Wareham: Preservation of historic factory too expensive

Wareham Development will demolish the seismically unstable Copra Warehouse at 740 Heinz Ave. to build a new laboratory. Photo: Ira Serkes

Wareham Development will demolish the seismically unstable Copra Warehouse at 740 Heinz Ave. to build a new laboratory. Photo: Ira Serkes

Four years after Wareham Development proposed transforming a historic West Berkeley warehouse into a laboratory building, the company is seeking to tear down the entire structure instead of preserving two brick walls.

Construction costs have gone up and rents have declined since the city approved Wareham’s 2009 design for 740 Heinz and it is now too expensive to build around the rickety walls, according to Chris Barlow, a partner in Wareham, which is headquartered in San Rafael. It will be much easier – and cheaper – to build a new 100,000 square foot structure, Barlow told the Zoning Adjustments Board in late September.

ZAB approved Wareham’s application to completely tear down the Copra Warehouse, which was part of the Durkee Foods complex built in 1917. Jeff Kaplan, representing The Friends of the West Berkeley Plan, is challenging the approval. The City Council will take up the matter on Jan. 22.

“This seems like a very greedy move to me,” David Bowman told ZAB at the Sept. 27 hearing. “They got 98% of what they wanted in the process the last time. They did not follow through when they could afford it. Now they want to make it so it works better financially. That is not your duty.”

Wareham, which leases the building from Garr Land and Resource Management, already owns a number of other structures at its adjacent Aquatic Park Center complex. The developer has been trying to do something with 740 Heinz for more than 10 years. The building, which was designated a Berkeley landmark in 1985, is unreinforced masonry and is considered one of the most seismically unsafe in the city, according to a planning department report. In 2002, the city declared the property a public nuisance.

In 2009, Berkeley granted Wareham a variance to develop the property. In exchange for retaining the historic north and south facades, the city allowed the company to exceed the neighborhood’s height and story limit. While the bulk of the old factory was 34 feet high, one section went as high as 74 feet. The city gave Wareham permission to build a $52 million, four-story research and development structure that was 74 feet high and had a 49-stall underground parking garage. Wareham had to do an EIR as part of the development plan.

Wareham wants to modify that design, stating it is too expensive to build and will not provide an adequate return on investment.  Since 2009, construction costs have increased by 17% and rents for bioscience R&D have declined 15%, which together make keeping the two historic walls financial unfeasible, said Barlow. Now the company wants to build an entirely new $44.5 million structure with a two-story lobby with a green roof on the south side of the building. It has also asked to slightly expand the first, third, and fourth floors, but maintain the setbacks established in 2009, and eliminate the parking, among other changes.

“The only way to make (the building’s financials) feasible is to take down the two walls,” Barlow told ZAB. “Keeping them comes at a significant expense.”

The generally accepted industry threshold for an acceptable investment risk for this kind of project is 7.2%, according to a report prepared for ZAB. The old design would have given Wareham a 4.85% return, while the new design will generate a 5.86% return, which is still below the industry norm.

The Copra Warehouse at night. Photo: Ira Serkes

The Copra Warehouse at night. Photo: Ira Serkes

ZAB, in a divided voted, approved the new plans and decided that the changes were minimal enough that Wareham only had to do an addendum to the existing EIR rather than an overhaul.

The Friends of the West Berkeley plan are arguing that the amended EIR “was neither adequate, subject to public comment, nor was it certified in compliance with CEQA.” The group has also expressed concern that researchers will be doing synthetic biology in the new complex and that the amended EIR did not adequately review “potential risks to the surrounding environment and human health associated with laboratory use.” More than 30 tenants of the nearby building at 800 Heinz signed a petition against the new structure.

As recently as 1985, there were eight buildings or features of the Durkee complex still standing. The destruction of the Copra Warehouse means there will only be two left, the Durkee Building at 800 Heinz and the Spice Warehouse at 820 Heinz.

City staff is recommending that the City Council deny the appeal of the Friends of the West Berkeley Plan, stating that the changes proposed by Wareham in 2012 do not materially affect the project approved in 2009. The city stands to collect at least $342,500 from the building’s construction: $194,000 will go into the Housing Trust Fund, $48,500 will go in the City Childcare Fund, and the owners will pay about $100,000 in property taxes the first year, according to a city staff report. The building will also create 300 new jobs.

Barlow told ZAB that “there is no research space of this quality available in Berkeley now.”

Read the appeal and city staff report here.

