Downtown Plan Goals, Objectives, Policies

This plan is available for purchase at the Planning and Development Department at 2120 Milvia Street for $7.


The following Downtown Plan goals, objectives, and policies were adopted in 1990 by the City Council as an amendment to the 1977 Master Plan. As part of the General Plan Update, the goals, objectives and policies will be re-adopted with the new General Plan. The proposed amendments are necessary to ensure internal consistency within the General Plan or to provide greater clarity or guidance for future decision making. In some cases, amendments are proposed to reflect new conditions or accomplishments. Proposed amendments and deletions are identified by strikeout (proposed deletion) and underline (proposed addition text.)

Downtown Plan Goals

Goal #1:
Express and enhance Berkeley's unique social and cultural character in the downtown.

Goal #2:
Create an appealing and safe downtown environment, with a comfortable pedestrian orientation.

Goal #3:
Diversify, revitalize and promote the downtown economy.

Historic Preservation and Urban Design Element
Objectives and Policies

Objective 1:
Provide continuity between the old and the new in the built environment. Retain the scale and the unique character of the downtown.

Policy DT-1
Retain the older, historically valuable buildings in the and around the downtown. Encourage adaptive re-use of older buildings by promoting rehabilitation and reuse of existing structures that contribute to the overall design character of downtown.

Policy DT-2
Maintain the existing scale of downtown. New construction should fit into the context of the existing built environment and complement downtown's historic character. Encourage infill development that is compatible with existing uses and improves the pedestrian environment and the streetscape. Permit taller buildings only if they are in scale with other structures in the area,

Policy DT-3
Increase citizen awareness of the architectural heritage of downtown.

Policy DT-4
Promote earthquake reinforcing of older and historic buildings.

Policy DT-5
Maintain establish specific design review criteria and regulations that express the need for projects to respect and preserve the historic nature of the downtown.
(Guidelines adopted in 1995.)

Objective 2:
Strengthen the downtown's identity, image and sense of place.

Policy DT-6
Encourage cooperation between the business community and the city in the establishment of an attractive and successful downtown. Encourage individuals (merchants, owners and business people) to contribute and maintain landscaping throughout downtown on their own property and in the public domain.

Policy DT-7
Recognize that different parts of the downtown have special character, and develop programs to strengthen and reinforce it. Develop land use, density, special design features, and building guidelines.

Policy DT-8
Encourage a compact downtown to conserve open space and the natural environment in other parts of the city.

Policy DT-9
Create a visually cohesive district, which retains its early 20th century characteristics.

Objective 3:
Improve the visual and environmental quality of the downtown, with an emphasis on the pedestrian environment.

Policy DT-10
Test proposed new developments as to their potential impact on views and solar access to and from important public places.

Policy DT-11
Develop a detailed streetscape plan. Create plazas and other urban spaces as identified in the Downtown Public Improvements Plan (1997), to enhance the pedestrian environment and increase the number of people who will use downtown. Enhance sidewalks and streetscapes to reflect the scale and early 20th century historic quality of downtown architecture.

Policy DT-12
As part of private and public development and renovation projects, attempt to maximize green spaces, natural surfaces, plants and streetscaping in the development plans.

Policy DT-13
Support entrance and facade remodeling on downtown buildings that will contribute to the pedestrian environment and the historic character of downtown.

Policy DT-14
Develop city programs to improve the pedestrian and aesthetic nature of the downtown environment. Encourage cooperation between the business community and the city in the establishment of an attractive, functional, meaningful and successful downtown.

Objective 4:
Enhance and improve the physical connection between downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods and institutions, such as the University of California.

Policy DT-15
Adopt development guidelines that promote linkages and better connections between the downtown and the University; and between the downtown and the neighborhood shopping districts.

Policy DT-16
Protect adjacent residential neighborhoods with guidelines that scale down development at the periphery of downtown (i.e., a transitional zone).

