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Department of Planning & Development
Department of Planning & Development

Physical Form


I. Strategic Statement

West Berkeley is a unique urban environment within Berkeley (and indeed the East
Bay). West Berkeley's built environment encompasses Berkeley's widest range of
building and site types--from massive "heavy" industries to single family houses on
small lots. It encompasses an equally wide range of building dates--from the 1870's to
the 1990's--the result of a virtually continuous process of building and rebuilding. West
Berkeley's built form is the product of decades of additions and subtractions, not of the
vision of single developer. This incrementally achieved richness should be conserved
and improved as West Berkeley continues to evolve.

West Berkeley is home to striking industrial architecture, historic Victorian homes, and
urbane new commercial buildings, as well as purely utilitarian structures and highway-
oriented "strips". Industrial West Berkeley's bold forms and sharp edges communicate a message of motion and machine force. Large low buildings on large sites give a
valuable sense of (relative) openness in industrial areas. By contrast, the dense weave
of smaller structures in mixed use areas convey the sense of a busy workshop. The
parks of West Berkeley--despite their deficiencies--are key open spaces softening the

The West Berkeley Plan's design and physical form policies accept and celebrate this
diversity of form and use, while recognizing that design can be improved within any
given use type and geographic area. On the physical level, the Plan seeks to integrate
historic preservation and urban design policies, not treat the two as separate issue areas.
On the functional level, the Plan's and the Element's policies seek to continue and
accentuate West Berkeley's history as a successful multi-ethnic, multiracial, industrially-
based community. The West Berkeley Plan's design and historic policies and programs
thus seek to preserve the historic and urban character of West Berkeley in the context of-
-not in opposition to--its land use and economic development goals. The Plan's premise
is that the character of West Berkeley is the product of West Berkeley's buildings and
landscapes, the activities carried on in and around the buildings and landscapes, and
the people who live and work here. Thus, the whole Plan--not just this Element is
broadly "preservationist," and clearly in contrast with the development path some Bay
Area communities have chosen.

Yet West Berkeley's urban landscape can be made better--more welcoming of walkers
and bicyclists, more gentle with trees and landscaping. The area does suffer from
certain problems in the built environment--from pedestrian-unfriendly commercial
areas, from unmarked gateways to the area which weaken its sense of place, from
overly harsh transitions between different types of areas, and from underutilized parks.
Moreover, while the great majority of West Berkeley buildings will remain over the
course of the Plan period, some new ones will be added, and some old ones subtracted,
and these changes must be integrated as much as possible into the West Berkeley urban
environment. These Plan policies therefore seek to further define and develop the urban
form of all parts of West Berkeley, to highlight West Berkeley's historic character,
revitalize its parks, organize its commercial corridors, intensify the use of commercial
nodes while making them more pleasant for pedestrians, and to improve the design of
new industrial, commercial, and residential buildings.

II. Background

A. West Berkeley's History

West Berkeley's history is intertwined with, yet clearly a quite distinct part of, the
broader history of Berkeley in the Bay Area. West Berkeley originated as the community
of Ocean View, separated by miles of fields from the Campus-based community of
"Berkeley." Oceanview and then West Berkeley was a working class community whose
residents held jobs in local factories, while "uptown" Berkeley was dominated by
academics and professionals. By the end of the 19th century, West Berkeley was a
predominantly immigrant community, but native born Whites dominated most of the
rest of Berkeley until World War II. Even today, the residents, jobs, and buildings of
West Berkeley are distinctive within Berkeley. Thus West Berkeley's history
demonstrates both tension with and participation in the broader city of Berkeley.

The periods of West Berkeley's history and development might very roughly be divided
into 6 major periods:

1) 1853-1878--Pre-incorporation--Initial Settlement of Ocean View
2) 1878-1906--"Nineteenth Century" Development;
3) 1906-1941--Twentieth Century Growth;
4) 1941-1945--World War II Boom
5) 1946-1978--Post-War Stability and Decline;
6) 1979-____Contemporary Restructuring and Resurgence

This section will outline key social, political, and architectural developments in each

1. 1853-1878--Pre-Incorporation--Initial Settlement of Ocean View

San Francisco was already an "instant city" of at least 50,000, and Oakland a budding
town when Oceanview's first American settlers arrived in 1853. Jacob's Wharf,
established in 1853 near the foot of Delaware St. was the port of entry into the
community. It was quickly followed by an inn, a grocery store, and a school (at the
Franklin School site). Ocean View in this period developed primarily in the area
between (current) Delaware St. and University Ave. It served as an agricultural and
industrial (and commercial) center, supplying San Francisco and Oakland. In 1860, the
area reported 69 residents, most of them working on area farms. By 1874, there was a
horsedrawn stage connecting Ocean View and Berkeley.

Ocean View was also an industrial center virtually from its beginning. The first factory-
-the Pioneer Starch and Grist Mill--opened in 1855. It would be joined by enterprises
such as a soap plant and a gunpowder maker. Industrial development got further
boosts with the 1876 development of a "shoreline railroad" (the current SP mainline) and
of gas mains in 1877 (well before central Berkeley got this service).

Few structures from this era remain. One which does is Higgins' Grocery at 834
Delaware--a simple 2 story redwood building which originally served as both inn and
grocery store. The storefront now occupied by the Carpet Center (875 University) dates
from an 1875 commercial development.

2. 1878-1906--"Nineteenth Century" Development

Oceanview's decision in 1878 to jointly incorporate as a city with Campus-based
Berkeley (which was also then unincorporated) would profoundly shape its history. It
may seem odd that Ocean View chose to incorporate with another community with
clearly different residents some 2 miles away. In the 1870's--before electric trolleys or
automobiles linked the two areas the separation was substantial. The communities
decided to join forces in part because they both feared being absorbed into Oakland,
which was seeking to annex the area. Community leaders also sought improved water
service, sewers, and law enforcement. However, the joint incorporation initiated an era
in which East and West Berkeley fought over how taxes should be levied and used,
where City Hall should be located, and to what extent alcohol should be regulated. East
Berkeleyans attempted to impose local prohibition on Berkeley in 1899, and were
successful in doing so in 1909 (ultimately the prohibition grew so stringent that Oakland
grocery stories could not deliver alcohol to Berkeley customers). The City Hall building,
for example, was physically moved several times until settling in its current Downtown
location, considered to be "neutral" territory between East and West.

West Berkeley's economic development accelerated in this period, as its industrial life
came increasingly to overshadow (but not completely eliminate) its agricultural life.
Improved transportation was a significant factor--the building of a railroad station in
1878 at Delaware St. (which would later be joined by Corbin Station north of Gilman)
was an important stimulus. Even more important was the 1891 opening of an electric
trolley line on San Pablo Ave., followed by a line on 9th St. (the reason for that street's
great width). 1891 also saw the inauguration of trolley service on University Ave., but
east-west routes were never as important to West Berkeley as north-south ones. New
and expanded enterprises included a lumber yard with a pier 1/3 of a mile long for
shipping lumber, the Manassee Tannery, and a cement works. By the end of the period,
Cutter Labs and California Ink (now Flint Ink) had begun to establish their
manufacturing on their current sites. A very few other West Berkeley businesses can
trace their origins to this era--Spenger's began frying fish (at its current location) in the
late 1880's.

West Berkeley's population grew with its economy. By 1900, the area's population had
reached 1,544, or about 12% of the city's 13,000+ population (West Berkeley today
represents 7% of Berkeley's population). In that year, for the first time, a majority of the
West Berkeley population was foreign born--including Finns, other Scandinavians, and
Germans. Just as today West Berkeley has the city's most diverse population, it was in
the late 19th and early 20th Century the center of the foreign-born population.

Incorporation was thus followed by both residential and industrial growth. In 1874, the
Berkeley Land Title and Improvement Association was formed to sell lots in West
Berkeley, but the promotion had little success until 1878. But the succeeding years saw
a proliferation of Victorian cottages, as well as a few grander structures. One modest
cottage is the Italianite 2105 5th, erected in 1886. Twin to its southerly neighbor, in the
1890's it housed Thomas F. Dowd, an English immigrant framemaker and Berkeley
town trustee from the 6th Ward. 5th St., 6th St., and the block of Delaware between 5th
and 6th are particularly rich in homes from this era. Perhaps the grandest structure of
the era is the currently abandoned Niehaus House at 7th & Channing. Built in 1889 on a
lot originally incorporating a full block, the flamboyant woodwork advertised the
products of Niehaus' planing mill a few blocks away. The late 19th Century also
generated the Gothic spires of St. Procopius' Church at 8th & Hearst, and Church of the
Good Shepherd at 9th & Hearst. Changing technological needs has all but eliminated
factory buildings from the period, although there are some remaining portions from
California Ink's original plant.

3. 1906-1941: 20th Century Growth

West Berkeley became an integral industrial and residential part of the Bay Area
metropolis in the early 20th Century. As noted above, the early 20th Century saw
growth in West Berkeley even before the 1906 earthquake. Expanding industries were
relocating from San Francisco to the East Bay shore, with Standard Oil's development of
a "new town" of Richmond being the most spectacular example. But the 1906 San
Francisco earthquake and fire spurred greatly accelerated economic and population
growth. Berkeley's population more than tripled between 1900 and 1910, from
approximately 13,000 to some 40,000, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the
country (no separate figures are available for West Berkeley, but numerous houses were built here in this period). Berkeley was the region's booming fringe suburb. Over 30 factories were constructed in Berkeley in the 3 months after the earthquake (Macaulay Foundry is one example). The Census of Manufactures found 84 factories in 1909.