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • Bardot2000

    It’s such a beautiful old building. City of Berkeley – you made a deal with concessions that already favored Wareham over the community. It’s absolutely shameful how much our city leaders bend over for developers.

  • The Sharkey

    Multi-story brick buildings in a city that sits directly on an active fault line are a mistake of history. It may be a very pretty building, but safety trumps nostalgia.

  • AlanTobey

    We should be landmarking buildings that will survive, not collapse, as the decades (and quakes) roll on. For example, what was built as the 13 story Great Western building downtown used a unique seismic design that suspends the floors like bridge decks from the corner piers. Now over 40 years old, it qualifies for landmark status on its innovative engineering alone. Just fails on 19th century nostalgia and brickiness, which is what generally dominates the commission.

  • Bardot2000

    It’s been done in California. The National Park Services says: Recent earthquakes have shown that historic buildings retrofitted to withstand earthquakes survive better than those that have not been upgraded. Even simple efforts, such as bracing parapets, tying buildings to foundations, and anchoring brick walls at the highest, or roof level, have been extremely effective. It has also been proven that well maintained buildings have faired better than those in poor condition during and after an earthquake. Thus, maintenance and seismic retrofit are two critical components for the protection of historic buildings in areas of seismic activity.

  • I’m surprised anyone even attempts any type of new development in Berkeley these days, when you’ve got annoying people left and right that seem to challenge anything and everything just for the hell of it. In most other parts of the world, property owners have a right to use their property, but that is sadly not the case in Berkeley.

  • Tizzielish

    I don’t think earthquake retrofitting is the salient issue here. I think the real issue is the way city planning staff seems to prioritize real estate development priorities over the city as a whole’s commons. Typically the developer is repped by former city planning staff, and they inappropriately use cosy collegial relationships to persuade current staff to kiss up to the developers as if development takes a priority over everything else.

    Our city employees should be closely scrutinized both conflicts of interests and the appearance of conflict of interest. Do city planning staff relatives score jobs with the developers who score valuable giveaways from city staff? I suspect they do.

    Look at the guy leading the chase for the proposed skyscraper that will deny Berkeley of Shattuck cinema. He used to run city planning or zoning and his wife heads a nonprofit dedicated to deceiving voters into voting for downtown plans that benefit developers. Winning such votes based on investing a lot of money is dumb policy. The reason rich folks should not be able to pump unlimited money into politics has nothing to do with ‘free speech’ and everything to do with market manipulation.

    I do not support the relilgion of free market capitalism but, for the most part, this whole country’s public policy is infected with the myth that free market capitalism is good. If we are going to go on drowning in the myth that free market capitalism is a good thing, then let’s have a truly free market. Let’s ban private political spending, which is not free speech but is, instead, marketing propaganda.

    Let’s make public policy decisions by insulating our public servants from the pressure of money, jobs for relatives, campaign donations. We could create such a system. And then step back and let a truly free market decide if tearing down an old, historically significant wall or two is acceptable. But the way we do things, the citizenry has no way to meaningful way to determine of public policy decisions, made by either elected politicians or well connected city staffers with very plush incomes, benefits and pensions are acting free of any conflict of interest.

    And whatever happened to critical thinking skills? There seems to be a wide assumption that since these guys got permission to build a tall building if they preserved these historic walls and now, do their own dawdling, the economics have chaned, well, what the heck, the irrational assumption appears to be, they already ‘own’ the right to build so who cares if they don’t keep their promises that got them the building rights in the first place?

    It matters when the city does not hold people to the agreements the city makes, on our behalf, and then gives more and more and more away. It is quite possible to write contracts with developers that build in clear financial consequences if they don’t deliver. The Gaia building did not deliver what it promised to the city when it got a zoning variance. I doubt that developer ever intended to deliver on its promises to replace that theater. Developers know they can get freebies from the city, which include huge fee waivers, huge zoning exceptions and concessions and then know that after the building is built and the amenities never appear, there will be no consequences. It is possible to write such consequences into the contract.

    I am disgusted by public representatives, elected or city staff, who seem to make emotional, nonreasoned, and no clear-thought analyses (critical thinking skills matter!!!) and hire good lawyers willing to write rigorous clauses into agreements that hold developers wholly liable both for their contractual commitments and tightly defined penalties if they abrogate their contracted commitments.

    This is done all the time, or it used to be. If a builder runs behind schedule, municipalities and other government entities used to require daily penalties, for example, if building ran behind. Such contracts built in specific consequences that were tightly written and impossible for courts to readily dismiss them.