Policy DT-17
Development along the Oxford edge should incorporate open spaces to provide a transition between the Oxford edge and the more dense areas of the downtown. Maintain visual openness along Oxford Street.

Policy DT-18
Activity and new development in the civic center should be oriented toward the Civic Center Park and away from the residential neighborhood. Expansions or additions to buildings should keep within the character of the Civic Center and maintain the existing setback of old city hall.The height should not exceed the old city hall roofline.

Policy DT-19
Use common elements, such as street trees, paving material and Strawberry Creek, to connect the university and the downtown.

Social and Cultural

Objective 1:
Insure that downtown enhances Berkeley's unique social and cultural character by making downtown a center with both daytime and nighttime activities

Policy DT-20
Encourage increased use of the downtown for cultural events by providing additional cultural and public facilities and by refurbishing existing facilities.

Policy DT-21
Provide opportunities for the many craftspeople, artists and performing artists in Berkeley to display and perform their work.

Policy DT-22
Provide cultural activities and opportunities for diverse ethic, age and social groups in the downtown.

Policy DT-23
Increase the opportunities available for evening activities in the downtown, building upon the activity generated by the theaters.

Objective 2:
Create a sense of community by locating housing for all income types in and near the downtown, near transit, employment, retail and cultural opportunities.

Policy DT-24
Residents of downtown housing should be of a wide variety of social and income groups.

Air and Water Quality

Enhance the air and water quality in the downtown

Policy DT-25
Maximize the air and water quality in the downtown.

Policy DT-26
Uncover Strawberry Creek where feasible to develop a water feature in the downtown.


Encourage the development and use of renewable resources and reduce the reliance on non-renewable resources in the downtown.

Policy DT-27
Develop building design guidelines that will maximize solar gain, active and passive, and protect solar access.

Policy DT-28
Develop energy efficiency standards for new and existing buildings.

Policy DT-29
Encourage recycling of waste materials


Protect downtown buildings and their occupants from fire hazards.

Policy DT-30
Insure that the vitality and development in the downtown does not lead to additional dangers from fire and the spread of fire from one building to another.

Policy DT-31
Insure that new projects and renovation projects in the downtown do not jeopardize the safety of the occupants in the event of a fire.

Hazardous Waste, Toxic Materials and other Hazards

Insure that the downtown environment is free of toxics and hazardous waste.

Policy DT-32
Provide information about the risks from hazardous waste, toxic materials and other hazards, and minimize these risks where possible.

Open Space and Recreation

Develop the downtown as a pleasant place for pedestrians

Policy DT-33
Provide cultural and recreational activities for a wide range of people.

Policy DT-34
Provide a variety of outdoor spaces for pedestrians, particularly gathering spaces.

Policy DT-35
Insure that these outdoor spaces are comfortable by emphasizing sunlight access, views, and sun and/or wind protection where appropriate.

Policy DT-36
Enhance the existing open space in the downtown, including the civic center park area and the BART plaza

Policy DT-37
Provide pedestrian amenities.

Seismic Safety

Reduce the risk of earthquake damage to people and property

Policy DT-38
Insure that existing, hazardous buildings in the downtown are strengthened to resist seismic forces, or mitigated in other ways, including by demolition.

Policy DT-39
Insure that historic buildings are strengthened to resist seismic forces, while still retaining their historic value and character.

Economic Objectives and Polices

Objective 1:
Enhance the economic vitality of the downtown with a mix of business to serve a wide variety of people.

Policy DT-40
Insure that the mix of uses in the downtown is appropriate to the downtown's location both as a part of Berkeley and the larger region.

Policy DT-41
Provide opportunities for small, non-franchised businesses.

Policy DT-42
Improve the opportunity for night time and weekend activities in the downtown to provide for a longer period of activity in the area.

Objective 2:
Strive for a socially diverse, economically thriving downtown, including a strong retail sector.

Policy DT-43
Draw a wide variety of Berkeley resident to downtown.

