State court hears Mitch Kapor Berkeley home case

New-pic-of-Kapor-house
A model of the home Mitch Kapor and his wife Freada Kapor Klein propose to build on Rose Street in Berkeley. Image: Marcy Wong Donn Logan

The long-running saga of philanthropist and Lotus founder Mitch Kapor’s attempt to build a new home in North Berkeley landed at the California Supreme Court in Los Angeles on Tuesday this week.

At the Dec. 2 hearing, the Court heard arguments on whether the rules that exempt most proposed single-family homes from undergoing an environmental impact report (EIR) should apply to the proposal by Kapor, and his wife Freada Kapor Klein, to build a new home with a 10-car garage at 2707 Rose St.

According to Bob Egelko, the Chronicle’s courts reporter, at the one-hour hearing Susan Brandt-Hawley, a lawyer for the Berkeley Hillside Preservation group, re-iterated arguments that have been presented to Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board (which originally approved the project in January 2010), and the Alameda County Superior Court, which subsequently denied an appeal on the case.

Brandt-Hawley said that building a “huge home” in a “landslide zone,” which will also require extensive work to widen the roadway, should amount to unusual circumstances requiring environmental review. She cited testimony by the group’s expert witness, engineer Lawrence Karp.


Brandt-Hawley said Thursday she could not comment on this week’s hearing.

Amrit Kulkarni, the Kapors’ lawyer, said at the hearing that “courts should give considerable deference to Berkeley officials, who rejected opponents’ concerns about landslides, drainage and traffic on the narrow street,” according to the Chronicle report. Kulkarni also argued that the law should be applied consistently statewide.

Kulkarni did not return calls from Berkeleyside seeking comment.

Read the court documents relating to the Dec. 2 Supreme Court hearing.

If the court rules in favor of the preservation group, its decision could redefine the scope of California’s environmental laws.

Kapor’s application would see a modern, 6,478-square-foot home with a 3,394-square-foot garage, built on the site of a now demolished 2-story 1925 house at 2707 Rose St. Public records show Kapor bought the property for $725,000 in August 2008.

The home — a sleek, low-slung box-like structure with lots of glass — would be designed by Berkeley-based Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects, whose portfolio includes the Berkeley Rep Roda theatre, the Freight & Salvage and Cragmont Elementary School, as well as many residential projects.

The court is expected to rule within 90 days.

Catch up on Berkeleyside’s full coverage of the Rose Street case.

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