Category Archives: Real estate

Council declines to overturn LPC vote on Campanile Way

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Amid a raucous meeting that ran past 1 a.m., the Berkeley City Council essentially dismissed an appeal that sought to have the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission reconsider an earlier decision not to grant protected status to Campanile Way.

Three council members — Max Anderson, Jesse Arreguín and Kriss Worthington — voted in favor of the appeal, with Mayor Tom Bates opposed and the rest of the council abstaining. The vote came after an hour of public comment and discussion by the council.

The application to landmark Campanile Way came as plans for an 18-story multi-use building at 2211 Harold Way are working their way through Berkeley’s entitlements process. The development was the crux of nearly every public comment at the meeting: Residents and students alike argued that the development would mar the view from Campanile Way, which looks over the San Francisco Bay toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

Since the hearing April 2 before the landmarks commission, Harold Way developers have reworked the building massing so it would intrude even less into the view, said project representative Mark Rhoades. He emphasized Tuesday that this change was due to feedback from the city’s Design Review Committee, and was not a response to the petition for landmark status. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council to hear Campanile Way landmark appeal

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The group of Berkeley residents that lost a petition to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark the view from Campanile Way is now appealing that decision before the City Council tonight. The group, led by former LPC Commissioner Steven Finacom, is concerned that a development at 2211 Harold Way would mar what they argue is a historic view.

Read more about what’s coming up at tonight’s council meeting.

The LPC voted 5-3, with one abstention, against landmarking the path and its view, though nearly everyone at the meeting agreed that the view is fantastic. The commissioners were divided about how much the 18-story development would impact the view. Even if the petition had passed, some commissioners argued, UC Berkeley is not governed by local ordinances and would not be legally required to pay attention to the ruling. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley leaders approve community benefits package; ZAB votes to certify Harold Way EIR

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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Proponents of downtown development in Berkeley won two victories Thursday night after city leaders and commissioners approved a proposal for community benefits related to tall buildings and, in a separate meeting, certified the environmental impact analysis related to the first tall building in the pipeline, at 2211 Harold Way.

The Berkeley City Council held a special meeting at 5 p.m. at Longfellow Middle School to tackle the thorny subject of what significant community benefits should be required of developers who wish to construct tall buildings downtown. Seven tall buildings were approved when local residents voted in favor of the city’s Downtown Area Plan, but the type of significant community benefits required of those projects was left vague to allow flexibility during the entitlements process.

In recent years, city zoning board commissioners have expressed frustration about that ambiguity, and asked for more direction from council. Earlier this year, council launched a series of discussions aimed to clarify the requirements. Thursday night, city officials voted in favor of a compromise proposal from council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore that will help guide the process going forward.

That proposal will now go to the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board for additional discussion. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley zoning board to consider demolition on Durant

2631 Durant
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The Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board will consider granting a permit to demolish a 2-story, 18-unit rent-controlled apartment building on Durant Avenue at its meeting Thursday, June 25, as part of the owner’s plan to replace it with a 5-story, 56-unit building.

The board’s main decision will be to determine whether to grant the demolition permit for 2631 Durant or require the owner to rehabilitate the Southside neighborhood building, just east of the now-shuttered Berkeley Art Museum. The new project would include 40 studios and 16 2-bedroom units, common facilities, bike storage, a first-floor office and 2,240 square feet of open space on a rooftop deck. Parking would not be provided.

To replace the rent-controlled units, the owner has proposed that 20 of the new units will be offered at 65% of the consumer price index, “although rents would be allowed to increase to market rate upon vacancy. These 20 units represent habitable square footage comparable to … the existing 18 units, and would accommodate the same number tenants,” according to the staff report prepared for Thursday night’s meeting.

Opponents of the demolition have asked the board to reject the permit or at least delay the vote, saying that the property had been neglected intentionally to pave the way for the new building. … Continue reading »

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ZAB approves 2539 Telegraph EIR, postpones use permit

The latest proposal, submitted to the city in April, of Patrick Kennedy's Telegraph Avenue project. Image: Lowney Architecture
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board earlier this month approved the Environmental Impact Report for a controversial 6-story apartment building proposed on Telegraph Avenue, but postponed a decision on the project’s use permit to ask for a revised design plan from the developers and allow time for other items on the agenda.