Policy DT-44
Enhance the shopping activity in the downtown so that it serves local residents, employees and regional residents.

Policy DT-45
Enhance the safety and security of people downtown.

Objective 3:
Provide employment opportunities for Berkeley residents

Policy DT-46
Attract businesses that have employment needs that match the employment needs of Berkeley residents.

Policy DT-47
Attract businesses that provide entry level employment opportunities and that hire youth.

Policy DT-48
Encourage hiring of Berkeley residents.

Objective 4:
Insure that there is a balance between revenues and expenditures

Policy DT-49
Determine the fiscal impacts of development Downtown.

Policy DT-50
Insure that all public and private development Downtown contributes positively to the Downtown and pays its share of development costs and impacts associated with housing, traffic, parking, infrastructure and other impacts as may be identified.

Policy DT-51
Investigate development incentives (tax benefits, density bonuses, etc) to encourage appropriate Downtown development

Transportation and Circulation

Objective 1:
Encourage the use of transit as the primary mode of travel.

Policy DT-52
Increase transit access to and from the downtown in response to commute patterns.

Policy DT-53
Develop shuttle transit service to supplement AC Transit service to the downtown from residential neighborhoods and satellite and peripheral parking facilities.

Policy DT-54
Minimize the conflict between transit vehicles and other vehicles requiring use of downtown streets for both safety and improvement of bus operating speeds.

Policy DT-55
Provide safe, conveniently spaced and weather protected bus stops near major public and private facilities which attract potential transit riders.

Objective 2:
Insure adequate vehicular access to, from and within the downtown

Policy DT-56
Minimize conflicts among auto, transit, bicycle and pedestrian uses for a safe circulation system in the downtown.

Policy DT-57
Channel vehicular traffic onto primary auto oriented streets.

Policy DT-58
In the downtown core minimize conflict between autos entering and exiting onto the street network.

Objective 3:
Create adequate parking facilities to support land use policies for the downtown

Policy DT-59
Increase the availability of short term parking spaces on the periphery of the core downtown area.

Policy DT-60
Discourage the use of existing public and private parking facilities for long term parkers in the high demand area of the downtown core.

Policy DT-61
Provide new long term parking facilities at remote locations adjacent to transit lines or shuttle service.

Objective 4:
Decrease single occupant vehicle trips to and from the downtown to create a viable and livable environment

Policy DT-62
Actively promote the use of alternative means of transportation to the single occupant vehicle.

Policy DT-63
Establish a transportation system management plan for the downtown which requires participation by both existing and new developments.

Objective 5:
Create safe and convenient pedestrian access to, from and within the downtown.

Policy DT-64
Minimize the conflict between pedestrian and vehicular traffic at intersections as well as midblock.

Policy DT-65
Provide adequate sidewalk space on heavily traveled pedestrian corridors; e.g. the corridor between BART and UC Campus.

Policy DT-66
Provide midblock pedestrian pathways where feasible to shorten pedestrian walking distances.

Policy DT-67
Design a pedestrian network which responds to the access needs of the physically disabled.

Objective 6:
Provide for safe and convenient bicycle use as a means of transportation

Policy DT-68
Establish a safe and direct bicycle circulation system into the downtown from residential areas.

Policy DT-69
Locate secure bicycle parking facilities near transit centers and major public and private buildings.

Policy DT-70
Require the provision of secure bicycle parking facilities by new developments, both public and private

University of California

Objective 1:
Encourage the University to have a social and cultural presence in downtown

Policy DT-71
Encourage the university to provide access in the downtown to information about cultural events and tickets.

Policy DT-72
Encourage the University to develop a museum on the history of the University in the downtown

Policy DT-73
Encourage the University to integrate campus cultural life with the downtown by using downtown facilities and by providing information on upcoming cultural activities

Objective 2:
Insure that University related development contributes positively to the downtown.