    But here in Berkeley (and all over the country, it seems) we have allowed the conservative reagan revolution to say that business and profit, res ipsa loquitur, matters more than the common good and we give away the common good for pathetically low prices and then we don’t even hold these charlatans masked as business people, accounting for the low price penalties.

    I know Berkeley, and everywhere, needs economic development. But we have seen, for decades, that giving the 1% does not provide much, if any, benefit to the commons, the rich skim the cream off our commons and don’t give back.

    Look at what happens over and over and over in Berkeley: a ‘local’ develoer with good local connects, like former city zoning directors, extract needless concessions from the city, the city gives gives gives away way too much, and then the developer stiffs us and they sell to out of towners and it is too hard to sue or whatever. . .

    the system is immoral, dishonest, cynical and, I believe, so wrong that words can’t expess it.

    I am all for new office building in W. Berkeley but geez, engage in truly intelligent negotiation with the developer that places a very high priority on demanding contractual commitments to provide explicitly delineated benefits to the commons, to the citizenry.

    This new plan doesn’t even propose parking!!! Give me a frakking break. And city staff wants to okay it?


    I make this promise to every Berkeley resident: if our public servants acted more aggressively to demand benefits to the commons, developers would still want to build office buildings, condo buildings and rental apartments in Berkeley. The developers would still make money, Berkeley could grow, our economic base could grow but we could achieve these things without giving the bulk of the benefits to private developers: share the wealth of the commons and we can have a more and more awesome city.

    I am not really upset at the idea of tearing down those walls. Life moves forward. I don’t think we have to save every old building that had significance in the past. But we do have to protect our shared commons. We should be approving buildings that will generate economic benefits to the city tax pool, the city culture through new residents and employees. We should approve growth, but negotiate with bias in favor of the commons instead of negotiating with stupid short term thinking. Negotiate without giving into pressure by slick lawyers and advocates and former city staffers turned development consultants who use their former connections to exploit our city.

    All change, lasting change, is incremental. We have much work to do to become a better city. We need objective, conflict-free zoning and planning staff. We need great negotiation in all development agreements that spell out great benefits to the commons and provides severe economic penalties if the developer stiffs us on amentiies instead of slaps on the wrist.

    Every developer seeking to do biz in Berkeley knows they just have to ‘say’ they will do the right thing and then do whatever they want and not even get a slap on the wrist.

    Here’s a story I’d like to know: what happened to the contractor who destroyed those trees at the library when the landscape contact spelled out that the contrctor was supposed to protect the trees, then the contractor just plowed the roots — the contract explicitly addressed that the landscape contractor would work slower and harder to save the trees and then he worked fast and cheap to make more money and destroyed very old trees and stole years and years of pleasure to this city’s commons. Will that contractor a contractual penalty for their abrogation of what they agreed to do? Will that contractor ever be allowed to bid in Berkeley again? And why would city staff ever approve such a disreputable landscape contractor? That guy had a history of doing stuff like that: he won the bid by bidding too low and then he worked cheaped and cost our city irreplaceable value. We let that happen. Our public servants let that happen. What policy guidelines have been set in place to stop it from hapening?

    We get the system we insist on. So far, ‘we’ allow a corrupt and highly corruptible system to flourish even tho we know many developers, consultants and a few well connected wealthy investors beneit far more than the city.

    Let’s have a truly free market capitalism, with true transparency, real integrity. I am laughing at myselg because I know what I am calling for is a joke? Transparency, integrity by both public servants and private capitalists is a big fat joke.

  • Anon


  • Reader

    Not true in Europe…

  • The Sharkey

    Recent earthquakes have shown that historic buildings retrofitted to
    withstand earthquakes survive better than those that have not been

    But not better than new buildings that are designed to withstand earthquakes.

  • The Sharkey

    I am not really upset at the idea of tearing down those walls. Life
    moves forward. I don’t think we have to save every old building that had
    significance in the past. But we do have to protect our shared commons.

    But this development doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the “commons” whatever that is. It’s at the end of a one-way street in an industrial part of town, not downtown or next to a park or something.

    Maybe I’m not understanding the way you’re using the term. Can you explain in more detail what you mean when you say “shared commons”?

  • Charles_Siegel

    It is true almost everywhere that property owners are restricted by zoning.

    In the United States, property owners have a right to some economically viable use of their property, but they do not have the right to use their property in any way they please. If they did, someone could build a factory or a dump right next door to your house.