Rapid although somewhat slowed growth continued between 1910 and 1930. Berkeley's population doubled again by 1930 to 82,000, when West Berkeley reached 5,900. By 1929, there were 173 manufacturers with some 3,400 production workers (the available employment statistic). It was in this era that national manufacturers such as Colgate, Heinz, and Durkee Foods established their California branches in Berkeley (earlier firms were usually locally based).

Many of the buildings of this era remain today. The added factories filled what was
then the waterfront (well east of today's shoreline) and blocks along railroad tracks and
spurs. The Pfister Knitting (1906), Kawneer (1913), and Heinz Buildings (1929) are all
landmark-designated examples of the industrial growth of the era. The area west of 7th
St. between Dwight and Heinz--the Plan's Mixed Manufacturing District--was first
developed in this era as "an early industrial park". Although residential growth was
somewhat scattered, and not in large scale tracts, 1900-1910 saw substantial
development in the University-Dwight and Grayson- Heinz areas. By the 1920's
homebuilding had moved north and become more systematic--19 of the 25 houses on
assessor's block 2125 (9th-10th, Virginia- Cedar) were built between 1919 and 1928.
Hundreds of these "workingmen's homes" from these decades survive in West Berkeley, forming the fabric of most of residential West Berkeley. 2515-27 10th St., for example, is an intact group of "Mission cottages" built between 1925 and 1935. Yet not all were owner-occupied: the 1940 Census found virtually an even split between owners and renters in West Berkeley.

Socially, West Berkeley was dominated by White working class immigrants, but not by
any one nationality. Over time, Italians and Mexicans (counted as White in the 1940
Census) joined the Finns and Northern Europeans who dominated earlier. However,
the Non-White population in 1940 was less than 3% of West Berkeley's total.

Some of the Finns gathered at Finn Hall at 1819 10th St., later known as Finnish
Comrades Hall, after non-communist Finns split and established another hall. Others
worshipped at the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church on Channing between 8th and
9th. Another kind of gathering place were the backyard public saunas which some
Finns established in this pre-zoning era. Finns would later play an important role in
founding the Berkeley Coop grocery.

Yet while all parts of Berkeley benefited (in that era's perception) from growth, political
issues remained between West and East Berkeley. West Berkeley made a serious,
though unsuccessful attempt to secede from Berkeley in 1908. One major reason for the effort was its incorporation in the "reform" City Charter of 1909 of a complete
prohibition on bars and alcohol sales in Berkeley, more than a decade before national
prohibition. The new Charter also replaced 7 ward representatives on the City Council
with 5 at large ones. Even as the Charter was approved by voters Citywide, West
Berkeleyans voted it down. Political differences were again highlighted in 1911, when
Socialist J. Stitt Wilson was elected Mayor on the strength of winning every precinct
west of Shattuck Ave.

The Depression of the 1930's reversed industrial growth--production employment in
manufacturing shrank. But to compensate for the economic slowdown, the federal
government sponsored many important public projects. Aquatic Park was created this
way, as was the Eastshore Highway and the Ashby Ave. extension and University Ave.
overpass which accessed it.

4. 1941-45--World War II Boom

World War II was a critical event in the Bay Area generally, and West Berkeley
specifically. The War vastly increased the population of the Bay Area, brought large
numbers of African-Americans to the region for the first time, and greatly strengthened
its industrial base. West Berkeley participated in this boom as an integral part of an
East Bay industrial belt now stretching virtually unbroken from East Oakland to
Richmond. Berkeley, however, did not suffer the massive overcrowding and strain on
public facilities that plagued mushrooming cities such as Richmond and Vallejo. A new
"Shoreline Railway" from West Oakland to the Richmond shipyards was opened, using
recycled New York City elevated train cars to carry its passengers. The War resulted in
the development of the last undeveloped areas of West Berkeley--generally north of
Gilman St. and around the newly extended (to the Eastshore Highway) Ashby Ave.,
where Potter Creek was still open.

The War produced instant industrial and residential growth in West Berkeley. The
building which now houses Weatherford BMW at the foot of Potter St. was built in 1942
by the U.S. Navy as a foundry making parts for the Richmond shipyards. Other already
established industries--such as Pacific Steel Castings and Berkeley Steel Construction
(now Berkeley Forge & Tool) near 2nd and Gilman--expanded dramatically to meet
wartime needs. West Berkeley's manufacturers generally boomed on the strength of
wartime orders.

West Berkeley's population jumped from 6,100 in 1940 to over 8,200 in 1944, with much of the gain being in Codornices Village 1, wartime housing adjacent to Albany Village. The war's presence was also felt at 9th & Ashby, where Camp Ashby was established as a training site for Black soldiers in their segregated units. More permanently, the War established West Berkeley's first large African-American community. West Berkeley's 1940 population was only 2% Black, and still had substantial contingents of "foreign born Whites", especially Italians, Mexicans, and Finns. Codornices Village where many of the blacks lived was originally to be closed to blacks (as many wartime projects were). However, pressure from the Berkeley Interracial Committee, backed by Governor Earl Warren, opened it to them. Blacks faced equally difficult conditions in the private housing market, where then legal restrictive covenants prevented blacks from buying, and many landlords openly discriminated against black would-be renters. By 1950, the area was 30% Black, a proportion it has more than maintained ever since.

5. 1945-1978--Post War Stability and Decline

The post-war era brought stability to West Berkeley manufacturing, but change to its
population. West Berkeley was now a mature area--not part of the (then) declining
regional core, but certainly no longer on the suburban fringe. Manufacturing
employment and (real dollar) value added would continue to rise through the Census
of Manufactures of 1972. There was substantial industrial building in the late 1940's and 1950's, though by the 1960's construction had declined. West Berkeley's residential population became increasingly African-American, with a Black majority found in 1970 and 1980. In this period, the City Council (and some others) increasingly perceived West Berkeley as blighted and in need of redevelopment, occasioning many political struggles.

Throughout this period, there were battles over what parts of West Berkeley would be
designated for industry, what parts for residences. These battles were presumably
spurred by the fact that--for the first time in West Berkeley--there were no more
undeveloped areas. The relative economic strength of industry in the period, and
economic weakness of the residential sector also probably spurred the calls for
industrial expansion.

From the late 1940's through the mid-1950's West Berkeley manufacturers sought to
have parts of the residential area south of University Ave. zoned for manufacturing. In
1955, when Berkeley's first Master Plan was passed, the City opted for a more modest approach--designating the area between 4th and 6th Streets as a Special (light) Industrial zone. At the same time, however, the Council approved the demolition of Codornices Village's wartime housing, removing over 1,000 rental units with over 3,500 residents. The Council argued that the land was needed for industrial expansion, but some felt the fact that Codornices tenants were largely Black spurred the demolition. The issue was again joined in 1967 when the City, led by manufacturer Mayor Wallace Johnson designated the "West Berkeley Industrial Park". This issue continue to play itself out into the 1980's and is discussed under the next historical period.

The strength of manufacturing in Berkeley was apparent in this period. The number of
plants grew from 187 in 1947 to 263 in 1963, declining to 231 by 1972. In 1967, the peak year for large plants, 86 reported employing 20 or more. In 1964, Berkeley geographer James Vance wrote that the region's growth industries were the East Bay's industries. Residentially, small (often 5-9 unit) apartment buildings dominated constructed in this era. West Berkeley was in part reshaped by the wave of low rise apartment building which swept the East Bay between roughly 1955 and 1965. In 1967, West Berkeley's residential core was downzoned from R-4 (multi-family) to R1-A (limited two family).
Rezoning to R-2--as part of a Flatlands-wide downzoning--had been recommended in
1962 by the City Planning Department, but action here was delayed. The area between Delaware St. and Dwight Way, from 6th St. to San Pablo Ave. had the most apartment construction. Ethnically, West Berkeley was 46% Black in 1960, more so in 1970 (Census errors invalidate West Berkeley's statistics in that year). The West Berkeley Neighborhood Plan proposed in 1967 called for creation of service facilities such as the West Berkeley Senior Center and placement of traffic diverters. Much of the plan was realized.

This era was architecturally dominated by "modernist" ideas. Stylistically, buildings
were radically simplified in the effort to achieve the pure functionality much valued in
this era. One notable industrial building is Takara Sake's off 4th & Addison, built for
Challenge Butter & Cream in 1947 in streamline moderne style. Other industrial
building examples from the period include the reinforced concrete buildings on the
Colgate site, constructed between 1946 and 1960. The unusual round building occupied by Berkeley Equipment Rental (2747 San Pablo Ave., near Grayson) was built in 1952 as a Mel's Drive In. Allston House at 2121 7th (near Addison) is a 1967 publicly assisted (but privately owned) apartment house.

