Category Archives: Architecture

Pacific School of Religion to build 265-unit senior center

An overview of the senior housing planned for Pacific School of Religion's campus. Rendering: Solomon Cordwell Buenz
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The Pacific School of Religion is teaming up with an Illinois-based non-profit builder to construct 265 apartments for seniors on Holy Hill in Berkeley.

Mather LifeWays will build a “continuing care” facility that features apartments, a memory care unit, and nursing facilities for people at the end of their lives, according to Mary Leary, the president of the company, which is based in Evanston. The bulk of the units would be in five-to-six story buildings on PSR’s main campus along Scenic Avenue, with two six-unit buildings on Le Conte Avenue, she said. The units fronting Virginia Street would be three-stories high and constructed in a Mediterranean style to better blend into the neighborhood, she said.

The Mather in Berkeley, as the complex will be called, would be the first facility of its kind in Berkeley, and one that is sorely needed, said Leary. About 25% of Berkeley property owners are older than 55 , she said. Many professors from PSR, other schools affiliated with the Graduate Theological Union, and UC Berkeley move out of Berkeley after they retire because there are no senior centers to move into, said David Vásquez-Levy, president of the Pacific School of Religion.

“Almost none of our emeritus professors can stay in Berkeley,” said Vásquez-Levy. “That’s the case for a lot of our faculty in all our institutions. We are losing the opportunity to retain knowledge.”

The project would also return land to the tax rolls that is now tax exempt because it is used for religious purposes. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Don Reed's hit show East 14th, 
the first installment in his hilarious coming-of-age trilogy,
extends at The Marsh Berkeley through August 21.

Photo credit: Aaron Epstein
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DON REED IN EAST 14TH AT THE MARSH Bouncing between a Jehovah’s Witness mom and a pimp dad, Don Reed’s childhood in Oakland was colorful to say the least. His show East 14th, which chronicles his teen years in Oakland, is playing through Aug. 21 at The Marsh Berkeley. (The work includes Reed’s story, “I Miss Toni” recently featured on NPR’s podcast Snap Judgment.) Reed is a three-time Emmy nominee, a former warm-up comedian for late night’s The Jay Leno Show, a NAACP triple nominee for Best Actor and Best Playwright, and a Bay Area Theatre Critics nominee. Performances are Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 5:30 p.m. The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley. For tickets ($20-$35 sliding scale, $55-$100 reserved), visit The Marsh Berkeley or call 415-282 3055 between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.Continue reading »

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Hotel developer seeking $11M+ in Berkeley tax rebates

2129 Shattuck Ave.
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Update: Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night approved the occupancy tax rebate, with eight votes in favor and one abstention (Councilman Max Anderson). There was heated public comment that the rebate was an unnecessary giveaway to the developer, but city staff and councilmembers said their independent analysis had concluded the rebate was essential for the project. “In the end, the economic benefit to the city is significant,” said Councilman Jesse Arreguín. “We cannot lose this opportunity.”

Original story: Saying that it might not get construction financing unless its rate of return improves, the company slated to build a 16-story hotel at 2129 Shattuck Ave. is asking Berkeley to rebate as much as $11 million in fees.

Center Street Partners wants the city to provide “financial assistance” equivalent to the amount it will pay in permit and impact fees. To achieve this, the company is asking that Berkeley rebate half of the transient occupancy taxes (TOT) the hotel pays the city for up to eight years. With inflation, that could amount to around $13.1 million, according to city staff.

City staff, citing Berkeley’s desire for a hotel with its economic benefits, is suggesting to the City Council that it accept this financing deal. Even if Berkeley agrees to rebate about $1.5 million in TOT taxes each year, the hotel will still be a financial boon, according to Michael Caplan, the manager of the economic development program. The City Council will take up the proposal at tonight’s meeting. … Continue reading »

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Landmark Claremont Court house on market for $5.45M

2840 Claremont Boulevard built in 1910, is on the market for $5.45M Photo: BHG
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One of the first houses built in Claremont Court is on the market for $5.45 million, marking it as one of the most expensive residences ever for sale in Berkeley.

The light-filled landmark home at 2840 Claremont Blvd. has eight bedrooms, five bathrooms, a large entryway, a formal dining room, a grand living room and a suite of servants’ rooms upstairs. Paul O. Teitzen, the president of the Bank of Santa Maria in southern California, hired the architectural firm of Hodges and Mitchell to construct the home, said Allen Hibbard,the listing agent for the home. He is with Better Homes and Garden Real Estate. The Teitzen family moved in in 1910, just four years after ground was broken for the Claremont Hotel (it opened in 1915) and three years after Duncan McDuffie and Joseph J. Mason started to subdivide the area bounded by Derby Street, Belrose Avenue, Claremont Boulevard, Claremont Avenue, the Claremont Hotel, Russell Street and Oak Knoll Terrace. It would become known as Claremont Court and was noted for the graceful gates that set off the subdivision. … Continue reading »

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City begins first phase of Rose Garden trellis restoration

Rose Garden. Photo: Colleen Neff
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The trellis at Berkeley’s storied Rose Garden is to be rebuilt, and on Monday afternoon a small event was held to mark the  ‘groundbreaking’ for Phase 1 of the Rose Garden Trellis Restoration Project.

