Panoramic Hill Zoning Ordinance, and Traffic

This post is about two closely-related topics. Most of you are aware that the Berkeley part of the Hill has its own Zoning Ordinance. We’re zoned ES-R, while all other residential neighborhoods in Berkeley are zoned R-1 through R-5. The ordinance was recently amended, but I suspect that very few of you know that the Council did not fully adopt the Amendments. A key part was remanded back to the Planning Commission, who will discuss the issue in November. I urge you all to take an interest in the upcoming hearing.

The second topic is the traffic on lower Panoramic Way. I’m sure you will all agree that it’s dangerous, and potentially hinders emergency vehicle access. The City of Berkeley has made it clear that it is not going to consider any major improvements – widening the street, or building a second, everyday-use access road. However, there are a few possible “quick fixes”. One of them is to consolidate the Oakland and Berkeley refuse/recycling services. Every Monday morning, 6 (yes Six) separate trucks come up and down Panoramic Way. Most of them can’t turn around the steep bends and reverse very slowly between them. If the Big One strikes on a Monday morning, we’re all cooked. I’ve written everybody – our Council Member, the whole Council, the Planning Commission  .. with no result. For example. I suggested to our Council Member that he might propose a resolution to the Council, requiring the City’s Public Works Department to discuss consolidation of services with their Oakland counterparts. His reply was pure evasiveness, which I interpreted to mean: “Don’t you realize that would mean work on my part?” I seriously considered approaching a Council Member from another District, who would have proposed the resolution as a general public safety issue. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this matter?

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14 Responses to Panoramic Hill Zoning Ordinance, and Traffic

  1. It was my understanding that different recycling pickups were required as Berkeley and Oakland had different recycling infrastructures; Berkeley was not recycling plastics then. It seems to me that this has changed and they both pretty much recycle the same material. If this is true, then the agreement for one integrated service on the hill should be much easier.

  2. Nigel Guest says:

    There are indeed differences between the two Cities’ systems, which our Councilmember emphasized as a way of avoiding doing anything about the issue. My position is that none of these differences is a deal-killer, and that discussions should begin ASAP. Another Councilmember agrees with me, but it seems ridiculous to have to go outside of my District to get any support.

  3. Ann Slaby says:

    The city of Berkeley will be informing Panoramic hill residents about the Planning Commission meeting. The date had been much earlier but was changed only because Nigel Guest told director Dan Marks that he could not attend the much earlier date. Nigel Guest is not telling you the truth. The Berkeley city council referrred ONE definition that is unique to Panoramic Hill back to the Planning Commission. This definition is NOT a KEY part of the Environmental Safety – Residential (ES-R) zoning ordinance. ES-R is law for the Berkeley part of Panoramic Hill. The city has used it since 1975. Our law is different because Berkeley recognized the very different safety problems on the hill after a fire burned some houses in 1970 not far away from the hill. That fire began in the same area as the 1991 far more devastating fire that would have incinerated this neighborhood had the winds been blowing north. Nigel has a vested interest in getting you to make noise at the Planning Commission because he rents rooms in his house without the required permit that was required when he purchased his house. Perhaps he did not know there is a such a thing as zoning, that California requires of every single city in the state. Many residents simply have never had to understand zoning and do not realize that the law is NOT retroactive.

    Below is what the city council passed. 3. Panoramic Hill (ESR) Zoning Ordinance Revision (PDF)
    From: City Manager
    Recommendation: Adopt second reading of Ordinance No. 7,135–N.S proposed amendments to the ESR District Ordinance (Panoramic Hill) as recommended by the Planning Commission.
    Financial Implications: See report
    First Reading Vote: Ayes: Maio, Moore, Arreguin, Capitelli, Wengraf, Worthington, Wozniak, Bates. Absent: Anderson.
    Contact: Dan Marks, Planning and Development, 981-7400
    Action: 2 speakers. Moved to Action Calendar. M/S/C (Wozniak/Moore) to adopt second reading of Ordinance No. 7,135–N.S. and refer the definition of “bedroom” in the ordinance to the Planning Commission for further review.
    Vote: Ayes: Maio, Moore, Anderson, Arreguin, Wengraf, Wozniak, Bates. Noes: Capitelli. Abstain: Worthington.

