Mixed-use 6-story building approved on Addison Street

1935 Addison Street, Avi Nevo

A new 69-unit building, with 7,240 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, has been approved by the city’s zoning board for construction on Addison Street.

The six-story 60-foot-tall building is the latest development by property owner Avi Nevo, who has developed numerous projects in Berkeley over the last 17 years, including Telegraph Gardens across from Whole Foods.

“I’ve been building projects in Berkeley since long before it became so popular,” Nevo told the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board in late June.

The Addison Street project, at 1931-1935 Addison (between Milvia and MLK Jr. Way), is set to take the place of two garages on adjacent parcels. A basement-level parking lot will include spaces for nine vehicles and 48 bicycles. There are 25 fewer spaces planned than the number required by city code, so Nevo will pay in-lieu fees — ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 per spot, for a total of $525,000 — to the city to compensate. All residents will receive a free transit pass for bus use, as required by city code. (City policy allows developers to choose to either build parking on site or pay the in-lieu fee.)

According to the staff report on the project, the city does not expect the project to cause parking problems in the neighborhood: “The abundance of bicycle parking, the provision of transit passes, the ineligibility for RPPs (residential parking permits), as well as the project’s proximity to public transit, jobs, goods and services, and the University, will help reduce car ownership and help ensure that parking demand does not exceed the project’s parking supply.”

The project also includes two outdoor courts above the garage level, private balconies on the fifth and sixth floors, and a rooftop deck and laundry facilities. Nevo said he’d like to create some kind of art annex in the ground-floor retail space, given the high concentration of art spaces in the area.

Ten studio apartments, five one-bedroom units, 53 two-bedroom units and one three-bedroom unit are planned. Ten percent of the units, a total of seven, will be affordable to very low income households — those earning 50 percent of the area median income. Nevo is not taking the “density bonus,” which would have allowed him to build a taller building.

The two garages that are slated to be demolished date back to 1931 and 1925, but the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission determined that neither are of historic value.

Local leasing agent John Gordon, who owns the property directly north of the 1931-1935 Addison, wrote a letter in support of the project, noting that he’d met multiple times with Nevo and his architect, and that they had made changes to the project that would lessen the impact on his property.

“Under our agreement the building’s northwest corner and the top level which presented the biggest shadow impact was set back approx. 14 feet from the property line for the top two levels which would reduce the project shadow impact on my property,” he wrote. “In addition the roof parapet was removed and revised to an eave to further reduce the impact.”

During the public comment period at the June 27 zoning board meeting, three residents who work near the proposed project site raised concerns about the project’s potential impacts on sunlight, noise and parking. Two of them asked the zoning board to slow down the process and allow more time for review and mediation.

Addison Street: before and after the proposed project. Click the image to see more before-and-after views. Image: Rony

Addison Street: before and after the proposed project. Click the image to see more, and larger, before-and-after views. Image: Rony Rolnizky

Project architect Rony Rolnizky said the resistance took him by surprise, as he and Nevo had received no negative feedback previously from neighbors during the community meeting they had held, or otherwise.

Commissioner Bob Allen said he thought the project would be a positive addition to downtown Berkeley: “This group has built what I consider the best apartments in Berkeley. They’re handsome buildings. They work very well.”

He went on to note, as did other commissioners, that the Downtown Area Plan’s approach to parking — which includes relatively few required spaces, and the option of paying fees into a fund that would allow the city to build its own parking garages rather than requiring parking on-site — may cause problems for the city in the future.

“I think we’re nuts to have this small parking requirement in downtown,” he said. “But hopefully we’ll figure it out sooner rather than later so, if we need to do it, the city can change it.”

In response to concerns expressed by members of the public, Allen went on to say that the Addison Street project is a sign of what’s to come based on the vision of the downtown plan: “This is what downtown’s going to be. We’re not going to be limiting the heights of buildings by what’s there now. It is going to be a much more dense downtown.”

Commissioner George Williams said the project, which complies in all respects with the city code, is “exactly what was envisioned in the downtown plan.” He added that he didn’t see parking being an issue, as members of the “younger generation” are “more interested in a lively street life and less likely to own cars.”

Commissioner Igor Tregub said he was sympathetic to the neighbors’ concerns and proposed a continuance to allow further study, but his motion failed due to lack of support.

An appeal dated July 16 and signed by 29 people has been filed, which would require City Council review of the Addison Street project. The appellants — including the East Bay Media Center — have asked for a traffic analysis and more information about future shadowing impacts, as well as for the project height to be dropped to four stories.