Policy DT-74
University development downtown should be phased in accordance with the development phasing strategy outlined in the transportation element of the Downtown Plan (to acknowledge the limitations of the existing transportation system) and development that does occur should pay its share of development costs and impacts associated with housing, traffic, transit, parking, infrastructure and other impacts that may be identified.

Policy DT-75
University development downtown should meet the identified goals and objectives of the downtown plan as well as the University long range development plan.

Policy DT-76
The University should limit campus development in accordance with the city's infrastructure capacity, using the limitations and monitoring procedures which the city is establishing for itself.

Policy DT-77
Encourage the University to evaluate the cumulative impacts of all projects in their environmental documentation, not only incremental impacts, and to analyze the impacts on surrounding city neighborhoods in addition to adjacent parcels.

Policy DT-78
Encourage the University to increase the visual integration between the downtown and the University along the main view corridors.

Objective 3:
Encourage the University to provide housing for students in and near the downtown

Policy DT-79
Support the development of new housing for students that will not take additional land off the tax rolls, and that is compatible with existing development and the policies of the downtown plan.

Land Use

Objective 1:
Strengthen downtown as a vital city center offering employment, housing, recreational and cultural opportunities for Berkeley residents. Consider retail uses and residential uses as the highest priorities for the a first priority, with residential uses second priority

Policy DT-80
Strengthen the downtown's highly diversified land use mix and maintain the historic land use pattern of ground floor retail, commercial, and restaurant uses, with residential and office uses above.

Policy DT-81
Encourage land uses that will draw Berkeley residents to downtown for shopping and other activities. Attract a major retail anchor (department store or shopping complex) to strengthen the retail sector and create a unique and successful downtown shopping environment.

Policy DT-82
Encourage intensive retail and entertainment uses to locate downtown. Ensure that zoning regulations for the, neighborhood commercial districts are more restrictive regarding regional uses (excluding South Berkeley) to encourage such businesses to locate in the downtown.

Policy DT-83
Improve the opportunity for downtown cultural activities. Encourage live performances, noon-time concerts and evening activities. Provide opportunities for Berkeley's craftspeople and artists. Improve and expand the existing arts and entertainment facilities.

Policy DT-84
Encourage residential development in and near downtown for a variety of social and income groups. Strongly encourage mixed use developments that include retail, residential, and office uses. Preserve, upgrade and develop low and moderate income downtown housing.

Policy DT-85
Offer development incentives (tax benefits, density bonuses) to encourage appropriate downtown development. Encourage changes in use to promote land uses more compatible with the establishment of a vital, pedestrian-oriented commercial center. Encourage auto repair shops, large printing facilities, surface parking lots, gas stations, auto sales and other industrial-oriented business to relocate to other parts of town.

Objective 2:
Focus development and new land uses in the center of downtown near transit facilities; minimize the impacts of development on adjacent neighborhoods by creating transitional buffer zones around the core

Policy DT-86
Cluster intense development activity in the central core area of the downtown, and locate transitional uses and moderately scaled buildings in buffer zones along the edge.

Policy DT-87
Protect neighborhoods from adverse traffic impacts and parking spillover.

Policy DT-88
Provide support facilities for the downtown core area uses in the adjacent buffer sub areas.

Policy DT-89
Encourage neighborhood-serving commercial services in the buffer areas.

Policy DT-90 Sub Area Policies:

Core Area

    * Focus development activity in the core area by permitting buildings to be taller and more dense than buildings in the buffer areas. See Table D-1 for maximum heights allowed with bonuses. Permit new construction up to 7 stories in specific locations in the core, and utilizing specific bonus provisions outlined on page.
    * Encourage the provision of off-site parking; discourage core development from providing on-site parking. Eliminate surface parking lots.
    * Permit demolition of small historically non-significant buildings in the core area if necessary to construct new buildings for a preferred use in the Downtown Plan. Discourage demolition of structures identified in the BAHA Historic Survey and designated through a public process as Landmarks, Significant Structures or Contributing Structures.
    * Encourage the development of small parcels within the core, as opposed to their assembly into larger parcels.
    * Create a pedestrian-oriented zone, by requiring retail or public uses at the ground floor of buildings.

