New building proposed for Sequoia site on Telegraph Ave.

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A rendering of the 42-unit residential and commercial building proposed for the site of the former Sequoia Apartment building at 2441 Haste St. at Telegraph. Source: Kahn Design Associates

The owners of the property at 2441 Haste St. at Telegraph, scene of a devastating fire in Nov. 2011 that destroyed the five-story Sequoia Apartments, have submitted a proposal to the city of Berkeley to build a new 42-unit, 43,000 sq ft apartment building.

The project would also include retail spaces intended for two restaurants that burned down that night: Café Intermezzo and Raleigh’s Bar & Grill.

The proposal, which was submitted to the city by Kenneth and Gregory Ent on Friday, Feb. 22, would be designed by Berkeley architects Kahn Design Associates, working with developer ROEM.

The design calls for a U-shaped building around a courtyard — the 1916 Sequoia building also had a courtyard — with the entrances to the two restaurants on Telegraph, as before. Access to the apartments would be through a gated forecourt on Haste.

While the overall look of the new building would be modern, the application says the commercial façade “with its clerestories, wainscots, and canopies” would reflect “a pattern proportion and rhythm consistent with the Old Sequoia and other traditional storefronts along the Avenue.”

The old building was about 65 ft high and the new one will extend 58 ft at its highest point, according to the submission. (Read the application.)

Kahn Design Associates, let by architect Charles Kahn, has designed many public, commercial and residential buildings in Berkeley including 2130 Center Street (the former Act 1 & Act II Theater), Bauman College, The Callaj Building, Berkeley Plaza (near Trader Joe’s) and the Berkeley Bike Station.


The Sequoia Apartment Building on Nov. 19, the day after a catastrophic fire raged through the building. Photo: Tracey Taylor

The fire that erupted at the Sequoia Apartments on the night of Nov. 18 was determined to have been caused by an electrical fault in the elevator machinery. The damage was so extensive that the building had to be demolished later that month. Plans, suggested in Feb. 2012, for a temporary resurrection of the two popular restaurants on the site were never brought to fruition.

The intersection of Telegraph and Haste may see more development in the foreseeable future, after suffering decades of neglect. Another proposal — for the north-east corner site — is currently going through the planning application process, and one for the south-west corner was submitted to the city last year.

Both developments are proposed by Ken Sarachan, who owns several properties on Telegraph, and is the owner of Rasputin Records among other holdings.

Renderings of Mad Monk, a live entertainment and dining spot proposed for the old Cody’s space on Telegraph. Source: Avila Design

Sarachan recently submitted revised plans for a dining and live entertainment venue called Mad Monk to go into 2554 Telegraph, the space occupied by Cody’s Books for many years.

The proposal calls for a restaurant, a bar serving distilled spirits, a retail space, a flower shop, as well as a ‘to-go’ counter on Telegraph. The greenhouse part of the current structure which is on the corner of the site would be rebuilt with a second-floor exterior deck for outdoor eating. Greg Powell, Senior Planner at the city of Berkeley, said the project has completed its process through planning and just need the results of a police review — which is necessitated by the spirits permit. It is expected to go before the Zoning Adjustments Board on March 28. (Read the application.)

Sarachan’s other outstanding application is to build at 2433 Haste a Moorish palace-like structure inspired by Italian hill towns and the rock-cut architecture of Petra in Jordan, designed by architect Kirk Peterson. The project, known as “La Fortaleza” (as in “fortress” or “stronghold”), was submitted to the city last year, but there are several hurdles to clear before the building could be either approved or built. The city issued a lawsuit against Sarachan in Jan. 2012 for outstanding debts. One existing building on the site — the former Wicked Zone tattoo parlor — needs to be demolished, which requires a Landmarks Preservation Commission review. Another property at the site, the landmarked Woolsey House, has to be relocated. Commercial realtor John Gordon has expressed an interest in taking on the Woolsey House move. (Read the application.) The vacant lot has been the scene of blight, including rats, for years.


Telegraph Avenue elevation design for a new building at 2501 Haste, which would be partly clad in rock. Courtesy: Kirk E. Peterson & Associates

Other changes to Telegraph Avenue more broadly include the redesign of Sproul Plaza, for which construction has recently begun, and possible outcomes of improvements being spurred by the Telegraph Avenue Property and Business Improvement District. In April 2012 a volunteer group of architects, urban planners and transit specialists alled Berkeley Design Advocates organized a charrette to brainstorm ideas to revitalize the street.

On Thursday, the Mayor’s Office is holding an interactive community workshop to discuss the future of Telegraph Avenue. The workshop will include presentations from city staff and the public will have an opportunity to brainstorm solutions and identify goals. The meeting is Thursday, Feb. 28, from 6-8:30 p.m. at Willard Middle School.

