For much of the past decade, anti-growth activists have been working overtime to block development in downtown Berkeley. But they’ve suffered a series of setbacks, losing key elections and city council votes. They haven’t given up, however, and are now pushing a November ballot measure that would make it extremely difficult to build tall buildings and increase density in the city’s urban core. And they believe they will finally be successful — by labeling their anti-growth plan “green” and by tying it to an extraordinarily popular idea: saving the historic downtown Berkeley post office. Their plan, however, appears to be in jeopardy, thanks to a counter-proposal by Mayor Tom Bates, who has repeatedly out-maneuvered the anti-growthers in the past several years.
Last week, Bates unveiled his plan, which would separate the post-office-protection proposal from the anti-growth measure, the latter of which he views as a death knell for downtown development. Under Bates’ proposal, the city council would adopt the exact language in the ballot measure having to do with safeguarding the post office and twelve other historic structures in downtown. That way, the ballot measure would effectively only deal with anti-development — an issue that the mayor contends voters will reject once again. “It kills the downtown,” he said of the anti-growth aspects of the ballot measure. “This is being put on by extremists who want to stop downtown development.”
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