6. 1979-____ - Contemporary Restructuring and Resurgence

The most recent phase of West Berkeley's history has been marked by major changes in the nature of the area, although many continuities remain. This "period" brings us to
the circumstances which generated the need for the West Berkeley Plan. The
manufacturing base has shrunk, though it remains substantial with many strong firms.
New commercial areas, largely catering to regional shoppers arriving by Freeway, have developed. West Berkeley has increasingly gained an image as a desirable place to live, with predictable effects on housing prices. In this context, unsubsidized housing development has largely shifted to owner-occupied housing, although some live-work rental units have been created. Clearly, the "history" of this period is not over -- the West Berkeley Plan itself will be a part of it.

Changing political, social, and economic conditions changed the directions of City
policy. In 1979 (and again in 1982) the City Council amended the West Berkeley
Redevelopment Plan from a strictly industrial to a mixed-use orientation. New low
income housing was built, and most remaining historic housing in the Redevelopment
Area was rehabilitated, although not without generating new industrial-residential
issues. This era's issues increasingly became how vacated industrial sites should be
reused, rather than what non-manufacturing areas should be designated for industrial
expansion. Indeed, the mid-1980's reuse of the large former Durkee Foods site near 7th & Heinz primarily for office and laboratory uses pointed up the need for area-wide
planning policies, and led to the initiation of this West Berkeley Plan.

The volume of new building in the last 15 years has not been as large as in the
preceding decades. Perhaps future historians will judge it to be of higher quality--
certainly contemporary architects have had more complex, decorative, and historically
minded intentions than their immediate predecessors. One notable public building is
1981's West Berkeley Senior Center. San Pablo Avenue received a rare infusion of new retail space with the development of a gourmet food "mini-mall" at the corner of Cedar.
Industrial development has been relatively limited, though a number of companies
have added to their facilities. Two major examples have been Pacific Steel Casting's
Plant #3 (1979) at 2nd & Camelia, and a research and development facility at Miles
(1985). Much of the period's architectural activity has been in the reuse of old buildings
at sites such as 4th St. Center (4th north of Hearst), Parker Plaza (9th & Parker), in the
remaining Durkee Building (Heinz west of 7th) and Acme Bakery at 9th & Pardee.
By historical standards, there has been relatively little residential building in this period.
Publicly assisted housing and live-work have been the leading forms. Live-work spaces were initially created by conversion of industrial buildings, but are increasingly created through new construction. There have also been a few conventional residential
condominiums built.

This Element now looks at what the juxtaposition of these variegated buildings, the
streets they are on, and the open spaces between them have made as the physical form of contemporary West Berkeley.

Major Historic Documentation
Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association
    State Historic Resources Inventory (unpublished, Berkeley, 1979)
Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association
    Discovering West Berkeley--A Self-Guided Tour (Berkeley, 1987)
Warren Campbell
    Berkeley Downzones the Flatlands (Syracuse, 1973)
Warren Campbell
    Berkeley Initiates a Master Plan (Syracuse, 1973)
City of Berkeley, Planning Department
    Historical Trends in Population and Housing Characteristics, Berkeley, 1940,
    1950, 1960, 1970 (Berkeley, 1972)
Lawrence Crouchett, Lonnie G. Burke III, Martha Kendall Winnacker
    Visions Toward Tomorrow--The History of the East Bay Afro-American
    Community, 1852-1977 (Oakland, 1989)
Karen Jorgenson-Ismaili
    A History of West Berkeley (Berkeley, 1983)
Harriet Nathan & Stanley Scott, editors
    Experiment and Change in Berkeley, Essays on City Politics, 1950 to 1975 (Berkeley,
George Pettit
    Berkeley: A History (Oakland, 1977)
W.J. Rorabaugh
    Berkeley at War (New York, 1989)
Sanborn Map Company
    Berkeley Fire Insurance Maps (Chicago, 1903, 1911, 1929)
United States Bureau of the Census
    1940 Census of Population and Housing (Washington)
United States Bureau of the Census
    Census of Manufactures, Census of Manufacturing (various years, 1899 to 1987)
James Vance
    Geography and Urban Evolution in the Bay Area (Berkeley, 1964)
Mark Wilson with photographs by Monica Lee
    A Living Legacy--Historic Architecture of the East Bay (San Francisco, 1987)
Charles Wollenberg
    Vista College Berkeley history lectures, 1988
Writers Project of the Works Projects Administration
    Berkeley--The First 75 Years (Berkeley, 1941)

Figure 4-1: West Berkeley Landmarks (PDF 30.50KB) 

B. West Berkeley's Places--An Overview of Subareas and Strategic Locales

The various land uses, scales of building, street grids, histories, and levels of traffic, and density of tree cover in different subareas of West Berkeley give them distinctly
different urban design characters. These existing conditions form the context for both
public and private development of buildings, street improvements, and other
constructions. This analysis now highlights some of the major conditions and issues
throughout West Berkeley by looking at 5 types of areas. Obviously, there are internal
differences within the areas--this section seeks to capture the major features and issues in each. It is acknowledged that, because the conscious shaping of all of West Berkeley as a physical unit is a relatively new activity, and because this Plan divides West Berkeley in a new way, there remains much analytical work to be done for these areas.

The 5 major area types are:

  1. Commercial nodes--Areas of commercial concentration such as 4th & Hearst,
    University & San Pablo
  2. Entry Corridors--such as the University Ave. gateway and other Freeway exits
  3. Mixed use/Residential --districts along 5th St. and around Grayson St.
  4. Industrial areas--general industrial districts (the Manufacturing and Mixed
    Manufacturing Districts) and the Mixed Use/Light Industrial districts.
  5. Residential Core--The districts with Residential (R) zoning.

This section describes existing physical conditions and suggests problems or issues, and opportunities for physical action in various of the subareas of West Berkeley. Because of the large size of West Berkeley and the many distinct areas within it (described below), this section does not attempt to describe existing physical conditions across the whole of West Berkeley. However, the Goals and Policies section does develop concepts to link all of West Berkeley together as a physical unit (without losing subarea distinctiveness). These concepts are based on the issues and opportunities identified for specific areas in this section of the Element.

Figure 4-2: Physical Form Subareas of West Berkeley (PDF 29.71KB) 

1. Commercial Nodes

The commercial nodes--the concentrated retail districts and those locations which could become such--are undoubtedly special places within West Berkeley. A commercial node is defined as a commercial area small enough for people to comfortably walk around in (thus we treat University at 4th and at San Pablo as 2 separate nodes). The nodes serve as places where West Berkeley residents gather, and which attract non- residents to the community. For many people, they symbolize the physical character of West Berkeley. Developing concentrated, compact commercial districts serves both the Plan's land use goals--creating a district that can be served by transit and centralized parking, preventing retail from sprawling into areas needed by industrial uses--and physical goals such as creating areas enjoyable for people to walk around in. In addition, most of the commercial nodes have important historic elements, giving them the potential to be places where large numbers of people can learn of West Berkeley's history. The commercial nodes are thus deserving of special attention in crafting an urban design concept for West Berkeley.

One proposal this Element makes--building off the Preferred Land Use Concept--for all nodes is to require retail as the ground floor use in the nodes, allowing a variety of
upper story uses. This requirement will strengthen the nodes and prevent the intrusion
of uses (e.g. a monolithic office building) which break up the node's streetlife.

a. San Pablo & University

San Pablo and University is the crossroads of West Berkeley--where its 2 busiest streets, its 2 busiest bus lines come together. Yet the blocks around this busy intersection also form the one true neighborhood-oriented commercial district in West Berkeley (although many stores also attract a regional clientele). Developed initially in the early 20th Century trolley era, the district has often suffered difficulty competing and social problems in the automobile age.

There are no precise borders to the district, since commercial zoning stretches in both
directions for blocks along San Pablo and University. Uninterrupted retail stores reach
north along San Pablo to Hearst, south to Addison and just past, east perhaps 1/2 block along University (to the West Berkeley Library) and west to about 9th St. (Freight & Salvage is an outlying "retail" site on Addison east of San Pablo). Within the area one finds a small general grocery, groceries specialized by ethnicity, groceries specialized by type of food sold (cheese, canned goods), a post office, a drug store, a bank and a check cashing company, low-priced restaurants and thrift stores, as well as a stationery store and an artists supply store. The University to Addison block of San Pablo has continuous 1 to 2 story retail frontage, is the heart of the neighborhood serving business district, and clearly attracts the most pedestrian traffic. Property owners have made little attempt to highlight the distinctive brick and wood facades, even on the landmark drug store at the southeast corner of University and San Pablo. Scattered properties have upper story uses--an apartment building at 1970 San Pablo, upstairs offices on University between 9th and 10th, but these are relatively rare.

Perhaps nowhere else in West Berkeley is the physical gap between the real and the
ideal more clear. Yet the challenge for redesigning the district will be to make it
physically more pleasant, without driving away the low-moderate income clientele it
largely serves. One recent important interior improvement was made by the bulk grocer Smart & Final, which removed the false ceiling covering the magnificent 1920's theatre ceiling of what was then the Rialto Theatre. Developing further appropriate approaches for the area will take careful analysis, but some preliminary ideas can be suggested.