Oxford Street Area

Increase the land use diversity in the area and encourage commercial businesses, restaurants, cultural uses and housing that serve both Downtown businesses and the campus community.

    * Strengthen the functional relationship between the campus and the downtown. Encourage special uses that link the campus and the Downtown such as cultural services, research and development offices, and commercial and business services.
    * Infill the existing gaps along the Oxford Edge to consolidate the downtown edge, while maintaining a sense of openness and visual access to the hills and campus to the east.
    * Target currently vacant and/or underutilized sites along the Oxford edge as possible locations for residential development, especially student housing.

Civic Center/West Buffer Area

    * Encourage cultural and community services to locate in the Veterans' Building.
    * Develop a design plan for Center Street to connect the Civic Center with BART and the Campus. (See Environmental Quality Element) Implement the Civic Center Urban Design Plan.
    * Find a location for a Youth Center in the Civic Center area. (See Social/Cultural Element)
    * Maintain Civic Center park as an open space.
    * Develop a parking facility in the area to prevent spillover into the adjacent neighborhood.

University Avenue/North Buffer Area

    * Encourage the concentrations of ethnic restaurants and stores emerging along University Avenue.
    * Ground floor frontage should be devoted to retail or restaurant use.

South Shattuck Area

    * As existing auto-oriented businesses relocate, guide changes in use to residential development with neighborhood-serving retail and commercial uses on ground floor.

North Shattuck Area

    * Encourage residential development, with neighborhood-serving retail and commercial uses on ground floor.

Downtown Sub-area Map

Table D-1

Base Height and FAR
Maximum Height and FAR
Bonus Available
Parking Req.
Parking Requirement
65' (5 stories)
87' (7 stories)
5:1 w/ 1 floor bonus
6:1 w/2 floor bonus


1 floor for 20,000 retail or 5,000 cultural (75')
2 floors for 50,000 retail or 10,000 cultural (87')

The base height and FAR s may be exceeded for project that provide Affordable housing, public transportation improvements, historic preservation improvements, public open space improvements, and/or significant seismic safety improvements.

The specific number of bonuses available to be determined in the C-2 Downtown Zoning Provisions.

1 space/unit for 1-4 unit bldg.
1 space/3 units for 5+ unit bldg.
1 space /4 beds or rooms for Student or SRO bldg.
1 space/8 rooms for SRO with common facilities.
1 space/ 3rooms + 1 per 3 employees for hotel.

See C-2 Zoning for Parking Requirements

Parking requirements may be satisfied with Parking In-lieu fee.

Standards may be amended in zoning.
1.5 spaces/1000 GSF or in-lieu fee:$12,000/space

No on site parking in Core for development on sites under 30,000 sq. ft.

Oxford Edge
40' (3 stories)
60' (5 stories)

If 75% of project is residential, then:
1 floor for 5,000 cultural, or
2 floors for 10,000 cultural
Same as Core
Same as core, except, 1 space for every 2 units in 5+unit bldgs.
1.5 spaces/1000 GSF or in-lieu fee:$12,000/space

40' (3 stories)
60' (5 stories)

If 75% of project is residential and only on Shattuck Avenue, then: Same as Oxford Edge.
Same as Oxford Edge
Same as Oxford Edge
40' (3 stories)
50' (4 stories)
If 75% of project is residential, then:
1 floor
Same as Core
Same as Oxford Edge
Same as Oxford Edge
North 2
40' (3 stories)
55' (5 stories)

If 75% residential, then:
1 floor
Same as Core
Same as Oxford Edge
Same as Oxford Edge
North 1
35' (3 stories)
50' (4 stories)
mixed use
Same as Base


Same as Core
Same as Oxford Edge
Same as Oxford Edge