    With regards to getting two completely separate city jurisdictions to put their separate services together: Good luck! You are dealing not only with cities but also with employees.

  4. Gordon Wozniak says:

    I agree with Mr. Guest that it would make sense to have fewer trucks picking up trash, green waste and recycling from the Hill. In fact, I have suggested to Berkeley’s City Manager that Berkeley discuss such a consolidation with Oakland. There are a number of practical difficulties which I have previously mentioned to Mr. Guest. For example, Oakland contracts out to Waste Management for all three services, whereas the City Berkeley provides its own trash and green waste pickups, but contracts out the recycling to the Ecology Center. In addition, getting the two cities to work together is not as simple as Mr. Guest implies. It took many months to get Oakland to modify the timing on a stoplight on Tunnel Rd that impacted the egress from Oak Ridge Rd.

    Finally, I discussed this matter with Berkeley’s Fire Chief who advised me that reducing the number of garbage trucks on the HIll would be helpful, but did not feel that this alone would make Panoramic safer in terms of access of emergency vehicles.

  5. Nigel Guest says:

    Interesting comments, Ann. I’d like to address a few of them:
    - My delaying the Planning Commission hearing. Quite true. Unfortunately, I had heart surgery just before the initially proposed date, and Dan Marks was kind enough to postpone the hearing, but couldn’t get another date earlier than November. I suppose people have been wheeled into hearings in beds, but it didn’t seem to be necessary in this case.
    - “Nigel is not telling the truth”. You might prefer to use the Winston Churchill phrase: Nigel “is guilty of a terminological inexactitude”, which I do not believe I am, anyway. I was perhaps not totally clear, because I condensed two sentences into one, to simplify my presentation.
    - “This definition is NOT a KEY part of the Environmental Safety – Residential (ES-R) zoning ordinance.” I beg to differ. We are talking about the Planning Department’s attempt to redefine “bedroom”, which is a word that has existed since before the United States was founded. One of the more conservative members of the Council, Laurie Capitelli, said: “God forbid that this is quoted as Berkeley’s definition of a bedroom”, before he voted against the ordinance. If the planning Department has its way, our dining rooms would be classified as bedrooms. Why is this ultra-important? Because the required number of off-street parking spaces is linked to the number of “bedrooms” in our houses. Under the present ordinance, I am non-conforming, as are you, Ann, and 90+% of the houses in the Berkeley part of the Hill.
    - “Nigel has a vested interest … because he rents rooms”. Not really, Ann. If I choose to get a Use Permit, I will still need a variance, even if the definition of bedroom is amended to the normal (Webster’s) wording. However, I may choose not to get a permit, and instead claim the protection granted in the Berkeley Municipal Code. I will make my decision after the Planning Commission and Council make theirs, and the ES-R ordinance is finalized.

    • Nigel Guest says:

      Gordon, I certainly don’t think consolidating the garbage trucks would cure the Hill’s traffic problems, but, as the Fire Chief noted, it would be helpful. It would also be much, much easier than the major construction that is needed to really fix the problems. Of course there are difficulties, but insurmountable difficulties? I don’t think so, and we’re talking about potentially saving lives. I’m looking for more of a “Can Do.” attitude here.

  6. Ann Slaby says:

    I am so sorry you had heart surgery Nigel. I saw you walking on Panoramic Way a couple days before the earlier date of the hearing, and then a few days afterwards.

    Laurie Capitelli indeed had an opinion. But his opinon is mistaken. Nothing in definitions specifically for the ES-R zoning can then be used in other zoning areas UNLESS the council approves a change in the zoning. The defnition of bedroom is not key to the environmental safety-residential zoning.

    You brought this issue of bedroom up at the very first Planning Commission hearing. The Commission did not see the problem your way. They approved all the zoning changes. Now you get the unheard of opportunity of getting another chance to get the Planning Commission to consider again what it already considered.

    And yes, you need a use permit and if you do not put in more off street parking, a variance.

    Nigel, your website states you are registered engineer. You are not. Your California license was cancelled in 1999. You also say your Engineering company is incorporated. It is not. The incorporation in California was cancelled. With these non-factual misleading statements I find it difficult to believe anything you assert.