Plugging the "hole" at the northeast corner of University & San Pablo (left by the
vacation of the Chevron station and the scuba shop) with a strong, street oriented
building is a clear priority. As of August, 1993, retail development has been approved
for the site, but construction is projected to proceed in phases. Encouraging new
housing through methods such as modified parking requirements will be important at
this node. Slowing traffic on these major arterials will be difficult, but if any methods
(through additional traffic signals or other means) could be found, it would no doubt
improve the "ambience" of the area. Improved bus shelters--perhaps with historical or
artistic posters--would be very valuable at this main transfer point. Facade
improvement projects could be quite important here. Billboards which loom over the
intersection could perhaps be removed.

b. 4th & University/Hearst

The 4th & University/Hearst commercial area sits at Oceanview's historic center, but
has been substantially renewed in recent years. Although the area is functionally an
"island", largely surrounded by industrial uses, it is internally a quite pedestrian
friendly shopping area. Its mix of old and new buildings, small and large shops, many
with comfortable "street furniture", has proven very attractive to shoppers and diners
from throughout the East Bay.

Locationally, retail and restaurant uses of various types are strongly present along both
sides of 4th St. from the former right-of-way of Delaware St. (and just beyond) across
University Ave. to Addison St. The West Berkeley Plan seeks to also "loop" the retail
district down Addison St., past tourist attracting Takara Sake, and across the railroad
tracks to the entrance to Aquatic Park. In addition, the Truitt & White lumber sales
complex along 2nd St. between University and (old) Delaware seems linked to 4th St.

Each main retail block of 4th St. has a different commercial and physical character. The Delaware-Hearst block is largely taken up by a complex of small boutiques, restaurants, and home goods stores, with offices above them. The 2 story stucco-sided buildings are a carefully designed blend of rehabilitated and new structures. The neo-classically styled Ghego House on this block, built by the politically prominent Heywood family in 1877, has been rehabilitated for retail and housing use.

The next Hearst-University block is almost totally dominated by the centenarian
Spenger's Restaurant on one side, its full block parking lot on the other (with the
modern Nature Company occupying one corner). Although Spenger's has several
building styles--as the complex has been expanded over the decades--and entrances, it is a large scale use, listed as one of the 10 largest restaurants in America. To the west of this block, at the 3rd St. railroad track & University, is the shelter structure currently serving as Berkeley's train station, and terminus for 3 bus routes (and soon to be a stop on the Gateway employee shuttle). The City is seeking funds to improve, and ultimately replace the train station.

To the south, past a rather discouraging passage under the University Ave. viaduct, is
the University-Addison block of generally mid-sized stores and restaurants set amidst
parking lots. The west side houses the stucco box of Brennan's, a decades old bar and--along the train track--the Mission Revival style China Station restaurant, built in 1913 as Southern Pacific's Berkeley mainline station.

Despite the success of the area, physical improvements here are possible and useful.
One example is a revived train station. With the current expansion of rail service on the
San Jose-Sacramento corridor, it is possible to build a new train station which will be an anchor and itself a gateway to West Berkeley. The Redevelopment Agency is planning to highlight a pedestrian path from the district up 5th St. to Cedar, to more closely link the area to surrounding residential uses. There is little travel between 4th St. and the Delaware St. Historic District, only one block, where commercial activity has been much lower. Signs for historic buildings and sites would help highlight the past of this oldest of West Berkeley districts. The area is close to the Waterfront and Marina, but it is very difficult to reach them except by car, since the pedestrian/bicycle path is circuitous and even dangerous.

c. 7th & Ashby

The 7th & Ashby area is the newest, and perhaps most unconventional, commercial
node in West Berkeley. Dominated by just 2 major retailers (Whole Earth Access and
Weatherford BMW) with Ashby Lumber just across Ashby Ave., the area has begun to
attract smaller retailers--and is linked to San Pablo & Ashby by the massive Heinz
Building. Retailing here functions not in the purpose built structures found on San
Pablo Ave. or even 4th St., but in converted industrial buildings--creating such unusual
features as an auto dealership with vast high ceilings. 7th & Ashby to date has
provided little in the way of amenities, and has indeed lacked even such usual basics as sidewalks (with public rights of way normally used for sidewalks devoted to parking
here). Nonetheless, with its strategic location, and despite traffic problems worse than
those experienced at any other West Berkeley node, the area seems poised for future

Functionally, the borders of the 7th & Ashby commercial area is still being determined.
The West Berkeley Plan defines the commercial district as extending from roughly 9th
St. on the east to the 3rd St. railroad tracks on the west, from Anthony St. on the north
to Ashby Ave. on the south (not all of that area is designated commercial). The building
materials merchants south of Ashby Ave. (such as Macbeath Hardwood) identify
themselves as primarily wholesalers, and thus preferred to be in the more appropriate
Light Industrial district, though there is presumably some relationship with such
businesses as Orchard Supply Hardware north of Ashby. The "Durkee" Aquatic Park
office complex is on the fringe of the retail district.

Since 7th & Ashby is now, in name and in fact, a commercial district, it should be
appropriately equipped as one, and no longer viewed as an industrial area. Analysis is
beginning to see if consolidated parking is need for the area, and where such parking
should be if needed. A traffic signal is being installed at 7th & Anthony, with another
planned at 9th & Ashby, to improve traffic circulation in the area. Pedestrian
movement across 7th St. at Potter--typically from one part of Whole Earth Access to
another--must be improved. Basic sidewalks through the area--to encourage pedestrians to walk from one place to another (and "external" destinations such as the Heinz Building)--must be created. In another vein, a historic marker for Camp Ashby--the all-Black World War II training camp--would be appropriate.

d. Other San Pablo Ave. nodes

Along San Pablo Ave., the intersections of Gilman St., Dwight Way, and Ashby Ave. are commercial nodes--to some extent actual nodes, to some extent potential ones. Each of these major streets has a bus line serving it, has commercially designated area to the west of San Pablo Ave. (although none to the east beyond the 100 foot wide commercial zone.) and has existing commercial uses and buildings. Gilman and Ashby have freeway exit traffic. Dwight is close to the concentrated office-based employment along 9th St. of Parker Plaza and Fantasy Records. In the context of the San Pablo Ave. "strip," each already represents an upwelling of retail stores amidst generally non-retail uses (although the distinction is least clear at Gilman). Ashby and Dwight are far from competing retail nodes (with 7th & Ashby apparently complementing San Pablo), while Gilman has a small one east of Santa Fe Avenue. These nodes are thus good sites to encourage further retail, housing, and office use.

The nodes extend roughly 1 block north and south of their main intersection on San
Pablo, and 1 to 2 short blocks west on the east-west street. The precise configuration
varies--at Dwight, for example, continuous retail frontage extends almost 2 blocks south on the west side of San Pablo Ave., but is blocked almost immediately to the north by auto repair and residential buildings without commercial uses. The Ashby node arguably extends across the Heinz building towards the 7th & Ashby concentration.
Uses at the nodes vary--Dwight and Gilman have several restaurants, Ashby and
Gilman now have drug stores, Gilman has entertainment uses of various kinds. None
have a full range of neighborhood serving uses--for example none has a full line grocery store of any size (though Gilman does currently have a fish market and Dwight a produce market).

Many of the same measures which could aid University & San Pablo could aid these
nascent nodes as well. Facade improvement programs, improved street furniture, and
improved linkages to their retail "watersheds" (through means such as routes planted
with "signature" trees) would aid these districts as well. Gilman and Ashby are likely to
provide the most opportunities for positive new developments, while Dwight has the
most buildings which already contribute.

2. West Berkeley's Entry Corridors

The points of entry and the passages leading from them (by road or other means) into a city or an area are critical in establishing a locality's identity. These gateways and entry corridors are the first sight a visitor arriving in the city sees. They are areas of
transition, places which communities use to highlight their identity. Doing so can build
community pride and strengthen community image, which perhaps can be translated
into retail sales and other economic activity in the community. The ways communities
mark their gateways are various--San Leandro has built a monumental gateway
structure at the entrance to the city on East 14th St., while Oakland has erected
oversized Welcome to Oakland signs (with the City's logo) at various entry points. The
Lorin District signs and historic African-American figures banners on Adeline St. mark
both a gateway and a commercial area. The multilingual "Welcome" banners which
were hung on University Ave. are in part a gateway-marking effort. In the 1920's, San
Pablo Ave. just north of University sported a gateway arch, with arrows pointing east
towards Downtown Berkeley and west towards "Industrial District".

This section discusses West Berkeley's major entry corridors, which also serve as the
entrances into Berkeley as a whole, and how they might be improved. The ideas
expressed on specific actions to improve the corridors are preliminary, and are expected to change.

a. University Ave.--The Major Gateway

University Ave. has almost always been the primary western gateway into West
Berkeley and Berkeley. With the viaduct over the railroad tracks giving one an aerial
view of central West Berkeley, it is easy to gain a sense of entry on University Ave.
With a railroad station, University is the only western gateway for the non-motorized
traveler. University leads into old Oceanview, to the University & San Pablo node, and
beyond through central Berkeley.

