Category Archives: Real estate

Broken elevator strands disabled Berkeley tenants

The Acton Courtyard elevator has been broken since Nov. 13. Image: Google Maps
Print Friendly

A broken elevator at a Berkeley apartment building owned by Equity Residential has left numerous tenants with mobility issues in the lurch this holiday season, and building management has been slow to handle the problem, residents report.

The single elevator at The Acton Courtyard, at 1370 University Ave. (at Acton Street), broke down 11 days ago, Nov. 13, after months on the fritz, tenants say. At least six tenants in the building have mobility impairments. The broken elevator has left them “trapped in their apartments or stranded outside of them,” according to a Nov. 20 letter sent to Equity by Disability Rights Advocates.

“This means that they have either been completely shut off from the outside world or completely stranded within it—unable to cook, unable to access their clothing or other possessions, and denied the basic comforts of their homes,” according to Disability Rights Advocates, a Berkeley-based nonprofit and nationally recognized legal center focused on disability rights.

The letter was written on behalf of tenants Dominika Bednarska and her partner Perlita Payne, who have lived in the building for more than three years, along with other unnamed residents. Bednarska uses a scooter to get around, and Payne has chronic knee pain that makes climbing stairs difficult. The couple live on the fifth floor at The Courtyard, and have been in a hotel since the Nov. 13 elevator breakdown. Equity is covering the hotel costs, but tenants say the company has not taken the problem seriously enough.  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , ,

$20K a month for Berkeley house? Skyrocketing rental prices draw crowd to housing affordability ‘teach-in’

About 180 people attended a "teach-in" about Berkeley housing affordability crisis on Sunday. Photo: Kathleen Costanza
Print Friendly

About 180 people packed into Berkeley Arts Festival, a performance space in Downtown Berkeley, on Sunday to hear housing experts and advocates discuss the city’s housing affordability crisis and what can be done to make Berkeley a more affordable place to live.

Audience members lined the walls, balcony and sat on the floor for the “teach-in,” organized by the Ad Hoc Committee for a Progressive Berkeley in conjunction with eight other advocacy and tenants’ rights organizations.

Housing experts say there’s a rental affordability crisis across the country, and the Bay Area continues to be one of the most extreme cases in the nation. In 2014, median rent in Berkeley reached just over $1,300 for a one-bedroom or studio apartment, according to the American Community Survey. (The national median rent for a one-bedroom or studio is $796, according to the survey.) And Zillow, an online real estate database, currently estimates the median rent for all units and homes in Berkeley is $3,584.
Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley ZAB round-up: The Roost approved on Blake, Center Street hotel previewed, Kennedy project put off

"The Roost," looking east toward Shattuck Avenue, at 2029-2035 Blake St. Image: Devi Dutta Architecture
Print Friendly

Thursday night the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board approved a 5-story mixed-use project near downtown, previewed updated plans for a hotel on Center Street and postponed a decision related to a proposed residential hotel on Shattuck Avenue that the developer would like to convert to studio apartments.

“The Roost,” with parklet and dog park, approved on Blake near Shattuck

The board was unanimous in its vote to approve “The Roost,” an 82-unit project at 2029-2035 Blake St., just west of Shattuck. The 5-story building is also set to include two live-work units, about 1,900 square feet of ground-floor retail, 68 parking spaces in a basement-level garage and 67 bike parking spots. Two of the vehicle spaces will be dedicated car-share spots, and there will be 16 EV-ready parking stalls provided.

Commissioner Sophie Hahn asked the developer, represented by Mark Rhoades of the Rhoades Planning Group, to commit to include four units of below-market-rate housing on site, with four additional units either to be built on the property or paid for through fees into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. After conferring briefly with his client, Rhoades agreed to the request. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Equity Residential to sell 8 Berkeley apartment buildings

Four of the Berkeley properties Equity Residential is selling. Photo: Eastdil Secured
Print Friendly

Equity Residential, which owns eight buildings with 452 apartments in Berkeley, as well as the entitlement rights to build the 205-unit Acheson Commons complex on University Avenue, is putting its entire Berkeley portfolio up for sale.