This phase consists of the documentation and demolition of the existing trellis; the salvage of existing wood members; the reconstruction of the center portion of the trellis; pathway accessibility upgrades; and lighting and safety upgrades, according to the city, and is estimated to cost $391,620. It is being underwritten by the Measure F parks tax, the General Fund, and the East Bay Regional Parks District (Measure WW).

Read the city’s plan for the Rose Garden trellis restoration.

The second phase of the restoration would be to complete the trellis reconstruction and accessibility upgrades, and is tentatively scheduled for 2018, dependent on raising the necessary funds. … Continue reading »

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New 16-story downtown Berkeley hotel gets go-ahead

The proposed downtown hotel at Center and Shattuck. Image: JRDV Urban International
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board on Thursday night approved plans for a 16-story, 334-room hotel, with conference center, to be built on the Bank of America site at 2129 Shattuck Ave. (at Center Street).

The vote was unanimous and ZAB commissioners universally praised the project developer, Pyramid Hotel Group, for its responsiveness throughout the approval process, and for taking into account the needs of the community and stakeholders. Commissioner Steven Donaldson said Pyramid had been a “model for how developers can work with the city.”

See city documents on the hotel plans

Read more details on the hotel project on Berkeleyside.

The proposal considered by ZAB on Thursday was essentially the same as the one the board saw the last time it was in front of them when it certified its Environment Impact Report, said city principal planner Greg Powell. Changes made to the plans in recent months included dropping the idea of condos, aesthetic revisions to the architecture including “quieting it down,” and enhancing the project’s community benefits, the principal one of which concerns the project’s labor agreements. … Continue reading »

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Major office/R&D campus proposed near Aquatic Park

The Jones family, which owns this 9-acre parcel fronting Aquatic Park, is asking Berkeley for a Master Use Permit to develop a life science "campus" of four to six buildings. Photo: Joe DeCredico
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The family that has owned a two-block-long swath of land along Aquatic Park since 1979 is asking the city of Berkeley for a Master Use Permit to construct “a premier life science research and development campus” along the waterfront.

Jason Jones, who owns the land with his father, Charles, wants to transform the 8.67-acre parcel, which is bordered by Bolivar Drive to the west, Addison Street to the north, Union Pacific Railroad Tracks (aka Third Street) to the east, and Bancroft to the south, into a cluster of four to six buildings that will hold light industrial manufacturing, research and development space, offices and stores, according to documents submitted to the city.

There will be a community meeting about the project, known as Aquatic Park Campus, on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Frances Albrier Community Center Auditorium, 200 Park St. The official addresses for the proposed MUP are 600 Addison St., 91 Bolivar Dr., and 2222 Third St.

The complex would cover 475,000 square feet of land and would include “an urban-style mini-plaza” at the corner of Addison Street and Bolivar Drive to provide “a gateway experience to the project,” according to documents. There would be a 300,000 square foot parking structure, a 2,500-square-foot manufacturing building, (a mitigation for a plant that was torn down about three years ago so Jones could do an environmental clean-up of the land). As a community benefit, the project would also widen Bolivar Street and add paths, sidewalks, landscaping, bike paths, and parking, according to Joe DeCredico, the land use planning consultant for the project. … Continue reading »

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Medieval-style North Berkeley ‘castle’ on market for $5M

The Hume Castle at 2900 Buena Vista Way. Photo: The Grubb Company
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Described as a “magical architectural masterpiece,” the 5-bedroom, 7.5-bathroom home that’s known as the Hume Castle at 2900 Buena Vista Way has been listed for sale, priced at $5 million.

The medieval-style marvel was designed by John Hudson Thomas and built in 1929 for Samuel and Portia Bell Hume. Thomas took his inspiration from the 13th-century Convent of the Augustines in Toulouse, and it certainly looks like it would fit right into the Southern French landscape.

Like the French convent, the Hume mansion, a Berkeley landmark, is arranged around a large internal courtyard surrounded by colonnaded cloisters featuring Gothic tracery arches. It sits on just under three-quarter acres of private, gated property tucked into a sweeping curve of Buena Vista Way, to the east of the Rose Garden. … Continue reading »

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Ohlone human remains found in trench in West Berkeley

Construction workers uncovered ancient Ohlone remains on March 29 while digging a trench in front of Spenger's Fish Restaurant at 1919 Fourth St. Photo: Wendy Kenin
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Update April 10: The developer of the Fourth Street site issued a statement to Berkeleyside through its publicist, in response to the original April 8 story:

“Jamestown is complying with local stakeholders, including the recommendations of the appointed Most Likely Descendent, in order to ensure the respectful and dignified treatment of the remains. In light of this discovery, Jamestown is performing further archaeological studies of the property and has enlisted a member of the Ohlone Tribe to monitor future excavation work. Construction will continue but all excavation work will stop until a monitor is in place. We are committed to the local community and protecting the traditions of the native peoples.”