University as a gateway clearly divides at 6th St., the westernmost intersection where
overpass users can turn off into West Berkeley (the viaduct "touches down" just east of
5th St.). East of 6th, University Ave. becomes one of the denser commercial stretches in West Berkeley, with a new 2 story "shopping center" between 7th and 8th on the north side, a large scale motel on the south side of that block, and the UA Homes (residential hotel) between 9th and 10th, among other uses leading to the San Pablo commercial node. Beyond San Pablo, development on the street thins out, although there is not the sharp "industrial" to single family residential transition found on Gilman and Ashby. University is clearly the aesthetically strongest of the 3 major gateway streets.
Strengthening the streetwall of buildings as additional properties redevelop is one
design consideration. Coordinated tree planting could also reinforce University's
image. If the historic San Pablo/University gateway were restored it would point out
University's gateway role, although less grandiose signage could also serve this

b. Ashby Ave.--Southern Entry

Ashby Ave. is an increasingly important route, especially into West Berkeley. Yet, other
than glimpses of Aquatic Park and dramatic buildings like Weatherford BMW and the
Heinz Building (sharing space with some undistinguished ones), there is little to
highlight this gateway into the city. There is no landscaping along the street, have
never been any banners, and are many buildings which turn their backs to the street.
Ashby has the longest route across Berkeley of the 3 entry streets, and connects to other regional routes. Yet much of West Berkeley Ashby is in an underpass (from the railroad tracks to just west of 7th St.), limiting its power as a portal there.

The only entry corridor with different land use districts on its northern and southern
sides, Ashby presents unusual problems in developing a coherent character. Ashby
probably presents more difficulties because it is not part of the oldest street grid of West Berkeley, but was extended in the late 1930's, giving it less time to develop character, and creating oddly shaped blocks. Despite these problems of physical setting and contrasting uses, there is potential for visual and physical improvement of the street. This work should clearly proceed in conjunction with work in the 7th & Ashby district.

c. Gilman St.--Industrial Entry Corridor

Gilman St. is an important route into West Berkeley for the Manufacturing District, and
a large part of the Light Industrial district, as well as for North Berkeley generally. The
West Berkeley Plan's land use concept designates Gilman St. west of 10th primarily for
industrial (and secondarily for office) uses. Likely to become more important in the
future, with the development of the University's 12 acres of Harrison lands, Gilman
must be recognized as a key industrial,/corridor. The Gilman Freeway exits, unlike
University or Ashby deposit the driver at street level, in a somewhat confused
intersection. Crossing the tracks is followed by the landmark and visually distinctive
Tannery complex. This "gate" is the entry to "West Berkeley." It is followed by a series
of generally industrial buildings which--in their utilitarian lack of obvious effort to
appeal to passers by--may seem monotonous, but actually vary in materials used,
height, roofline, window treatment, and other aspects. At San Pablo Ave., one passes
from the industrial zone to an area of small houses.

How can Gilman be improved as an entry corridor, while recognizing that it is to
remain an industrial corridor? Many of the answers may simply involved improved
design of both private sites and the public right-of-way. New buildings can come
forward on their properties to strengthen the "street wall" of buildings where it exists
and shape a new one where it does not. This can be done without a loss of industrial
utility (as the many existing "street-holding" industrial buildings demonstrate).
Buildings need not be retail sites to "turn their faces"--their doors and windows--to
Gilman St. They need not present a blank wall or parking lot on Gilman, as some of the
newer buildings east of 6th St. do. Even industrial buildings can at least in part "turn
their faces" to Gilman St. rather than side streets or parking lots. Gilman may be a
situation where greater design uniformity--similar setbacks, heights, landscaping, etc.--
may improve the image of the street, since present diversity is not perceived positively.

3. The Mixed Use/Residential Districts

The Mixed Use/Residential districts are among the most urbanistically and historically
interesting and complex in West Berkeley. They consist primarily of a highly unusual
mix of moderately scaled light industrial uses (with occasional larger scale plants) with
residential ones. Their complexity is the product of successive periods of
predominantly residential development, followed by mostly industrial development,
and most recently residential and live/work development again. Once thought of as
among the city's least desirable locales, these areas are becoming increasingly sought
after. This complexity, along with the renewed sense of desirability of the area, means
that the area requires particular sensitivity in new development (see Goal D).

Most of the area designated Mixed Use/Residential (MU/R) is within the existing
Special Industrial (SI) district, a fact which has shaped its development. The MU/R
district stretches from Camelia St. to Dwight Way (interrupted by University Avenue's
commercial zone), from 4th St. or the 4th / 5th midblock line to 6th St (covering all or
part of 23 blocks here). Between Camelia and Dwight, 5th St. is the one street almost
entirely zoned Mixed Use/Residential and best reflects its character. The other MU/R
district takes in all or part of 12 square blocks between 7th and the San Pablo
commercial strip, Carleton and Heinz St.'s (currently zoned M). The portion of the
MU/R between University and Cedar St. is in the West Berkeley Redevelopment Area.

The area is characterized by intense of lots in the context of modestly scaled
development. Buildings--especially industrial buildings--typically cover most of their
(usually rather small) lot, with no or minimal front yards. Even many houses have
essentially no front yard or only a few feet of setback. Building heights are most
commonly 1 and 2 stories, although such structures as De Soto, Libby Labs, and some
large houses are taller. Most blocks have a mix of uses and periods of building such
that no single building style predominates. Exceptions are the Victorian buildings that
have been regathered on the Delaware Street Historic District on Delaware St. between
5th and 6th St. (though these have modern housing behind them) and small groups of
Victorian/Edwardian houses in locations such as Camelia St. near 5th.

The area's physical character is generally perceived as pleasant, though opportunities
for improvement remain. In the Redevelopment Area (as noted above), 5th St. is
scheduled to be improved as a strengthened pedestrian axis to the 4th St. commercial
area, with installation of missing sidewalks and intensified tree planting. The
pedestrianization of the street is also designed to buffer the effects of those "heavier"
industries whose properties span the block from 4th to 5th St. The area also abuts
heavy industry along 7th St., and while its scale is much lower than west of 7th St., few
actual residents are on or near 7th St. The physical form of new development--
especially live-work buildings--is an important concern in the area. While residents
have access to James Kenney Park, Aquatic Park, and San Pablo Park, there is no public
open space within the area itself. Development of such a space seems unlikely, but
added tree planting (many blocks have few or no trees) and new accesses to Aquatic
Park at Channing and Heinz would improve landscaping and open space conditions

4. Industrial Districts

Despite the changes of recent years, most of West Berkeley's economically active area
continues to be in districts which are predominantly industrial. The West Berkeley Plan
designates two general industrial districts--the Manufacturing District in the north and
the Mixed Manufacturing district in the south. It also designates much of the area as
Mixed Use/Light Industrial (green)--covering light industrial areas from Harrison St.
near Albany to Folger St. near Emeryville. Most of these industrial areas are not seen or
used by people who do not work or do business there, although 7th St., Ashby Ave.,
and Gilman St. are major streets which pass through or alongside them.

The industrial districts illustrate almost the full range of 20th Century industrial
development--in building and lot size, building age, materials used, building/roof
shape and height. Landscaping and setbacks are almost universally absent, although
some of the larger sites (such as Miles) and a few of the newer sites (such as General
Parametrics at 9th & Gilman) devote much of their land to parking. The Mixed
Manufacturing district is dominated by large, multi-building sites (Miles, Colgate,
Temescal), whose development was initiated in the early 20th Century. 4th St. south of
University is typified by post-War concrete "warehouse" type structures, though there
are exceptions (e.g. the 1910 brick building--now used for auto repair--at 4th & Dwight).
Tall metal "sheds" for working metals are common around Gilman St. in the
Manufacturing district. Industrial area landmarks include the Kawneer building at 8th
& Parker, the City's original garbage incinerator near 2nd & Harrison, and the Durkee
Building on 7th St. west of Heinz. Ironically, West Berkeley's only open creek--
Codornices Creek--edges the industrial area.

Usefulness has generally been the chief design criterion in these areas, as is appropriate
in districts whose primary users are workers and people doing business there. Thus,
new buildings (and building rehabilitations) here should first of all be functional for the
businesses and comfortable for their employees. However, there are instances where
building decisions in these areas can affect the broader public. The "edges" of these
districts--such as Dwight Way, 7th St., Heinz St. are places where they meet less intense
ones--buildings and sites should be landscaped and scaled accordingly. Particular care
is required where general industrial districts meet areas which are wholly or partially
residential (see Goal 4). The role of Gilman St. and Ashby Ave. as corridors through and
along the districts has been noted. Tree planting and landscaping along these edges
and corridors provides far more benefit to the general public than it does on streets
interior to the general manufacturing districts (Manufacturing and Mixed
Manufacturing) although such interior plantings would presumably be seen as
amenities by area workers. Development on major sites of an acre or more in these
districts are key in shaping the overall character of their districts and West Berkeley,
and should thus aim for both internal coherence and integration with the broader fabric
of West Berkeley (see Goal 5).