No price is mentioned on the listing documents prepared by Eastdil Secured, Equity’s advisor and broker, but the sale should be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That could mean millions of dollars in transfer taxes for Berkeley’s general fund. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

UC Berkeley plans 8-story building with student housing

A concept diagram for the proposed Stiles Hall building. Image: Solomon Cordwell Buenz
Print Friendly

Update, Nov. 19, 5:58 p.m. We hear from David Stark, executive director of Stiles Hall, a bit more about the organization’s plans and perspective: “We would like to let our hundreds of supporters know that Stiles Hall has been in negotiations on this since its inception. We are excited about getting a new modern space in the development which will continue to be owned by Stiles Hall, independent of the University. They will also give us a nearby space to continue operations for the two years it’s being built. Overall, we couldn’t be more pleased.”

Original story, Nov. 16, 2 p.m. The University of California, Berkeley is planning to demolish a small building on Bancroft Way to make way for an 8-story mixed-use project set to house nearly 800 students.

An open house is planned for Monday, Nov. 16, from 6-7:30 p.m.

The new building would feature new ground-floor retail, as well as replacement space for existing programming. About 770 students would be housed in 19 “pods” described as “distinct communities” of 40 students each, most of whom would be in double-occupancy units.

“The primary purpose of the project is to provide incoming first year students state-of-the-art dormitory style residential accommodations,” according to a statement released by the university earlier this month. “Each pod will include a dedicated resident advisor, study lounge, and a pair of gender inclusive bathroom facilities.”

An existing surface parking lot for UC Berkeley affiliates would be replaced by the new building and “related landscape improvements.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Numerous appeals filed for Berkeley’s Harold Way project

The zoning board voted to certify the Harold Way EIR on Thursday night. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
Print Friendly

A number of different groups – including the developer himself – have filed appeals asking the Berkeley City Council to overturn various permit approvals for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley.

Mark Rhoades, acting on behalf of the property owner, Joseph Penner of HSR Berkeley Investment LLC, asked the council to reconsider the permit awarded last month by the Zoning Adjustments Board for the 18-story, 305-unit property. ZAB included a provision requiring HSR owner Joseph Penner to donate $5.5 million in cash for community benefits as a condition of approval.

The figure is too high and doesn’t give Penner proper credit for rebuilding 10 movie theaters and other things, Rhoades wrote in the appeal.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

ZAB “disregarded guidance from City Council members,” Rhoades wrote. That action “has caused a significant imbalance in the project’s financial profile jeopardizing the project and compromising the legal foundation of the city’s approval.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Historic senior housing complex gets overhaul

Strawberry Creek Lodge. Photo: Nicholas Bruno
Print Friendly

A 150-unit affordable senior housing complex in West Berkeley has announced a celebration later this month to show off extensive renovations to improve its seismic safety and add environmentally friendly features, according to a statement released Wednesday.

Strawberry Creek Lodge, at 1320 Addison St. (near Acton Street), was built in 1962. The $15 million project to refinance and remodel the facility began 16 months ago. A “grand re-opening” is set for later this month, on Oct. 28.

Read more about affordable housing in Berkeley.

The facility includes a mix of 120 studio units and 30 one-bedroom apartments. Also on site are amenities such as a movie theater, library and computer lab, recreation rooms, an art room, a dining area, bike storage and a lounge.

Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA) manages the apartments, and coordinates the services on site.

Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Op-ed: School board — Take action now on developer fees

Print Friendly

State law allows school districts to collect fees from new residential and commercial development projects to mitigate their impact on school facilities. New construction and new residents mean new students and new classroom space requirements. Most school districts in the state collect these fees. Berkeley does not.

Berkeley is losing out on money that is desperately needed to house its ballooning student population. Since 1998, approximately $10 billion dollars have been collected by various school districts throughout California from developer fees, according to a recent report by the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO). In addition to state funding and local bonds, the LAO calls developer fees one of the three legs holding up the stool of school construction funding. Without these fees and with state funding drying up, we are teetering on a one-legged stool in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,

Op-ed: Begging my neighbors for respect and affordability

Print Friendly

I am a 23-year-old music data analyst making a $42,000 yearly salary before taxes; 46% of my income goes to rent. Nobody at my income level can afford median rent in Berkeley.

I feel utterly disrespected by my older neighbors who oppose much-needed housing.