City’s largest apartment building ever gets go-ahead (07.11.13)
‘The Durant’ apartments win approval from City Council (06.27.13)
Developers put theaters back into high-rise plans (06.26.13)
Early high-rise plans lack inspiration, say commissioners (03.19.13)
Berkeley zoning board approves 78-unit Durant (03.15.13)
New building proposed for Sequoia site on Telegraph Ave. (02.27.13)
1,000 new apartments planned for downtown Berkeley (02.07.13)
First high-rise in 40 years planned for downtown Berkeley (12.21.12)

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  • PragmaticProgressive

    Why is that not a good thing?

  • guest

    …and when the dental hygenist said: “You’ve got a cavity!”

    FDP replied: “Don’t you work for a dentist?”

  • guest

    “Commissioner Igor Tregub said he was sympathetic to the neighbors’ concerns and proposed a continuance to allow further study, but his motion failed due to lack of support.”

    Igor, you should find a new tact to advance your political ambitions. Berkeley politics suffers from a glut of opportunistic bleeding hearts.

  • fhcec

    bogus argument, that. People with poor sight will need rides, and so where are the cars going to park? If they are low vision and low mobility, then what? Just move out of Berkeley or pay for, but not be able to participate in, its amenities and … you too will reach that point, unless you are so unlucky as to die young, and then what will you be saying? Where are the parking spaces or more expensive senior transit or….???

  • baklazhan

    >Berkeley’s residentially attached parking will *still* have utility.

    So the developer has two choices: pay $X to construct a parking space, and enjoy the utility of the space; or pay $15000+ to avoid constructing a space, and not enjoy it. They chose not to. That means that they believe (and are putting their money where their mouths are) that the utility of a parking space is not just less than the cost of building it, but more than $15000 less.

    >On the other hand it can be useful by future conversion of use. It’s flexible.

    Would it help if the developer labeled the commercial space as “flexible parking that has already been converted to commercial space”?

  • baklazhan

    This is a puzzle. Are the landlords holding out for excessively high rents? Generally speaking, some money is better than no money, so I’d like to know what their reasoning is.

  • baklazhan

    Granted, brand new apartments are going to attract people who can afford to pay more than average. What I object to, however, is that the city should therefore insist that everyone who builds new apartments must cater exclusively to those people.

  • guest

    Perhaps in Cuba the state mandates retail rents, not here.

    Retail leasing requires the most deliberate timing and due diligence. Tossing the keys to any kid with a cool idea gets you locked up for years in an expensive legal battle recovering your space…and forget about getting any awards for damages or attorney’s fees.

    How many retail leases have you made?

  • MV

    You ain’t seen nothing yet! Wait until the proposed 8 story ‘StoneFire’ project on the corner of University and Milvia gets approved.The impact of the Nevo 1931 Addison project and now the Schrader- StoneFire project ( replaces the existing Firestone garage ) on the block will be devastating to parking, congestion, and density to our neighborhood. I spoke at the ZAB meeting and was stunned that $525,000. buys less parking and the boards rubber stamping of this project without further review feels like the fix is in. Doesn’t the concerns of the two property owners directly impacted by and who spoke against this project at least deserve consideration and review?

  • Charles_Siegel

    I live right in the neighborhood, and I have walked by the Firestone tire site literally thousands of times. I can’t walk by it without thinking about how ugly it is. It represents the decline of downtown Berkeley during the 1950s, when American cities were being rebuilt around the automobile, and Berkeley’s walkable downtown was being rebuilt piecemeal with automobile-oriented uses like this one.

    I have not seen the plans for StoneFire, and I might think they need some modification. (In general, I favor bringing heights down to six stories.)

    But there is no doubt that replacing this tire store and parking lot will make downtown a much more attractive place for pedestrians. This block is reviving, with lots of restaurants and cafes just to the west of the site. The Firestone lot now prevents the revival from going any further. With a new, pedestrian-oriented use here, the neighborhood will flourish.

    Both 1931 Addison and a similar development on the Firestone site are exactly what is envisioned by Plan Bay Area as an important contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing automobile dependency. To repeat the obvious, people who live in these sites will drive much less than people who live in most locations, and Plan Bay Area estimates that this sort of development will cut per capita emissions from cars 15% by 2035.

    It is astounding that, even as we see the effects of global warming already happening, there are still some people who back the status quo by demanding more parking and more pollution.

    Yes, the property owners impacted by the project deserve consideration. Likewise, the property owner impacted by 1931 Addison got the building terraced to reduce the shading on his site. But that is not a reason for opposing this sort of development, which is necessary to protect the environment, which makes downtown more attractive and more prosperous, and which replaces an ugly surface parking lot that currently blights downtown.

  • guest

    So the developer has two choices: pay $X to construct a parking space, and enjoy the utility of the space; or pay $15000+ to avoid constructing a space, and not enjoy it. They chose not to. That means that they believe (and are putting their money where their mouths are) that the utility of a parking space is not just less than the cost of building it, but more than $15000 less.