Policies towards older buildings in these districts, particularly in the relatively small
general manufacturing districts (where non-industrial uses are deliberately limited) can
present painful choices. City policy seeks to maintain historic buildings, and most
historic industrial structures have been preserved in recent decades. What is termed
"adaptive reuse" of buildings (i.e. change of use from industrial to another use) is often
possible, particularly in the Mixed Use/Light Industrial zone--although this must be
balanced against the district's central purpose of maintaining light manufacturing sites.
In other cases there is market demand to reuse older industrial buildings for industrial
purposes. The City should certainly support the reuse of existing industrial buildings
for manufacturing and other industrial purposes, and should explore how such reuse
can be encouraged. However, there are cases, particularly on "heavier" industrial sites,
where buildings have become obsolete for industrial purposes. In some cases, buildings
may be moved (if sites and users are available), in other cases they are too fragile to
survive a move. In these cases, there may be no choice but demolitions if the industrial
use of the site is to be maintained.

5. The Residential Core

The core residential areas of West Berkeley have been physically quite stable, even as
they have struggled with the social problems of poverty, crime, and drugs. The core
areas are built up almost exclusively with single family and small multi-family
buildings, with the occasional church, or the even more occasional corner grocery
breaking the pattern. Along with the evidence of poverty, there is much evidence of
care for the environment.

The residential core area covers some 60 square blocks (some only partially) between
Camelia and Dwight, 6th St. and San Pablo. The University and San Pablo Ave.
commercial frontages are in commercial zoning districts, although the uses there
obviously influence the character of the blocks they are on. Generally zoned R-1A
(limited 2 family), portions of the blocks north and south of University are zoned for
multi-family construction, although opportunities to do so are limited.

The residential core can be subdivided for analysis in different ways. Apartment
buildings are almost exclusively concentrated in the blocks between Delaware St. and
Dwight Way (except for a cluster around 7th & Camelia), although even in this area
there are large numbers of single family homes. Thus these blocks tend to mix early
20th Century single and 2 story homes, with 2-3 story mid-20th Century apartments,
although apartments are somewhat more common towards the corners than at mid-

The historically oldest parts of the residential core are the areas between roughly
Addison St. and Delaware St., although the blocks surrounding Channing Way also saw
significant development in the 1880's and 1890's. The area developed last is that north
of Cedar St., which was largely built up with cottages and bungalows in the 1920's and
1930's. Major landmarks of the area include the Niehaus House at 7th & Channing,
built in 1889 by the owner of West Berkeley's then leading planing mill (and currently
abandoned, along with 10 attached apartments). Two strong Gothic style churches on
Hearst are Church of the Good Shepherd at 9th St. (1878) and Saint Procopius' Church
(built as Westminster Presbyterian Church at 8th St. However, much of the
historical/architectural significance of structures here comes from groupings of houses,
rather than from individual structures.

A full block of open space, as well as a recreation center, exists in the northern
residential area at James Kenney Park (7th to 8th, Delaware to Virginia)--bought by the
City before it was developed. The southern area has no such large park, but has
playground equipment and playing fields at Columbus School, and a mini-park (G.
Florence Park) on 10th between Addison and Allston. In recent years, both desire for
additional open space, and concern about the crime and drug activity that sometimes
occur there have been expressed by neighborhood residents.

There has been little physical change in recent years in the residential core, and there is
little reason to expect much in upcoming years. One reason for this is that most of the
area is built close to or more densely than the density permitted by current zoning.
Some of the apartments were poorly built in the 1950's and 60's and will require
rehabilitation to maintain them as affordable housing stock--such work provides an
opportunity to improve some of their aesthetic qualities as well. Similar conditions exist
in some units occupied by elderly homeowners. While some blocks have magnificent
stands of trees, others are relatively barren, tree planting could beautify these blocks
through community based effort.

III. An Urban Design Vision for West Berkeley

What threads together this Element's proposals for various areas--its goals and policies,
its implementation measures is an urban design vision for West Berkeley. It is not a
vision of stasis--of keeping all buildings and sites exactly as they are, and assuming that
nothing ever need be changed or removed. Nor it is a vision of clearance--of recklessly
blasting away existing buildings or existing uses in search of what is believed to be
"modern." It is rather a vision of conservation, creativity, and integrated development--
of maintaining West Berkeley's historic, architectural, and use character(s) while
welcoming suitable new development (which can sometimes be formally innovative
development). West Berkeley's rich past has given it a wealth of historical and
architectural resources which should be preserved, its future should give it buildings
and places that will be landmarks for future generations.

The urban design vision seeks to link the many diverse elements of West Berkeley
various areas of West Berkeley. A resident, a worker, a visitor should know when she
passes from the Commercial to the Mixed Use/Residential to the Manufacturing
district. Yet there should be features which link this large and diverse collection of
places together and give it a sense of overall "West Berkeley" identity. Some of the most
important linking features (which are discussed in greater detail in the Goals and
Policies Section) are:

  • Enhancement of commercial nodes and corridors: The commercial nodes and
    corridors are the places in West Berkeley used by the most people. It is important to
    improve the visual character and physical layout of key commercial corridors, and
    encourage nodal development along these corridors.
  • Entry Corridors: The entry corridors are important in setting the tone for West
    Berkeley. Defining the image and character for the city's major gateway--University
    Ave.--and for the other entry corridors which lead into West Berkeley--Ashby Ave., and
    Gilman St., and the northern and southern ends of San Pablo Avenue is a major urban
    design task.
  • Greening of the Streets: Trees provide green relief amidst the concrete and asphalt of
    West Berkeley. Expanding street tree planting to additional streets in West Berkeley
    will further this task. Street tree planting can be designed to address specific needs or
    conditions, such as enhancing residential areas, visually connecting residential and
    commercial areas, framing views, or improving the visual appearance of commercial
    streets and major roadways.
  • Connections to existing public parks: West Berkeley's open spaces resources are not
    used to their fullest extent. Improving the pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular access to
    existing public parks, especially to the Marina area and Aquatic Park, will help West
    Berkeleyans (and Berkeley residents generally) enjoy their parks and will also help link
    the area together.

IV. Goals and Policies

Urban Design Goals and Policies for West Berkeley


See the Urban Design Vision for West Berkeley above, for the overall rationale tying
together these goals.

Goal 1

Preserve and enhance the vital commercial corridors, particularly San Pablo and
University Ave., with intensification of commercial and mixed-use development at key
intersections or "nodes".

Policies for nodes

1.1 Encourage nodal development, to intensify commercial at major intersections along
commercial streets. Nodal development should be encouraged at and around the
intersections of: San Pablo at University, San Pablo at Dwight Way, San Pablo at
Gilman, San Pablo at Ashby, 4th and University/Hearst, and Ashby at Seventh.

1.2 Provide consolidated parking as needed to serve commercial nodes, and encourage
concentrated rather than dispersed parking.

1.3 Focus pedestrian improvements at nodes, including cross walks, adequate
sidewalks, night lighting, transit stops, telephones, disabled accessibility
improvements, consolidated newsracks, public clocks and other features.

1.4 Require retail as the ground level use in nodes, with residential or office uses above
the ground floor.

1.5 Encourage neighborhood-serving retail business to locate at these nodes.
Policies for commercial corridors, including nodes

1.6 Develop standards and incentives for facade and signage improvements along the
commercial corridors. Encourage signage and facade design to improve the appearance
of the street, and to minimize the appearance of strip commercial development. Signage
and facade design should be urban instead of suburban in character, and pedestrian in
scale. This can be done through the design of signs, building materials, storefront
windows, and other exterior features.

1.7 Insure that new construction along the corridors maintains and strengthens the
urban character of the street by locating new buildings at the front property line to
reinforce the streetwall; locating parking at the side or rear of the lot, and designing
street facades and ground level doors and windows to include elements of pedestrian
scale and three-dimensional interest.

1.8 Develop incentives to encourage new construction to be 2-4 stories in height (and to
incorporate residential and office uses above the ground floor) along these corridors,
especially at nodes.

1.9 Encourage conservation and active utilization of existing buildings which
contribute positively to the character of the streetscape.

1.10 Encourage infill buildings on vacant and low intensity use sites along these
corridors. Residential and/or office uses should be encouraged, where appropriate.

1.11 Develop incentives to encourage housing along these corridors, such as a
reduction in parking and other site development standards.

Goal 2

Use the interrelationship between the urban design and transportation goals to improve
accessibility between jobs, homes, commercial, recreation and educational centers to
minimize dependence on the automobile. (Also see goals in Transportation Element.)


2.1 Coordinate transit routes and transit improvements with the commercial nodes, to
provide transit in key areas, and to integrate the transit so as to reinforce pedestrian
circulation and support the design and function of the node.

2.2 Improve transit amenities at bus stop locations by providing bus shelters, improved
bus signage, maps, telephones and benches, and other transit improvements as needed.

2.3 Evaluate construction of one or more consolidated parking lots or parking
structures, to be located in West Berkeley with good access to the freeway and to mass
transit, and the train station, to be used for West Berkeley businesses, and pursue their
development if they are needed/ Seek to integrate the design of these structures with
their areas as much as possible.

2.4 Take aggressive action to develop an adequate train station in West Berkeley, near
University Avenue, for commuter and long-distance train service.

2.5 Encourage consolidated locations for shared parking facilities, where several
different uses would share parking in a consolidated location.

2.6 Promote bicycle usage by providing adequate, safe bicycle lanes throughout West
Berkeley, which connect to the existing network of bike paths in Berkeley and connect to
parks, schools and commercial areas.