    Houston is the only major American city that has no zoning, and developers include restrictive covenants in the deeds that limit property owners much as zoning does – so you can buy a house without worrying that someone is going to build a dump next door.

    It should not be necessary to say that American laws are less restrictive than those in Europe and in most other developed countries.

    I am not commenting on the merits of this particular project. Just on the claim that “In most other parts of the world, property owners have a right to use their property, but that is sadly not the case in Berkeley.”

  • foobar

    I think s/he means parking. That’s the part that that stuck out to me. “It doesn’t even propose parking!!” It’s weird to think that buildings didn’t use to have to worry about parking. Nowadays, everyone drives everywhere (at least Tizzielish does) so if you build, you must have dedicated parking, otherwise you’re stealing from the commons, apparently.

  • guest

    I’m really concerned about the biologic research that will be conducted at the facility and whether the city’s planners know enough about safe laboratory construction. What agencies will be involved in design and construction inspection of the labs?

  • Tizzielish

    the commons is all the public space humans share, including this planet. duh. the commons includes public policy that affects all humans not just the rich ones. The commons includes government budgets and how the way budgets shape our lives. The commons is community, where human lives intersect with one another That is what government is about: carefully protecting the intersection between private lives and shared ones. No man is an island: we meet in the commons. Google it. Or listen to Louis Wolcher, a law professor speak eloquently about the commons:


    My long comment was full of typos. I wrote with more passion than erudition. Sorry for the sloppy writing.

  • Tizzielish

    Before the magna Carta began to shape our jurisprudence, humans in western culture did not really recognize private ownership. It was when humans began to enclose spaces on the earth and begin to reduce the commons that, um, government arose, and legal systems. BEfore, and this will seem insane to most modern humans, human beings trusted one another to be fair to one another and to share the earth’s bounty so all had what they needed. For Christians, the concept is similar to manna from heaven. The earth, surely given to us by the creator, whatever religion one might profess, is manna from heaven and how we share that manna defines who we are as a culture. And we do a sucky job of it, worshiping wealth over humans. Banning homeless humans from the commons is such a sin that it is unspeakable. The commons belongs to all of us.

  • Tizzielish

    FYI, I have not owned a car for over ten years. I do belong to citycarshare, true. The last time, literally, that I rented a citycarshare car was over a year ago. In the last four years, I have rented a car four times for a total of about ten hours.

    I mention parking because it is a major factor in all development, duh. If you build an office building w/o parking, the surrounding, prexisting neighbors will suffer limited parking, you change the quality of life in the commons. STreets are part of the commons.

  • Tizzielish

    You suggest foobar that “i drive everwhere” If my destination is in Berkeley, no matter how ‘far’, I walk. Always. I used to use buses but I have stopped. I walk, even to the grocery store. I just got used to carry loads, like peasants have done since the dawn of time. I have one of the smallest carbon footprints on the planet. I do, very occasionally, fly somewhere and ruin my carbon footprint. Locally, I walk everywhere.

  • Tizzielish

    When foobar, in your magical view of history, did buildings not have to worry about parking?!!! What fairyland do you live in?

  • foobar

    When? Uh, I guess when this building was built? People somehow were able to use and inhabit this building even though it did not provide for parking. How people were able to use it, we may never know – it’s baffling.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    That is, hands down, the worst summary of human history before the Magna Carta that I have ever read.

    Commandments about stealing and coveting are absolutely connected to private ownership. Ditto the inheritance law in the code of Hammurabi, which was a legal system, as was the body of roman law.

    At no point in human history have human beings organized a society around the principle of trusting one another to be fair to one another and to share the earth’s bounty.

    You’ve also done great violence to theology with your bizarre conflation of the Creation story and an element of the Exodus.

    A more careful reader of scripture and history could find some precedent for the point you want to make, but you are just making stuff up.

  • foobar

    Tizzielish, that all may be true. I have no personal grudge against you. But whenever an article is posted to Berkeleyside there is always the person who responds with “But what about the PAAAAAARKING? There’s not enough PARKING in this proposal! Where am I going to PAAAARK??” I always search for that person in the comments because I feel a certain comfort in the disappointment that this person’s comments give me. And today, that person was you.

  • The Sharkey

    When this building was built Berkeley had far fewer people, far better public transportation, and far fewer automobiles.

    People miraculously got by without the internet when this structure was built, but I don’t think that’s a good argument for making it a WiFi dead zone.