    The developers’ decisions to pay the in lieu fees suggest the developer is getting a better deal fiscally.

    That doesn’t tell you much of anything about the long term use value of the structure to tenants or the buildings lasting local impacts.

    If the price signals to developers reliably produced wonderfully useful structures and harmonious environments then we would do away with zoning and other regulation entirely.

  • guest

    I’m impressed at how you imply it is immoral to not accept Plan Bay Area as environmental science gospel. And how anyone who disagrees with you is “demanding […] more pollution”.

  • Charles_Siegel

    It is common sense that people living in a neighborhood like downtown Berkeley, with lots of services and transit within walking distance, will drive less than people who live in neighborhoods where there is less within walking distance.

    There is also plenty of data to back it, from the early studies by Peter Newman to the recent studies by Reid Ewing.

    I don’t think it is immoral to disagree with Plan Bay Area.

    I do think it is immoral to care only about your own parking problems and to ignore the environmental issues that are involved – to just say things like
    “the block will be devastating to parking, congestion, and density to our neighborhood.”
    and to ignore the much worse devastation that Plan Bay Area is trying to help us avoid.

    In fact, there are more environmentally sound ways of dealing with these parking problems. GoBerkeley is an example.

  • MV

    I’m not only concerned about EBMC;s parking, but the entire Downtown Arts Districts parking, i.e.The Freight and Salvage, Berkeley Rep, Aurora Theater, the Jazz School, the newly remodeled Tioga Building and the other businesses on Addison Street and University Avenue, that are affected on a daily basis.

    In an ideal world when we’re all using jetpacks, drones and tele-transporting to the downtown area,
    these monolithic six and eight story structures may have a place but not in our arts district..

    When the above referenced arts entities have events on the same night it is impossible to travel on a gridlocked Addison Street. Addison Street needs more businesses not more beds, and responsible realtors that stop jacking the rents on start up businesses in the downtown area, leaving a slew of vacant storefronts. And what will occur when the downtown parking structure on Addison-Center Street gets torn down and rebuilt over a period of three years?

    There is also a blind trust that the Downtown Plan being voter approved, must be a good plan, it could also turn into a fiasco with over building and turning off visitors to our city.

    The proposed Nevo structure is a mirror of the Patty Kennedy School of Soviet bloc architecture, tack on a few metal designs on the box, rename the building with “art’ in the title and voila. The proposed Nevo design is aesthetically offensive to many, it lacks any continuity to the neighborhood, gives the appearance that it was picked out of catalogue of bad urban design with profit as it’s main design element.One should look more closely at The Freight and Salvages approach of integrating the existing architecture and building from it.

    The businesses that have objected to this ‘Nevo elephant box’, also pay a premium in property taxes, have invested heavily in their properties / businesses and contribute to the overall vitality of the downtown.They should and will have a say in their respective futures.

    Regarding one of the commentors negative opinions on the existing Firestone structure,
    I for one feel that structure is a perfect example of our past history in Berkeley, rather than tear it down, why not turn it into a museum or another arts usage, what’s so wrong with embracing our past, restoring the incredible neon signs and metal surfaces, and yes, it even has the much needed parking we need in the downtown arts district.

  • parking first!

    “StoneFire” converted to an eating and entertainment place with two stories and roughly the same footprint; today’s parking lot re-purposed to work as sometimes-parking and sometimes-outdoor-dining or other kinds of event. I have read in the comments that that will probably destroy the planet but at least it will do so with a little style.

  • Charles_Siegel

    “I’m not only concerned about EBMC;s parking, but the entire Downtown Arts Districts parking”

    To state it more concisely: “I am only concerned about parking” – not about the environment.

    As I said earlier:
    “people who live in these sites will drive much less than people who live
    in most locations, and Plan Bay Area projects that this sort of
    development will cut per capita emissions from cars 15% by 2035. … In fact, there are more environmentally sound ways of dealing with these parking problems. GoBerkeley is an example.”

    “The proposed Nevo structure is a mirror of the Patty Kennedy School of Soviet bloc architecture”

    It is very, very strange to think that Patrick Kennedy’s neo-Victorian apartment building on Addison Street is “soviet block architecture.”

    It is equally strange to think we should preserve every 1950s tire store. Maybe we should also preserve every strip mall of the 1950s. Or maybe we should start selling leaded gasoline again – since that was also part of our history.

    We are not “embracing our history” by preserving a building that ignored the historical character of the neighborhood where it was built.

  • Mbfarrel

    BART lots around the Bay Area?

  • baklazhan

    If the tenants got utility from it, the tenants would be willing to pay for it. If they’re willing to pay for it, the developer should be willing to build it. “Oh, price signals just don’t work” is not much of an argument.