2.7 Provide adequate sidewalks and other forms of pedestrian connections to nodes
and key locations throughout West Berkeley.

Goal 3

Visually improve the University Ave. gateway and the other entry corridors into West
Berkeley, so as to provide a positive image as one enters Berkeley. In addition to the
University Ave. gateway, the entry corridors into West Berkeley are Ashby Ave. and
Gilman St., and the northern and southern ends of San Pablo Ave.


3.1 Explore ways to improve the visual character of these entry corridors, to highlight
the sense of place and image of Berkeley along these corridors.

3.2 Encourage new construction and renovation of existing buildings (those that
contribute significantly to the streetscape) and restoration of historic structures to
address in a positive manner their location along an entry corridor. New buildings
should generally be placed along the front property line to strengthen the urban
character of streets, and maintain or strengthen the "streetwall" of buildings along these
corridors, while parking should be placed at the side or rear of the lot. Signage and
facade design (of features such as doors and windows) should be urban instead of
suburban in character, providing visual interest while remaining appropriate to the
use(s) of the building.

3.3 Encourage landscaping and screening of existing parking along these entry
corridors, adjacent to the streets (in the right-of-way) and on private property.

3.4 Consider special lighting on the gateway corridors to enhance them at night.

3.5 Encourage high-quality, urban style, cohesive signage along these streets.
Monument signs with appropriate bases are encouraged, instead of pole signs. Remove
both ground level and building-mounted billboards whenever possible.

3.6 Support and reinforce University Ave. as the primary gateway to West Berkeley
and Berkeley generally. Explore reconstruction and replication of the historic gateway
structure which was located on San Pablo Ave., near University Ave. Assure that any
changes to the University Ave. viaduct are consistent with the street's role as gateway.

Goal 4

Development in locations where there is a juxtaposition of uses and building scales --
particularly when concentrations of residential uses are adjacent to more intense uses --
should be sensitive to the character of both the less intense and the more intense uses.
This will be particularly important in the Mixed Use/Residential zone and on the
"edges" where industrial zones (especially general manufacturing zones) meet zones
which permit residential uses.


4.1 Developments in such "edge" locations should seek to minimize--to the greatest
degree possible--abrupt changes of building scale.

4.2 Developments in these locations should use tools such as increased building
setbacks or upper story stepbacks, landscaping, and other means to reduce the impacts
of differences in scale, style, and site plan.

4.3 Developments in these locations should be generally respectful of existing
architectural styles in their location, but need not simply imitate these styles.

Goal 5

Development on major sites of 1 acre or more should be both internally cohesive and
sensitively designed on the site's publicly used edges.


5.1 Development on major sites should use building scale, architecture, building
placement, landscaping, and other site elements to create the sense of a cohesive
development which is integrated with its surroundings.

5.2 Such major projects should--to the greatest degree possible--reinforce the existing
street pattern, development pattern, and overall fabric of an area, rather than being
isolated from these patterns.

5.3 Major developments should--to the greatest degree possible--be compatible with
existing development on the edges of their sites, particularly on those edges which are
heavily used by the public.

Historic Preservation Goals and Policies for West Berkeley


Historic preservation is an integral part of the West Berkeley Plan. Much of West
Berkeley's distinctiveness is in its history. The Plan seeks to preserve both the physical
forms--the buildings--history has bequeathed the area, and the substantive activities
which have historically occurred in West Berkeley. Conserving the greatest possible
number of historic buildings is part of the Plan's overall approach of working to
conserve and improve the existing fabric of West Berkeley. Taken together, Goals 6, 7,
and 8 set out a policy framework for a broad historic preservation approach in West
Berkeley. The goals call for greater education on West Berkeley's built and human
heritage, and on historic preservation (Goal 6). They seek to identify--under clearly
understood criteria--and designate the historic structures of West Berkeley (Goal 7).
They encourage maintenance and appropriate rehabilitation of historic buildings (Goal

The West Berkeley Plan's historic preservation approach encourage the City to support
preservation of buildings whenever possible, in the framework of other planning
policies. In addition, the Plan seeks to integrate new development into the older,
existing fabric (see especially Policy 7.4). This Element's goals and policies are
formulated within the context of the Plan and its Land Use Concept, which seek to
preserve the longstanding use character of several residential and industrial districts.
This Physical Form Element-- with its historic preservation goals and policies--proposes
a wholistic approach to design and preservation in the context of a Plan which seeks
such approaches generally.

Goal 6

Develop and disseminate an understanding and appreciation of West Berkeley's


6.1 The City should develop criteria to identify and designate heritage areas--
particularly strong concentrations of historically and architecturally significant
buildings--in West Berkeley and educate the public about these areas, If the residents
come to support doing so, the City should formulate guidelines for development in
these areas.

6.2 The City should support preservation efforts by private organizations in West

6.3 The City should innovate programs to educate the public concerning West
Berkeley's architectural, ethnic and industrial history.

Goal 7

Preserve West Berkeley's existing architectural and historic resources in the context of
the district goals, permitted uses, and other goals of the West Berkeley Plan. Seek to
develop the built environment as a whole in a way consistent with this Goal.


7.1 The City should review each of the 112 West Berkeley buildings on the State Historic
Resources Inventory (SHRI) and the Landmarks Preservation Commission Priority List
for Landmark Designation. Designations should be according to criteria which are clear,
specific, understood and supported by the community and reflect the balance of
preservation and other goals in the West Berkeley Plan.

7.2 The City should facilitate the completion of the West Berkeley Historical Survey and
designate further landmarks in accordance with the findings of this Survey.
Designations should be according to (new or existing) criteria which are clear, specific,
understood and supported by the community and reflect the balance of preservation
and other goals in the West Berkeley Plan.

7.3 To improve the economic feasibility of preserving historic buildings, the City should
creatively use the tools which the West Berkeley Plan Preferred Land Use Concept
provides, and should explore the possibilities for changes in development standards,
fees, or placement of uses, without, however, violating Plan policies, district purposes,
or district permitted uses. In situations where a whole building cannot be preserved,
preservation of facades should be explored. In very exceptional cases, where all
Variance findings can be made--with particular reference to the Finding that the
variance not be detrimental to people working in the neighborhood or to property in the
neighborhood--allow use Variances.

7.4 The City should encourage infill development to be sensitive to the character and
scale of existing development in areas which are architecturally or historically cohesive.

7.5 The City should encourage the University of California--particularly if the
University acquires any additional buildings in West Berkeley--to preserve and
maintain these buildings to the greatest possible degree.

Goal 8

Preserve West Berkeley's architecturally and historically valuable buildings.


8.1 The City should encourage building maintenance and rehabilitation in West
Berkeley and if possible offer financial incentives or assistance.

8.2 The City should encourage the sensitive reuse of existing buildings in West Berkeley
and offer incentives such as permit-streamlining and other assistance.

Open Space Goals and Policies for West Berkeley


West Berkeley has the advantage of being an urban district which sits adjacent to major
open space resources--Aquatic Park, the Marina, the Waterfront. West Berkeley's
residential population--largely low income, many with children, many living in
apartments--is precisely that which most needs public open space. In this context, the
Plan seeks to develop a broad vision for open space as well. The existing parks in West
Berkeley--Aquatic Park, James Kenney Park, G. Florence Park--are clearly a central part
of the open space strategy. So is Columbus School, with its adjacent playground and
park space. The parks outside West Berkeley which West Berkeley residents can most
easily access--especially the parks currently being developed on the Waterfront--are also
visual and functional open space resources for West Berkeley and are therefore
discussed generally. The bicycle lanes and sidewalks which allow non-vehicular access
to the parks, and even the rows of trees which do (or could) link neighborhoods to them
are also open space resources. Tree plantings also give character to many West Berkeley
neighborhoods, especially residential neighborhoods, and provide environmental relief.
Formally, the Aquatic Park Master Plan is incorporated into the West Berkeley Plan by

Goal 9

Provide an accessible, aesthetically-pleasing network of green spaces and corridors--that
is functional for varied types of users--to visually and physically link parks, creeks, and
shoreline to residential and commercial, and light industrial areas.


9.1 Promote extensive tree planting along major streets in West Berkeley, by individuals
and organizations in West Berkeley. Focus on long-lived and drought-resistant trees.

9.2 Develop pathways and protected lanes for bikes which link to the existing bicycle
lanes in Berkeley and link to parks, commercial areas, and community facilities.

9.3 Provide sidewalks for pedestrians which provide adequate, safe access to parks.

9.4 If community residents are supportive at the time opportunities arise, acquire
additional neighborhood parks if possible, especially south of University Avenue.

9.5 Promote the utilization of school playgrounds as neighborhood serving parks, to the
extent consistent with their functions for schools.

9.6 Upgrade facilities, maintenance, and security in existing neighborhood parks to
improve utilization.

9.7 Encourage early implementation of the Aquatic Park Master Plan, especially
improving access to the Park for pedestrians and bicycles.

9.8 Design the sound wall along I-80 to allow views toward Berkeley and from Berkeley
toward San Francisco, if feasible, while still buffering the noise of the freeway from
Aquatic Park.