  • BHS verteran

    The notion of defending the “public commons”, as it’s being brandished here, calls for a moral force to supersede the laws, regulations, ordinances and administrative practices which a free society has put in place through democratic process. That is an impulse with a very nasty history.

    The traditional weapons moral force uses in attacking the law are the ‘ACCUSATION’ and the ‘ALLEGATION’. There are more than a dozen accusations of criminal acts below (fraud, bribery, graft) allegedly committed in front of the whole city in broad daylight. Why’s there no grand jury convening, no FBI asking for records, no DA’s investigator snooping around city hall?

    Could it be that a deep and dark capitalist conspiracy keeps it all under wraps…except to those privy to true voice of the People…those with personal knowledge of this moral force? Or is it the rattling on of someone for whom one vote simply isn’t enough?

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I’m not going to defend Tizzielish’s logorrheic screeds because I don’t think that’s possible, in part for the reasons you give: she argues from the position that we’re all in violation of some natural law whose authority supersedes the positive laws on which our society is actually based. I actually don’t object to the natural law argument — as a liberal, I do believe in the inherent rights and freedoms of all people — I just think she’s a terrible advocate for that position.

    Leaving aside the drama of Unnatural and Immoral Crimes Against All That is Good and Right, I DO think our city has more than its fair share of low grade fraud and misuse of public funds. On my own hobbyhorse, I like to point out that our school system is badly misshapen by bureaucrats who want to preserve cushy jobs for their friends and by elected officials who, out of ignorance or intent, have caused one little city to take on a hefty chunk of students who do not live here. 800 homeless students in BUSD? What? Rich kids from Rockridge/Kensington at BHS, paid for by the not always so rich residents of Berkeley: huh?

    The city too, is similarly mismanaged. We had a Grand Jury investigation into the Rent Board and they were shown to be seriously deficient. Armed with that knowledge, the good people of Berkeley reelected the same clowns anyway. The one incumbent who did lose his office was quickly put forward for an appointed commission post by Jesse Arreguin, who is part of the emerging Worthington machine.

    What the city badly needs are some alternatives. Not an extreme swerve to the right or whatever other bogeyman you’ll see tossed about, but a loyal opposition that isn’t afraid to say to the City Manager, for example, “you need to cut staff and renegotiate benefits.” Or to the Schools Superintendent, “enrollment verification in your administration is a joke. Talk to your peers in area schools and come back next month with a specific implementation plan for closing the loopholes that are so widely exploited. Fire anyone who undermines that plan or you’ll be next.”

  • fred dodsworth

    Wareham has made (at the very least) many many tens of millions of dollars on their properties in Berkeley and Emeryville (I was a tenant of theirs in Emeryville in the 1980s) but say it is too expensive to develop this property economically? I find it interesting that developers are constantly whining about the cost of doing business in the communities they elect to do business in (last I heard Rich Robbins and his partners lived in Marin) but even more interesting is the way they break out each individual project to rationalize their demands for ever increasing accommodations from the cities in which they do business. It’s too expensive to build a six story building in the downtown, they say they “have to” build to ten stories or it won’t “pencil out.” It’s too expensive to comply with the existing historic preservation ordinance, they say they “have to” tear down our heritage to ensure their profitable schemes. No, Wareham doesn’t “have to” tear down that building. No, it’s not too expensive when these costs are amortized over all of their properties in OUR community. This is just another example of the three-card monty that developers always play. The game is rigged and we’re the losers while they plan to pull another ten or twenty million in profits they don’t “need” out of our community and we absorb up the losses to our cultural heritage.

  • julie

    I’ll second that Bravo. Thanks, Tizzilish.

  • Charles_Siegel

    People seem to survive and to have a very high quality of life in Amsterdam today, where very few buildings provide parking.

    Of course, Amsterdam is a very different city from Berkeley. It is designed so people can walk, bicycle, or take transit everywhere, while Berkeley is designed so many people have no choice but to drive.

    But I believe, and environmentalists generally believe, that we should be moving toward less auto-dependence and more use of clean forms of transportation. There is general consensus among environmentalists that this involves:

    — building infill development that creates more walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods.

    — providing better alternative transportation.

    — limiting the amount of parking we provide. For example, some San Francisco neighborhoods now have maximum parking requirements rather than the conventional minimum parking requirements.

    I share foobar’s view of people who constantly demand more parking are preventing us from moving in the right direction. I will add that people who are generally opposed to development are preventing us from moving in the right direction.

