Berkeley zoning board approves new 6-story building

The zoning board approved 50 new units on Durant on Thursday. Image: Kahn Design Associates
The zoning board has approved 50 new units with frontage on Durant and Bancroft. Image: Kahn Design Associates

A small clapboard house on Durant Avenue and surface parking lot on Bancroft Way in Berkeley are set to be replaced by a 6-story mixed-use building with 50 units and ground-floor retail after a unanimous zoning board vote Thursday night.

Commissioner Sophie Hahn called the project, from Kahn Design Associates, “an incredibly handsome building” that was “beautifully designed,” adding: “Thank you very much for bringing us a good project that we could approve so quickly.”

The project site sits mid-block between Shattuck Avenue and Fulton Street, with Bancroft to the north and Durant to the south.

It is set to include 413 square feet of ground-floor retail and garage parking for 50 bikes and 13 vehicles. The unit mix is slated to feature 10 studios, 30 one-bedroom units, two two-bedrooms and 18 three-bedrooms, according to the staff report.


A 3-story home on Durant, which was built in 1901, will be moved to 1940 Haste St. — about 3.5 blocks, or less than half a mile, away — to make room for the new building. The Haste Street parcel is currently a 10-vehicle parking lot. 

This small home on Durant is set to move to Haste Street to make way for the new building. Image: Google Maps
This small home on Durant is set to move to Haste Street to make way for the new building. Image: Google Maps
This parking lot at 1940 Haste is set to be replaced by two homes. Image: Google Maps
This parking lot at 1940 Haste is set to be replaced by two homes, a new one and an old one. Image: Google Maps

City planner Greg Powell told the zoning board the five units in the 1901 home will remain rent-controlled once they move to Haste. Architect Charles Kahn said there would also be five below-market-rate units in the new building on Durant and Bancroft.

“We will have 10 units that will be at least trying to address some of the terrible lack of affordable housing in our city,” Kahn told the board. 

Powell said three overlapping sets of rules apply to the affordable housing on both parcels. After trying to explain those rules to the board he said, “It’s kind of confusing.”

On Haste, the 1901 building will be put on the front of the parcel, and a new 3-story two-unit building will be constructed at the rear, to include a ground-level garage for seven vehicle.

According to the staff report, the new structure will be “comprised of garage parking on the ground level including one ADA van compliant space and stacked parking for six automobiles. The second and third stories will be comprised of two two-story, four-bedroom townhomes.”

The existing curb cut and driveway along the east side of the property will provide access to the garage. The staff report describes the current parking area as an “illegal parking lot” that has been in use for several years, but does not explain how that came to be.

As for the parking for Durant and Bancroft, the zoning code would have required 17 spots. City documents say the project will provide 13 of those spots. As a result, the developer will have to pay a $60,000 in-lieu fee into a city fund used to provide parking elsewhere in Berkeley.

As required by the zoning code, “parking spaces will be leased separately from the units; one space must be offered and made available free of charge to a vehicle sharing service provider; occupants of the building will not be eligible for Residential Parking Permits (RPP); and the property owner will be required to provide one of the following transportation benefits at no cost to every residential unit: a pass for unlimited local bus transit service, or a functionally equivalent transit benefit” of equal value.

Photo: Charles Kahn
Photo: Charles Kahn

Vero Properties LLC, located at 2278 Shattuck, owns both sites. The projects were initially submitted to the city in January 2015.

“This is a delightful example of saving what is good and can be saved, and filling in where we can add density,” said zoning board Chair Denise Pinkston of the plans for 1940 Haste. The board also voted unanimously to approve that project.

Pinkston did ask Kahn about the yellow panels shown in the plans for 2121 Durant. He said the Design Review Committee has asked about that too, and explained that the material is cement in a “pale white gold color.” Pinkston said the color appeared to look like “Paddington’s raincoat” in the project plans and expressed relief that the issue had already been considered and resolved by the DRC.

Thursday night was Pinkston’s first meeting as chair after Commissioner Prakash Pinto stepped down from the board at its last meeting, Feb. 25. Pinto had been appointed by Councilwoman Linda Maio. That seat was still vacant as of last week’s meeting.

Also Thursday night, Commissioner Bob Allen, a longtime board member appointed by Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, announced it would be his last meeting.

After the zoning board votes on the projects above, architect Kahn told the board he has been appointed to fill Allen’s seat. He said he looked forward to joining fellow board members on the dais at the next meeting.

Read the staff report and see additional project documents. Read more about the Zoning Adjustments Board in past Berkeleyside coverage. (The number of parking spots was confirmed by staff after publication as 13, and we updated the story to reflect this.) 

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