New Sproul design ideas provide optimism for Telegraph [11.29.12]
Can Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue get it mojo back? [04.18.12]
Imagining a future for Telegraph Avenue without blinders [04.11.12]
Telegraph fire site owner plans for temporary resurrection [02.06.12]
Berkeley’s 95-year-old Sequoia Building is brought down [11.29.11]
“Largest fire since 1991″ leaves many locals homeless [11.19.11]
Urban think tank: Student visions for blighted Telegraph lot [10.03.11]
City hands ultimatum to Sarachan on vacant Telegraph lot [09.07.11]
The rats of Telegraph Avenue (video) [01.28.11]

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  • curiousjorge

    wow. the designs of those buildings are…. special.

  • David D.

    Can’t say I’m especially thrilled by the modern architectural style, but at least the size, massing, and usage would be appropriate for this location. Let’s home some (any) acknowledgment of the surrounding architecture is taken into account before the final plan is drawn up. The area is blighted and redevelopment of this site would be wonderful, so let’s hope the approval process doesn’t drag on too long!

  • Word Dawg

    This is why the Berkeley Main Library building is so important to keep. Someday Berkeley will be left with just these cringe-worthy buildings. However, La Fortaleza is interesting, good for Mr. Sarachan.

  • Mrdrew3782

    I am not really a fan of buildings that are clad in bright colors. It looks like the architect got his inspiration from some left over legos. I really don’t know how I feel about the 2501 Haste design. If it had those trees all over the place, like in the sketch and looked like an actual castle, then it would be great. Sadly though, it probably won’t. In the long run though both those buildings are better then the current empty lots. So, build them now.

  • EBGuy

    Nice scoop Tracey. Talk about hot off the presses; those plans weren’t there when I checked last week. Am I the only one who wants to see five stories? I think they’re playing it too safe.

  • Mrdrew3782

    Also the Post Office. I don’t care who owns it but I hope it’s kept just the way it is for as long as possible.

  • 4Eenie

    Not at all a fan of the sketched building. It looks rather uninspired, but I may just not be hip to the modern austerity that many buildings take on these days. And the bright colors? Icky. With that said, is something there better than nothing? Prolly.

  • Bill N

    The Sequoiya building reminds me of the hotel at Bancroft and Milvia made larger – not to inspiring but really better than nothing to echo some other comments. The Cody’s restaurant and bar is also important for the Ave and to pull more foot traffic down Telegraph. It’s hard to imagine how the 2501 Haste project will play out I’ll bet you that it doesn’t end up like the sketch though. Whatever happens that intersection badly needs something done.

  • Eddie

    Any talk of revitalizing that area needs to include People’s Park. It’s long been a place to avoid rather than some symbol of freedom of speech or peace.

  • Hyper_lexic

    I’m with you.

  • The soul of Telegraph died long ago. If all we’ll get in hopes of keeping the heart beating is ugly buildings, the so be it. Better to be embarrassing than to be dead. And if this means the Ents can keep the rats out of the lettuce in their restaurants, so much the better.

  • Victoria

    Whatever happened to the idea of preserving and reusing the facade of the Sequoia Apt. building? These “new” structures will look like ghetto buildings in ten years, whereas most of the older buildings retained their style and elegance long into their old age.

  • Paul Kamen

    I’m with you also. With such high demand for student housing, it’s hard to justify not going higher. I imagine student housing on opposite sides of Telegraph at Haste, with an upper floor bridge connecting them. It would be a kind of gateway arch to the South Campus commercial district and the living museum of the counterculture…

  • The_Sharkey

    People’s Park would make an excellent multi-story parking lot for Cal visitors and Telegraph Avenue shoppers.

  • EricPanzer

    Here’s why it won’t happen: Prop 13. If after a fire or other disaster you rebuild a structure in a “like or similar manner”, your property will be assessed at the same value it was before the original structure was lost. Considering the ridiculous tax-savings at stake, you better believe that the owners are going to bend over backwards to redevelop in a manner which is “like or similar” from a legal perspective.

    So, once again, we get to appreciate the wisdom of the proposition system in trusting to the infallible foresight of California voters. Hurray.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Comments seem to be unanimous so far: the replacement for the Sequoia Building is ugly and grotesque, but it better than having a vacant lot there. I agree completely.

    A indoctrinated modernist architect does it again.

  • Mbfarrel

    Not at all fond of this design; however I think that tba “Mondrian” themed remodel of the old Penny’s building is quite good.

  • foobar

    What a wonderful idea, Sharkey! We need to replace some of Berkeley’s huge expanses of public space with some desperately needed asphalt.

  • foobar

    I assume Saruman’s been consulted about this? He raised some concerns about the Ents causing problems for him at the last city council meeting.