    The earth is the most important commons we have, and we are changing its climate by burning fossil fuels. Automobiles are the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in Berkeley and California, and if we want to protect the commons that all life depends on, we should move to a more balanced transportation system.

  • anon

    >wall of text
    >pre-magna carta paradise
    with friends like these…

  • BHS verteran

    PragmaticProgressive…I share your concerns about poor city management and BUSD’s enrollment fraud. From the evidence already in the public record, the accusations you make, can, and will be, proven valid. But before that can happen a more little of the relic disaffection lingering from 60’s Berkeley will have drop away.

    How long ago was it when college students from affluent families could rail against the “pigs” and the “MAN” “oppressing” them with a straight face?…lol.

    Similarly, as a the result of shifting mores, BUSD school registration fraud will lose it’s noblesse oblige shine and be exposed as our teacher’s union’s greedy empire building…at the expense of school systems in poorer cities.

    And City of Berkeley management (via an outside audit) will cease to operate as a gloriously generous reparations program for all those, we taxpayers, have unknowingly sinned against.

    Both these results will be arrived at without the fictional device of secret conspiracies.

  • Tizzielish

    I support public transit, biking, more walking and less cars but 40 parking spots for such a large building, which was the original plan, is not a lot of parking spaces. To not include some spaces places undue pressure on the folks already in the neighborhood who are already stressed for parking — it is not fair to impose values of car-free lifestyle on pre-existing residents and businesses by waiving parking requirements.

  • BrianY

    Thanks for the story–I’ve wondered about this building when shopping at the office furniture place across Heinz. And I didn’t know that Durkee was part of Berkeley’s manufacturing history. Although the brickwork is pleasing to the eye, the thought of an unreinforced structure that large is certainly concerning–perhaps it would be best were it to be taken down. Since I see no mention of the still-controversial Measure T, I assume this property is not part of one of the six or so plots whose owners would have benefited, had it passed?

    Oh, and why can’t I log in via Yahoo anymore?

  • guest

    wow, sounds very utopian…

  • BHS verteran

    The difference between bricks and bric-a-brac:

    1) Adaptive reuse of historically significant UMB’s a laudable goal.

    2) Pasting salvaged brick features on new buildings is bric-a-brac.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I am actually not sure about the parking requirements of this building. It is on the edge of a large parking lot, which it shares with Orchard Supply and Hardware. Even on busy weekends, only the half of the parking lot near Orchard is filled and the half near this site is empty. This building will be most heavily used on weekdays, while Orchard is most heavily used on weekends, so it is plausible that they could share the existing lot with no trouble. But I really don’t know.

    Apart from supporting transit, note another point of the environmentalist consensus that I listed above:

    — building infill development that creates more walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods.

  • berkeleykev

    Why does the city have to change its decisions in order to bail out Wareham’s investment profit margin? Why is that even an issue for consideration? Things changed and they don’t feel they’ll make enough profit? Gee, sorry, but i don’t think its Berkeley’s responsibility to ensure a minimum profit level for real estate investors.

  • Frances Dinkelspiel

    Wareham owns or leases three buildings that surround 740 Heinz and the tenants of the new building will share the parking lots of the rest of the complex, according to the staff report.

  • Frances Dinkelspiel

    This was not one of the Master Use Parcels in Measure T.

  • BHS verteran

    It may sound that way to you, but what it means is arrests, convictions, firings, lay offs and lots of expelling from BUSD

  • PragmaticProgressive

    You make a good point. Unfortunately, an attempt to require such amoritization would probably just cause them to set up subsidiaries — one entity for each project. Perhaps they already do.

  • The Sharkey

    I think you’re thinking about the wrong lot, Charles. Unless there’s a secondary storage area I don’t know about, the retail location of the Berkeley OSH and its parking lot are located in the block of Heinz that’s bounded by San Pablo and 9th St. I believe the warehouse in question is located West of 7th St.

  • The Sharkey

    I think the “Duh.” was a little uncalled for, don’t you? :-/
    Thanks for the video. It helps a little, but it seems to focus a lot more on being eloquent and pretty than on specificity.

    I was hoping for something more like a list of examples (preferably local) of what constitutes “the commons” in your opinion and what they have to do with this development. The term “commons” seems to be a bit of a buzz word right now, and I’d rather dispense with the trendy jargon and think about what it means locally rather than just tossing the word back and forth.