Berkeley needs thousands of new housing units yesterday, and the hypocrisy of those delaying the approval process is transparent and insulting. As a vocal critic of Berkeley’s housing shortage, I have resisted the temptation to stereotype … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,

ZAB approves Harold Way use permit with increased affordable housing provision

A model of Harold Way drew a lot of interest Thursday night. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

After over 30 meetings since an initial application in December 2012, the 18-story multi-use Berkeley Plaza project at 2211 Harold Way received its use permit from the Zoning Adjustments Board on Wednesday night.

The approval, with a 6-3 vote of the board, came with significant amendments to the developer’s proposed community benefits plan that allocate $4.5 million to affordable housing, in addition to the $6 million required by the housing mitigation fee.

“We’ve got to appeal it. We can’t live with those numbers,” said Mark Rhoades of Rhoades Planning Group, a project representative, to one of the union supporters at the meeting. A few minutes later, speaking to Berkeleyside, Rhoades said, “We believe that’s outside our reach.” But he said his group would decide on any action in the coming days. Any appeal would be heard by the Berkeley City Council.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

The use permit approval came at the end of a nearly five-hour meeting, with over 80 commenters from the public. The 18-story building in downtown Berkeley is set to include 302 residential units, 177 underground parking spots and more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space, including a 10-screen movie theater to replace Shattuck Cinemas. Unusually, given the heated criticism the project has attracted at previous ZAB meetings, as well as hearings at the Design Review Committee, Landmarks Preservation Commission and council, public comment was fairly evenly divided between opponents and proponents of the project.  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Aduro Biotech leases entire West Berkeley building

Wareham Development has rebuilt a historic building at 740 Heinz Avenue as part of its Aquatic Park Center, an 18-acre biotech campus in West Berkeley.
Photo: Wareham Development
Print Friendly

By Lisa Tsering

A biotech company that did the largest IPO in Berkeley history has leased an entire West Berkeley warehouse and will move its labs and offices there by 2016, helping to bolster the city’s reputation as a world-class life sciences hub.

Aduro Biotech Inc., led by UC Berkeley biochemist Stephen T. Isaacs, specializes in creating drugs designed to strengthen the immune system to fight off cancer. They work on some of the toughest-to-fight tumors, such as pancreatic cancer and mesothelioma.

The company went public in April, raising $119 million in Berkeley’s largest-ever initial public offering. It currently employs around 80 people in a smaller space on Bancroft Way. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Op-ed: Stop the delaying tactics; approve 2211 Harold Way

Print Friendly

The city process for the project at 2211 Harold Way is closing in on three years. In December 2012 the first application was submitted and the project is currently scheduled for another Zoning Board hearing on September 30, 2015.

I love Berkeley. I love its quirky charms and I love the passion that older generations have for their community. But enough is enough. The endless delays are amounting to a housing status quo that not only affects the ability of Berkeley to grow with the extant flood of talent and innovation, but is also a de facto barrier to cultural and economic diversity. I find it jarring that a community so proud of its history of fighting for rights of all people would then continue to obstruct the very instrument that will allow for population growth, new economic opportunities and increased community diversity.

During this three-year period the project has had in excess of 30 meetings, including many design review committee hearings where the project design was changed in order to accommodate requests and concerns of the City and the public. This includes the addition of new theaters, which was not a part of the original design. The fact remains that the reason theaters were not included in the original design is because the revenue received from the theaters does not compensate for the construction costs. The theaters will never be able to compensate the owner at a market rate. This point is even clearer when you consider the letter dated April 15, 2013 from Landmark Theaters that clearly states that the current theaters’ model is not financially viable. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

John King: Keeping downtown Berkeley’s design distinctive is a tall order

BAM:PFA. Photo- Paul Chinn, The Chronicle
Print Friendly

By John King / San Francisco Chronicle

A walk through downtown Berkeley reveals a treasure of pre-World War II architecture, different styles and materials blending together in comfortable structures that were built for their time but seem to grow in stature with each passing decade.

The newer buildings? Not so much. And the ones on deck — one as tall as anything now there — could be even less satisfying.

The problem isn’t the scale of what’s proposed, or the architectural mishmash in the mix. It’s the way that a confusing process encourages checklists over creativity, while opponents would rather fight to stop nearly all change, rather than find ways to make that change enrich downtown’s sense of place.

Nearly 20 projects are now in the works in the area roughly bounded by Berkeley Way on the north, Dwight Way on the south, UC Berkeley on the east and the Civic Center on the west. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,