  • guest

    Baklazhan there are a lot of reasons to not believe that pricing is efficient in that way but here is one really simple one:

    Today’s tenants pay rents based on what they think a unit is worth, to them, today. Typical leases (for these kinds of places) deny tenant’s much long term financial interest in the market rate for the unit. To a first approximation, tenants have no incentive to price in any consideration of the long term implications of reduced parking.

    The only party in the transaction that clearly and reliably has these longer term interests in environmental impact and practical utility are we the people. That’s, at least in theory, why we enter the transactions, through government, as regulator and thus “distort” the market.

  • fran haselsteiner

    With all this discussion, I will note that what is noticeably absent is a discussion of the paucity of east-west routes. Yesterday there was gridlock on University at San Pablo, and Dwight Way had backups of several blocks (which is, BTW, a nearly wholly residential street). You can argue architecture all you want, but the fact remains that Berkeley does not have space for all those cars. Which, BTW, does not diminish with all this talk about walkability and density.

  • Charles_Siegel

    But how many cars will Avi Nevo’s building on Addison generate?

    It only has 9 parking spaces, so its residents won’t generate too many car trips; and some of those residents might be people who used to commute to central Berkeley by car and now can walk or bike for their commute. It has one story of businesses which will draw cars, but those businesses are replacing one story of garages that drew cars for servicing. It also generates a half-million dollars that could be spent on clean transportation, reducing car use.

    On the balance, it might not generate any net gain at all in car trips. Maybe even a reduction.

  • fran haselsteiner

    I seriously doubt it. Transit has to be cheap and convenient for people to use it. We’ve seen only diminished transit coverage. Believe me, I want to agree with you, but from what I’ve seen since 1984, I don’t see it. And how can one justify the really bad traffic on Saturdays?

  • Charles_Siegel

    Transit is equally bad with or without this building. The question is what the impact of this building (Avi Nevo’s new building on Addison) will be.

    I don’t see how this building can add many cars – if any – considering that:

    –it has only 9 residential parking spaces, so its residents are not going to generate many trips. (Of course, it would be even better if its residents were car-free.)

    –it has about the same square footage of retail as currently exists – with the current retail being very automobile-oriented.

    –it allows people to live near downtown, so they don’t have to commute by car. For their commute, most people who live here will walk to the University or downtown, or will walk to BART and take it.

    How is this building going to make traffic worse at University and San Pablo? Or make traffic worse on Saturday?

    Of course, I agree with you that we would be even better off if we improved transit service.

  • guest

    In general you seem to favor plans that will increase the residential density by a definite amount but that might, if certain theories bear out, reduce the rate of downtown car ownership by some amount. It’s highly believable that such plans will still net an increase in the number of residentially connected cars downtown, even if the rate of ownership of cars falls. Simultaneously, the hope of these plans is to increase occupancy of the streets by public transit vehicles. All these things point to more congestion and parking competition.

    Sometimes you seem to make very broad environmental claims about the impact on overall ghg emissions. These conclusions are without any good foundation. For example, one possible failure mode of “Plan Bay Area” is that it selectively increases population density in a few spots, but overall worsens Bay Area conditions in ways that increase demand for (traditional) sprawl.

    Arguments about long-term environmental outcomes and guesses about the traffic impact of radical changes to parking requirements are so speculative (to put it generously) that there have to be better ways to look at these kinds of zoning decisions.

  • baklazhan

    The developer has a huge interest in the market rates for the units. They’re the ones who are going to have to rent out the apartments, and if parking was important to tenants, the developers would lose out, because people wouldn’t want to rent there.

    But even if that happened, so what? Developer doesn’t make as much money as they hoped, future developers learn a lesson, and some carless people get a cheap(er) place to live. I could live with that.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Tom. Why do you persist ?

  • PragmaticProgressive


    To what extent do you believe achieving a (more) attractive, walkable Berkeley depends on addressing the amount of violent crime against pedestrians in the area and, separately, the number of service-resistant street people?

    More foot traffic may reduce the former, but the latter seems to limit the number of people who feel comfortable ambling about.

    Pre-auto Berkeley didn’t have these issues and I wonder how we’ll mitigate them in the new paradigm.

  • BBnet3000

    The developer is paying for the transit passes. Its a hell of a lot cheaper than a parking space. The jobs are at the UC for the most part in Berkeley, in Downtown Oakland and Downtown San Francisco.

  • David D.

    $15K-$25K is a phenomenal deal for in-lieu fees. Structured parking costs much more than that on a per-space basis. This developer hit the jackpot!

  • djoelt1

    Because if I were the manager of an apartment building with that many units I would take applications even if no apartments were available – you never know when someone will give 30 days notice.