  7. Nigel Guest says:

    There’s no doubt, Ann, that there’s a certain element of hope in my website. Due to health problems, I let my PE license and corporation lapse, but I have applications in process to reinstate both. You’re right, though. I should probably take the website offline till these are approved. I hope you’re not implying that I didn’t have heart surgery. I did, on September 3, and 3 times before that, as well. I discussed it with Dan Marks, and told him that my surgeon thought that there was a real possibility that I would need a bypass, in which case, I couldn’t have made the September 15 Planning Commission date that Dan offered. Luckily, no bypass was necessary, just another stent.

    Thanks for acknowledging that Gene Bernardi and I bulldozed our way to an “unheard of” opportunity. We actually came close to having the whole ES-R ordinance remanded to the Planning Commission, because, despite all the work that has gone into it, it contains ambiguities and contradictions. Persistence pays, eventually – Churchill again: “We shall never surrender.”

    On the importance of the definition of “bedroom”, I guess we’d better agree to differ. I presume that you don’t consider the November 10 Planning Commission hearing to be important enough to attend.

  8. Ann Slaby says:

    Any reader of this topic with sufficient interest who wishes to see what happened at the second reading of the changes to the ES-R ordinance can view the video at The date of the meeting was May 4, 2010, if the link above does not work. From my viewing I noted that neither Deputy Planning Director Cosin nor City Attorney Zack Cohen was able to answer some questions, unfortunately. As the PHA had approved the changes and there had been no opposition at the first reading of the ordinance, no opposition was expected.

  9. Nigel Guest says:

    All perfectly true, Ann, except the statement that there had been no opposition at the first reading. There had been an initial hearing on January 26, at which both you and I, and others, spoke out in opposition to different parts of the ordinance, and I submitted written comments. the Council voted to hold over any decision until Staff had sat down with the PHA Board. I submitted written opposition before the “official first” hearing on 4/27, but despite that, MY OWN Council Member moved to have this item brought forward from Item 20 on the Action Calendar to the Consent Calendar. As a result, I arrived at the meeting too late to speak.

    Incidentally, when i spoke my piece at the second hearing, Tom Bates said something like: “Where did this come from, at the 11th hour?” Well, duh, Tom, I’d been saying the same thing, verbally, including once before him,and in writing, for 8 months.

    This is why we need new blood on the City Council. It currently has some members who are asleep at the switch.

  10. Ann Slaby says:

    You are wrong again, twice:

    1. The first reading of the current ammendments was not on January 26, 2010. It was referred back to staff to meet and confer with the PHA for further input. Staff met with the PHA, and made changes to their satisfaction. As indicated in the agenda, the first reading was:
    20. Panoramic Hill (ESR) Zoning Ordinance Revision (Continued from January 27, 2010) (PDF)
    From: City Manager
    Recommendation: Adopt first reading of proposed amendments to the ESR District Ordinance (Panoramic Hill) as recommended by the Planning Commission.
    Financial Implications: See report
    Contact: Dan Marks, Planning and Development, 981-7400
    Action: Moved to Consent Calendar. Adopted first reading of Ordinance No. 7,135–N.S., proposed amendments to the ESR District Ordinance (Panoramic Hill) as recommended by the Planning Commission. Second reading scheduled for May 4, 2010.

    2. I did not speak against the ordinance.

  11. Nigel Guest says:

    Ann, I am not wrong, as you would see if you read my post carefully. Also, I’m giving up on this pointless interaction. There’s a famous quote by Schiller about the gods contending in vain, which expresses my current feelings.

  12. Ann Slaby says:

    Nigel states:: “both you and I, and others, spoke out in opposition” As I stated earlier, I did NOT speak in opposition. I was there to support the changes. I still do. I have 26 years of experience with the ES-R zoning ordinance.

  13. Ann Slaby says:


    Most first and second readings of ordinances at the Berkeley city council are at the beginning of the meeting.

    There were three letters addressing the zoning changes at the 4/27 meeting.
    One was from you. And one from Mike Kelley representing that the PHA had no problem with the zoning changes.

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