased unless a height limit increase is approved by Berkeley voters," the initiative says.
The proposal can be seen as a reaction to Measure T, a narrowly-defeated 2012 ballot initiative that would have revised the West Berkeley Plan to allow 75-foot buildings on large parcels in the area.
Rodgers says the City Council, despite the defeat of Measure T, has been implementing the measure by granting variances project by project, such as one on Heinz Avenue west of Seventh Street, approved in January that will be just over 74 feet.
"It's quite clear that the City Council tries to put Measure T into place despite the fact that it lost," Rodgers said.
In addition to height limits, the initiative calls for the reorganization of the city's West Berkeley solid waste facilities and support for recycling/reuse businesses in the area.
Opponents are yet to organize against the measure, but Jim Novosel, an architect, developer and planning commission chair, speaking for himself, said he believes the initiative is too complex.
"To understand it, you have to be informed about the solid waste management plan," he said. "There's a hell of a lot of things to understand and digest."
Addressing the question of who sets height limits, Novosel said, "The council should be left to decide. I don't think height limitation should be placed before the voters."
Another initiative in circulation addressing development takes aim at Measure R, a 2010 measure that passed with about two-thirds approval and permits three new downtown buildings up to 180 feet and two up to 120 feet.
The idea was that developers would be allowed to build downtown towers and in exchange they would give the city so-called community benefits, such as affordable housing, green building and open space, according to Councilman Jesse Arreguin, one of the sponsors of the measure.
Except that the city is not getting the benefits from development that Measure R promised, according to Arreguin.
The initiative currently circulating would require downtown developers to enter into binding agreements, mandating the "highest green standards," affordable housing, public restrooms, apartments for families and preservation of the historic downtown civic center.
Another initiative in circulation is one written by Donald Hughes of Oakland that would outlaw the sale of pesticides in Berkeley that kill honeybees.
The use and sale of the pesticides would carry a $1,000 fine.
Another initiative in circulation would ask the City Council to pass legislation requiring businesses within the city to consider employee requests to work flexible hours.