  • The Sharkey

    If getting new development that brings jobs to the community is what counts as “losing” I guess maybe winning ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

  • The Sharkey

    Why do people fight bitterly about preserving a building that we would never allow to be built today because of safety concerns?

    Three + stories of unreinforced masonry. So unsafe it was declared a public nuisance by the City. If someone tried proposing new construction like this the planning commission would probably suggest a psychiatric evaluation and laugh them all the way out of town.

  • Charles_Siegel

    You are right. I went to Orchard today, and I realized I was thinking about the wrong lot.

  • berkeleykev

    Nice straw man.

    If you care to explain why the city should be guaranteeing a minimum profit for Wareham after the initially agreed plan, then you can add something to this strand of the thread. Otherwise you’re just obfuscating.

  • BHS verteran

    Straw men get blown away. But in Berkeley, the assumed presence of dark, secret conspiracies hangs on and on.

    Wareham is trying to renegotiate a BUSINESS DEAL. A deal made to accommodate the ever changing desires of Berkeley’s planning and zoning officials – 1) Keep a couple of brick walls for aesthetic effect. In exchange for – 2) Building a bigger building.

    Business deals are not legislation. There is no law (not even CEQA) that says you must glue old bricks on to a new building because some people think it’s a nice historic effect.

    Nor does Berkeley HAVE to renegotiate with Wareham. Our elected representatives can and perhaps will say no: Build it according to the deal we had or no extra height, floor area etc..

    Hopefully, they’ll chose jobs, tax revenue and new design over gluing old bricks on new buildings.

  • The Sharkey

    Taking specifics about the structure in question is obfuscating? Is a straw man? On what planet?

    FACT: Berkeley lies on an active fault line that is long overdue for a large-magnitude earthquake.
    FACT: This is a 3-story unreinforced masonry structure.
    FACT: This building is so dangerous that it has been declared a public nuisance.
    FACT: No building of this type would ever be allowed to be built in the Bay Area today because the construction is inherently dangerous.

    Personally I think it was irresponsible of the planning commission to ever greenlight keeping this thing at all in exchange for added height/square footage. They ought to just knock it down and build within the current zoning and be done with it.

    It’s a pretty building, but its prettiness isn’t worth the danger it poses. Take a bunch of pictures and have the City give BAHA a small grant to install and maintain an interpretive panel or something and save the bricks to make a walkway or sell at Ohmega Salvage.

  • berkeleykev

    “assumed presence of dark secret conspiracies”??
    Another straw man.

    And it’s unfortunate, too, because the rest of your post has some reasonable (and intelligently debatable) points.

    I haven’t referenced any conspiracy, just said that it is not Berkeley’s obligation to make special dispensations to any private entity to ensure that company’s preferred profit ratio.

    It’s not a secret that Wareham has had an ongoing interest in developing real estate in Berkeley, and it’s not a secret that they have been well accommodated by the city. It’s also not inherently immoral for a business to seek to maximize its profit, indeed it is to be expected.

    But the issue is that (as you yourself note) there is already a deal. If Wareham wants to try to change the deal, they can certainly ask, but the default position should be “there is already a deal”, not “how can we help you make more money”.

    If Wareham wants to avoid the historic preservation requirements that all the rest of us have to adhere to, (and that they signed on to) then they should present a compelling argument as to why they should be treated differently than every other property owner in town.

    Simply crying poor is a weak argument in my mind.

    For one thing, Wareham has made, and continues to make, lots of money in Berkeley. If they had to make a little less money on this one deal their overall Berkeley portfolio would still be a robust investment package. So, I am not anti-capitalist, I am not against them making money while creating new spaces in Berkeley. I’m simply pointing out that Wareham does quite nicely, thank you very much.

    It is a common refrain from developers that they need x, y, and z concessions to make each project “pencil out”. “If we don’t get these exceptions on (insert expensive requirement that joe schmoe can’t get out of here, like off-street parking, height limits, etc) we won’t do the project.” I don’t have any big problem with that as a negotiating tactic, but I also know that the same developers always are very interested in doing more projects.

    In my line of business there’s an expression that if you get every job, then your bids are too low. If your bids are competitive you will get many jobs if you have something going for you, but you will also lose some jobs to hungrier competitors who are willing to work ( unsustainably) for near cost.

    As Bill Graham reportedly said, “If I sell every ticket to a concert then I didn’t charge enough”.