9.9 Improve physical and visual access to the Marina area, to Aquatic Park, and to
shoreline parks.

9.10 Improve the visual character of Berkeley as seen from the Freeway--in a manner
suitable for the adjacent industrial districts and parks--with additional landscaping and
controlled signage.

9.11 Improve the usability of and access to Codornices Creek and explore opportunities
for uncovering other creeks in the area.

9.12 Encourage the retention of existing trees in front yards in residential areas in West

V. Implementation Measures

A. Urban Design Implementation Measures

Note: Please see the Transportation Element for implementation measures related to
transportation projects and programs, such as those outlined under Goal 2.

Activities Already Underway

1. Redevelopment Area Public Improvements--Improve sidewalks, street trees, and
streets within the Redevelopment Project Area, with the goal of linking area residents to
the 4th St. commercial district. The project is underway, with some sidewalk work and
wells for tree planting having been done.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 2, Policy 2.7; Goal 8, Policy 8.2; Goal 9, Policy 9.1
Responsibility: Berkeley Redevelopment Agency with City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Redevelopment Tax Increment

2. Soundwall Design and Construction Monitoring--Work with CALTRANS to assure
that the soundwall planned along Aquatic Park--to buffer it from the Freeway--is
constructed in a timely and aesthetically pleasing manner. The City Council has
conceptually approved this activity.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 9, Policies 9.7, 9.8
Responsibility: City Planning Department with Public Works (Traffic Engineering)
Funding Sources: CALTRANS

3. Newsrack Ordinance--Explore the feasibility--given both aesthetic and First
Amendment concerns--of an Ordinance regulating the placement and design of
newsracks. Implement the Ordinance in commercial districts which have newsrack
congestion. The City Council has requested that such an Ordinance be developed.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 1, Policy 1.3
Responsibility: Finance Department (License and Collections)
Funding Sources: Existing operating funds.

4. Train Station Design Concept (see Transportation Element for description) City has
applied for state funding to upgrade existing facility.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 2, Policy 2.4
Responsibility: City Planning Department, with Redevelopment Agency
Funding Sources: Capital funds from state rail bonds.

5. Facade Improvement Program--Seek funding to develop a facade and signage
improvement program, particular for commercial streets such as San Pablo Ave.,
perhaps similar to programs which have operated in South Berkeley. Funds for this
program on University Ave. have been set aside by the City Council. This program
could operate in conjunction with overall small business assistance programs.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 1, Policies 1.6, 1.9; Goal 8, Policies 8.1,8.2
Responsibility: Community Development Department with City Planning Department
Funding Sources: None currently identified. Possible sources include Redevelopment
Tax Increment (in Redevelopment Areas), Economic Development Administration,
State Historic Preservation Office (see item 2.1)

Other Recommended Urban Design Activities

Studies and Plans

6. 4th St. Area Strategic Plan--Develop a Strategic Plan for the 4th & Hearst/University
commercial node. This Plan should provide an economic development strategy linked
various elements planned for the district, including consolidated parking, an improved
train station and additional retail stores. It should also discuss how these elements
should fit together physically, relate to existing uses, and to other new facilities, such as
possible new access to the Marina/Waterfront.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 1, Policies 1.1, 1.2, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.10; Goal 2,
Policies 2.1-2.5
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Not yet identified. Redevelopment Tax Increment may fund

7. Development of Design Guidelines for various areas--Develop design guidelines to
provide direction to builders, and to provide a framework of policies for
implementation of the Design Review Ordinance in various locations. Treat San Pablo
Ave.--especially commercial nodes--as the first priority locale for these guidelines.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 1, Policies 1.1, 1.4, 1.6-1.11;
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Not yet identified.

8. Gateway Improvement Studies--Study the gateway and entry corridors, to assess
how their character might be best highlighted.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 3, Policies 3.1-3.6
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Not yet identified.

9. I-80 Corridor Visual Improvement Study--Develop a plan to improve the
appearance of the Freeway (especially north of University Ave.) from West Berkeley,
and West Berkeley from the Freeway, recognizing the industrial character of the area.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 9, Policy 9.10
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Not yet identified, possible partial funding from Redevelopment Tax

10. Billboard Amortization--Analyze the legal framework for, and assess the cost of,
removing billboards from San Pablo Ave., and possibly other locations.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 1, Policy 1.6
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Not yet identified.

Ordinance and Regulatory Changes--Urban Design

11. Zoning Ordinances Changes for and between Nodes--Amend the Zoning
Ordinance to require ground floor uses on commercial street frontage in West Berkeley
be retail and to provide incentives for residential/retail construction. Explore whether
there are appropriate locations between commercial nodes where San Pablo Ave. could
be zoned exclusively for residential use, without creating extensive non-conformities.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 1, Policies 1.1, 1.4, 1.8
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Part of West Berkeley Plan Zoning Ordinance revision.

12. Sign Ordinance Amendments--Amend the Citywide sign Ordinance so that it is
consistent with current design review policies on permissible and appropriate signs.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 1, Policy 1.6
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Not yet identified

Ongoing Activities

13. Review of Major Public Improvements--Review the design impacts of any major
public improvement projects (e.g. changes to major streets) to assure that they support
West Berkeley Plan design goals.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 1, multiple policies
Responsibility: City Planning Department, Public Works Department
Funding Sources: Project Funding

B. Historic Preservation Implementation Measures

Activities Already Underway

1. Designation as Certified Local Government--Apply to State Historic Preservation
Office for certification as a Certified Local Government. Gives City greater role in
applications for National Register of Historic Places, can make City eligible for funding

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 1, Policy 1.9; Goal 5, Policy 5.2, Goal 8, Policy 8.1
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: No funding required for application, however, designation may
require City expenditure to undertake historic surveys--funding sources not yet

Priority for Initiating Action

2. Completion of West Berkeley Historic Survey--Assist Berkeley Architectural
Heritage Association in the completion of the West Berkeley Historic Buildings Survey.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 5, Policy 5.2
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Not yet identified

Other Recommended Activities

3. Research for Landmark Designation on State Historic Resources Inventory
--As a priority for West Berkeley landmark designation, research and review
information on the 112 buildings on the Inventory, and determine which should be
designated as landmarks.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 5, Policy 5.1
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Staff time from Landmarks staff. Interns and volunteers possible
source of additional assistance.

4. Historic signs program--Install signs at historic buildings and sites, particularly
those in commercial nodes.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 4, Policies 4.2, 4.3
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Not yet identified

5. Elementary educational program--Work with Berkeley Unified School District to
develop programs for students on Berkeley architectural and social history, to
complement existing curricula and raise student awareness of Berkeley history.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 4, Policies 4.1, 4.3
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Not yet identified

6. Heritage Area Designation--Designate appropriate areas as Heritage Areas.
Develop guidelines for rehabilitation and new construction within them if and when
residents support such an effort.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 4, Policy 4.1; Goal 6, Policy 6.3
Responsibility: City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Not yet identified

C. Open Space Implementation Measures (see also Aquatic Park Master Plan)

Activities Already Underway

1. Codornices Creek Regulation and Improvement--Work with the University of
California and private developers on its site and others which abut Codornices Creek to
assure that the City's Creek Ordinance regulating development along creeks is
respected, and to gain improvements to the Creek and adjoining properties.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 9, Policy 9.11
Responsibility: City Planning Department, University of California, private developers
Funding Sources: Private developers, as part of site developments.

Priority for Initiating Action

2. Tree Planting Program--Facilitate the planting of trees in residential areas, along
major traffic corridors, in areas needing additional identity highlighting, and in other
appropriate locations. Work with neighborhood and civic organizations--through the
provision of technical assistance, information, and other means--churches, businesses,
and other interested parties to implement planting. Trees used in various locations
should be carefully selected for appropriateness, and should not impair security efforts.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 8, Policies 8.1, 8.2; Goal 9,
Policy 9.1, 9.10
Responsibility: Community Development Department with City Planning Department
Funding Sources: Ongoing City program, Redevelopment Tax Increment, private

Other Recommended Activities

3. Aquatic Park Access Improvements: Improve access to Aquatic Park, both at existing
entrances (such as Addison St.) and recommended new entrances, such as Channing
Way and Heinz St. Work with parties such as the Southern Pacific Railroad to
overcome obstacles to creating crossings across the railroad.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 9, Policy 9.7
Responsibility: Public Works (Parks/Marina) with Public Works/Traffic Engineering
and City Planning
Funding Sources: Not yet identified

4. Other Aquatic Park Master Plan Improvements--Implement the other
recommendations of the Aquatic Park Master Plan including creation of a children's
play area, improvement of the bird/wildlife refuge, introduction of concessions,
expansion of marshes, and other actions.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal 9, Policies 9.7, 9.9
Responsibility: Public Works (Parks/Marina)
Funding Sources: Not yet identified.

5. Neighborhood park Improvements/additions--Plan and seek funding to improve
facilities and services at neighborhood parks, including parks on School District land,
particularly G. Florence Park. If opportunities and funding arise, develop additional
neighborhood parks, particularly south of University Ave., paying careful attention to
residents concern about security problems in parks.

Goals and Policies Implemented: Goal I, Policies 9.4-9.6
Responsibility: Public Works (Parks/Marina), Berkeley Unified School District
Funding Sources: Not yet identified

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