  • Bryan Garcia

    Agreed. People’s Park is the main draw for all of the street kids on Telegraph. Eliminate it and I can almost guarantee that you’d see a huge drop in the street kid population. Bulldoze People’s Park and turn it in to student housing. Put up a plaque as a small concession to the aging hippies.

  • Bryan Garcia

    The replacement for the Sequoia building is indeed quite ugly. Part of me feels like “beggars can’t be choosers” and that any building will be better than an empty lot, but another part of me feels like we shouldn’t settle, because we’re probably going to have to live with seeing the building for decades.

  • M

    It’s unfortunate that they are proposing such an ugly, boxy building. It would be nice if they would rebuild in the style of the original building.

  • The_Sharkey

    Yeah, good point, except the public hasn’t been particularly welcome in the homeless campground in question for, what, decades now?

  • The_Sharkey

    Like most ballot Propositions, Prop 13 was sold to voters as keeping
    granny in her home, but in reality was designed to primarily benefit
    corporate holdings.

    The law ought to be amended to only cover
    primary residences of human beings so that it more closely resemble what
    voters thought they were signing into law, but the spineless crew in Sacramento won’t dare anger their big business donors.

  • Biker 94703


  • The_Sharkey

    Like most ballot Propositions, Prop 13 was sold to voters as keeping granny in her home, but in reality was designed to primarily benefit corporate holdings.

    The law ought to be amended to only cover primary residences of human beings so that it more closely resemble what voters thought they were signing into law, but the spineless crew in Sacramento won’t dare anger their big business donors.

  • EBGuy

    Eric, thanks for bringing up the assessment issue. It’s interesting to see how the Ent’s handled this (as most of us probably would). They keep the cost low by building fewer stories and they get to claim they’re “letting in the sunshine.” Lot coverage suffers, though, as they’re going from 67% (old, taller building) to 76% (new, shorter building). They kept the number of units about the same, but total square footage decreased by around 16%: 52,500 sq.feet (44 units) for the old building and 43,902 sq.ft. (42 units) for the New Sequoia.

  • Just Sayin

    La Fortaleza is ugly and is a joke. It will never be built…

  • Greg

    So this raises a question:

    If the building retains its “base year value” under Prop. 13 because it was built in a “like or similar” manner, will the City of Berkeley consider the rental units created by “rehabilitation” under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance?

  • Bill Bartell

    People’s Parking could include a commemorative wall/mural celebrating all the history that’s been wiped out by the population who use the park over the years, the book stores, many record shops, cafes, the clothing emporiums Telegraph was once famous for. . . could all be part of the celebrated history of this once-vibrant strip. . . .

  • deirdre
  • deirdre

    I hope Kriss started singing about it.

  • The_Sharkey

    Any action that might reduce the blight he’s using his land holdings to create around Amoeba Records concerns the great and powerful He Who Must Not Be Named Or Your Comments Will Get Deleted.

  • twill monkey

    uninteresting, cheap, loud crap…why are developers so hell-bent on making everything as junky as possible?

  • Tired of Anti-Social Behavior

    Telegraph needs a dose of England’s approach to anti-social behavior.

  • dognose2

    Where will the salad place go? bring back The salad place. Pleeeze.

  • Escobar

    Designed to fail.

  • Douglas H Finley

    Proposition 13 (like so many bad recent initiatives) isn’t a law that can be changed by the Legislature. It’s a constitutional amendment, which can only be changed with voter approval, whether put on a statewide ballot by initiative or the Legislature.

  • LJS

    This building is truly ugly, doesn’t fit with the other architecture in the area, should not be built to these drawings and would really be a step backwards in terms of updating the area. Please, someone who has the authority, make them go back to the drawing board.

  • LJS

    It’s an insult to the City, the community to propose such a building that has not architectural connection to anything around it. So sad that someone thinks they can design something that looks so incredibly cheap and the City will allow it to happen.

  • The_Sharkey

    Correct. But my point is simply that the folks in Sacramento ought to be getting word out to voters about what the problems with Prop 13 are, and working to get another voter initiative on the ballot to amend it.

    Given the current economic and political climate in California I think an amendment to Prop 13 that fixed it so that it didn’t apply to corporate holdings, vacation homes for the rich, and apartment complexes belonging to mega-landlords would do pretty well at the ballot box.

  • Berkely by default

    Was there no public review of this building or the Moorish Palace to be built across the street that has managed to get through 9/10’s of the approval process? Neither building has any relation to the other or any other building in, well, maybe the whole city. This is a historic area and, while we don’t have Julia to guide us, at least could we try for a modicum of taste and architectural consistency? Yet again Berkeley shows how clueless we are.