    If developers are repeatedly clamoring to do business in Berkeley (and the main big players have done exactly that) then Berkeley has not come near to the actual line where it is no longer profitable, no matter what numbers Wareham is pulling out of its corporate butt. Berkeley could be charging more for its metaphorical concert tickets.

  • BHS verteran

    You are full of hay! Here is exactly what you wrote:

    “If you care to explain why the city should be guaranteeing a minimum profit for Wareham…”

    You start your sermon by positing a conspiratorial action by the city and Wareham; And NOW, one post later, you tell us, you KNOW such a conspiratorial action cannot exist.

    You were just kidding?…you really ARE quite savvy about the real deal business world and, of course, the city can’t do that…but…we are selling the seats cheap…Blah blah.

    This is the important part: Histrionic self-serving dramatics like yours stink up most every real world discussion of Berkeley’s issues.

  • getreal

    As is customary, the comments are offering a drab rehearsal of the empty rhetoric of tired, largely empty, rudely polarized talk about who is supposedly for or against development and about who does and does not believe in this or that conspiracy theory. We have a habit of farcically pretending it all boils down to nothing more than a clash of personalities: evil capitalists vs. hippies. If you ask me, everyone leaves the discussion just a little bit dumber and a little bit meaner for having partaken in this drivel.

    It seems to me that any project of the sort Wareham is proposing to the city is an invitation that we join them in a kind of real estate speculation. As in any speculative investment, there are definite costs and potential rewards for Berkeley. Berkeley is asked to make concessions in return for future returns.

    On the cost side Berkeley is invited to pay for the privilege of hosting this new development in exchange for immediate concessions on design and use. What is at stake is a permanent fixture on the lot and so Berkeley’s costs should also include any much harder-to-quantify longer-term opportunity costs associated with accepting the proposal rather than taking a wait-and-see attitude. These opportunity costs include the negative impact, if any, that would result on existing businesses and potential future businesses more well suited to the zoning rules we are considering breaking.

    The return side from Berkeley’s costs would be in the form of a higher tax basis for the property, taxes on businesses that occupy the space, employment opportunities, and perhaps indirect revenues such as an increase in demand for residential space in Berkeley and the spending of wages in Berkeley.

    Arguments in favor of giving variances to developers like Wareham often assume — without offering much by way of convincing analysis — that Berkeley’s projected fiscal benefits are more than enough to justify Berkeley’s costs. Read the rhetoric from the usual flapjaws and they would have you focus instead on their belief that it is only some kind of misplaced “nostalgia” or “NIMBYism” that stands in the way of what should rightfully be a big windfall of progress for the city. So empty is this customary kind of debate that it is also become customary for city staff and elected officials to try, when they can, to end-run around the debate entirely as evidenced by the bitter fighting over the adequacy of public participation in preparing Measure T.

    Is this really the best level of civic thought and public process Berkeley can manage? Or we that anti-intellectual? Or is it just the drone of the same-old same-old handful of who foreclose on meaningful debate time and again?

    Quantifying the tradeoffs Berkeley is being asked to make is nearly impossible for we collectively have insufficient agreed upon economic models of to which to refer and precious little data. Anecdotally, for example, we might note that Bayer is Berkeley’s largest commercial tax payer and has many employees. Or we might equally note that Bayer is able to extract large tax relief from the city by threatening to leave and that few Berkeleyans are among its many employees. If the development of the Bayer site were such a boon to the city by virtue of its natural utility, Bayer would not have that kind of leverage. If they threatened to leave, a line would form of others who are ready to take over that space. Anecdotally we might note that demand for office and flex space is high but that on the other hand there are many much more affordable sites throughout the Bay Area as well as similarly expensive sites in more desirable locations. So who can tell if the trade-offs really pay off? The evidence is sketchy, at best.

    Well, Wareham here has given us a big hint with this move. Demand for the project Wareham proposes to build is so tenuous that they demand an expensive public process to secure further zoning variances or else they will refuse to build the project. A one percent difference on Wareham’s return is apparently enough to queer the deal for Wareham. So how great for Berkeley would this structure really be? This should be enough to cause us to question what’s in this deal for Berkeley in the first place. If Wareham’s margins are that slender on the project, why should we believe there will be sufficient benefit for Berkeley?

    The pro-development side, if they really want to win hearts and minds, owes the community a sober and mature account of their economic theories here. Wareham has inadvertently taken the lead by disclosing that projected returns are sub-standard and that they want to quibble over the already small margins. In retrospect, we should now see, that the original approval was itself a mistake even with the preservationist elements.