Original story: Construction workers on March 29 uncovered what appear to be “pre-contact” Indian remains while digging a trench on Fourth Street near Hearst Avenue as part of the redevelopment of Spenger’s Fish Grotto and adjoining parcels.

Workers excavating adjacent to 1919 Fourth St. immediately stopped all work on the site and notified authorities, as required by the use permit, according to Matthai Chakko, a city of Berkeley spokesman. Jamestown, the corporate owner of the property, brought in an osteologist, or bone expert, who determined that the remains, which lay among shell midden — remnants of the ancient shellmound that sat for centuries in that area — were human. The Alameda County Coroner’s office later confirmed the finding.

“Because of the context with shell midden around it, and because we know that part of town contained shell mounds, we know it was a burial and it was human,” said Andy Galvan, a Chochenyo Ohlone Indian who is the curator of the Mission Dolores Museum in San Francisco and who often helps developers determine whether there are Indian artifacts on their properties. … Continue reading »

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Proposal to convert, expand UC Press building for offices

UC Press rendering. Image: DEVI DUTTA ARCHITECTURE, INC.
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board will consider a proposal Thursday that would see the UC Press building at 2120 Berkeley Way renovated into a modern 6-story office building with the addition of three new stories.

The proposal, submitted by the Rhoades Planning Group, with a design by Berkeley’s Devi Dutta Architecture, was originally submitted to the city in September and has been reviewed by the Design Review Committee.

The plan would retain the existing building, but “completely upgrade and modernize [its] interior while preserving the façade on the first three floors and adding three new levels above,” according to the project documents. The remodel of the former publishing house, which is located between Shattuck Avenue and Walnut Street, would create open floor plans, allowing for greater light, install new skylights, windows and building systems. … Continue reading »

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New BAMPFA ready to open Sunday in downtown Berkeley

City view of BAMPFA Photo Iwan Baan
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The countdown is nearly over. The new home of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, plum in the heart of downtown Berkeley, will throw open its doors to the public with a big open house on Sunday, Jan. 31, starting at 11 a.m.

Before that, there’s a gala party, which is being held Thursday night at a temporary tent set up on UC Berkeley lawn abutting Oxford Street. The gala has raised around $1 million for education programs at the new museum, its director, Lawrence Rinder, said at a press preview event held Thursday morning.

Read more about the new Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive.

Rinder also spoke of the challenge of designing a museum that has a dual identity and responsibility towards both art and film, and the commitment to creating a space that is both accessible and welcoming.

“This is not just a place to come look and see,” he said. “There are many areas for community engagement.” Rinder cited as examples the museum’s reading room, art lab and its stepped salvaged-wood seating, created by master woodworker Paul Discoe, where visitors can relax and chat, as well as watch performances. He added that a goal of the museum’s design was to have a flow that was conducive to “wandering and to being surprised.” … Continue reading »

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Housing forum: Climate right for development in Berkeley

Denise Pinkston, vice-chair of ZAB and an Oakland-based developer, talks to a group about the housing crisis in the state while Mark Rhoades of the Rhoades Planning Group listens. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The development climate in Berkeley has improved so much in the past six years that there are now approximately 2,500 apartment units in the pipeline — a dramatic change from the two decades between 1970 and 1990 when only 600 units were built, according to experts who spoke at a forum on multi-family development held in Berkeley on Jan. 21 .

The city is no longer looked upon as a place just to build student housing. With its foodie culture, rich history, music and art scenes, ­as well as the ability it affords developers to charge higher rents than in Oakland and other East Bay cities, Berkeley is now a popular place to build.

Read more about Berkeley development on Berkeleyside.

“Berkeley is no longer this campus college market,” said Stephen Lawton, volunteer program leader for the non-profit Urban Land Institute which hosted the event at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley.  “The hot San Francisco market is finally reaching across the bay in this cycle.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley now has its first and only columbarium

Gate looking into the garden – John Penberthy
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By Karen Queen

Berkeley now has its first and only columbarium. It is located at the far end of a walled meditation garden in back of Northbrae Community Church. Both are open to the public.

Why a columbarium? In 2004, Reverend Ron Sebring proposed an idea to honor Native American spirituality to the Northbrae congregation. The chapel’s stained-glass windows honor major religions of the world but not the spirituality and culture of indigenous people. Reverend Sebring had a deep, personal interest in Native American spirituality. He proposed a medicine wheel, also known as a sacred hoop, as an appropriate symbol and sketched a drawing of how one would look when placed on the ground behind the chapel. … Continue reading »

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