The board was set to vote at its June 11 meeting on the project’s use permit as well as the EIR, but voted to put off the permit discussion when the meeting began to run long, asking the developers instead to bring a new plan for the project that reflected the commissioners’ concerns. (The meeting ended at 12:15 a.m.)

The building, at 2539 Telegraph, which is being developed by Patrick Kennedy of Panoramic Interests, has been considered as a landmark on two separate occasions due to its connection to the Center for Independent Living, an advocacy group for the disabled which began there in 1972. The Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected landmark status for both the building and a faded mural on one of its walls.

The project has been widely criticized by neighborhood residents as too large and, in the year since the zoning board first reviewed the project, the criticism has not died down. … Continue reading »

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University Village, Sprouts get (final) green light

A rendering of the new University Village development. Image: courtesy the City of Albany
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The disputed UC Berkeley land next to Albany’s Gill Tract is in contention no more. Last week, the California Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the university to build a senior housing development and Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store on San Pablo Avenue in University Village.

Read more on Berkeleyside’s coverage of Occupy the Farm.

The development, on a long-vacant lot next to the Gill Tract research field, has been the site of protests since April 2012 on the part of Occupy the Farm, which has stated that UC Berkeley’s plans would “pave over a rare natural resource” and that the Gill Tract is “public farmland that belongs to the people.”

Stefanie Rawlings, of Occupy the Farm, originally filed a lawsuit against the city of Albany and UC Berkeley that alleged that the city’s approved Environmental Impact Report was deficient. When Rawlings lost the suit, she filed an appeal on the grounds that the report did not lay out appropriate alternatives for the building plan, and that the city did not appropriately consider the alternatives listed. … Continue reading »

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Whoopi Goldberg selling her Berkeley home for $1.275M

Photo: Thornwall Properties
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Whoopi Goldberg, comedienne, actress and talk-show host, is selling the central Berkeley home she has owned for 30 years for $1.275 million.

The restored 1890 Victorian-style home, with its New Orleans-style front porch and columns, is one of Goldberg’s last ties to Berkeley, where she once fell in love and kick-started a career that would result in an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award.

The property, which sits at 2212 McKinley Ave. near Bancroft Avenue, is made up of a 1,455-square-foot house and a two-story cottage, converted from a barn into 1,635 square feet of living space, including a second kitchen and full bathroom. Thornwall Properties has the listing.Continue reading »

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Protesters demand halt on new construction in Berkeley

Anti building protesters. Photo Tracey Taylor
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In the wake of a balcony collapse that killed six Irish students in Berkeley this week, a small group gathered on the steps of City Hall today to ask that the city put a moratorium on commercial construction in Berkeley until it is clear that buildings are being inspected correctly and that codes are being enforced.

Holding placards that read “Safety 1st! No new bldgs,” “Inspections now” and “Berkeley is in mourning,” the seven protesters say that all new construction should be halted until the city can “review its procedures,” according to spokeswoman Margot Smith.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

“Given the level of this tragedy, we have to go forward beyond a perfunctory investigation,” she said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to see that buildings are safe and that they remain safe. We need to see if codes are being enforced.”Continue reading »

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ZAB to downtown garage developer: Step up your game

A rendering of the upgraded Center Street garage. The Zoning Adjustments Board was critical of the plan, saying it was not ambitious enough. Image: CMA
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Berkeley zoning board members told the developer of the Center Street garage overhaul at a project preview session last week that they want him to go above and beyond the submitted plans in terms of green features and physical design.

“I am dismayed by this project in a major way,” said Zoning Adjustments Board Commission Chairman Prakash Pinto on Thursday night. “It’s rather mundane. It’s got some lipstick on it as far as I’m concerned.”

Read more about parking in Berkeley.

The downtown Berkeley garage is a bit different than most that come before the zoning board because it is a municipal project and not one brought forward by a private developer. In December 2013, the city voted to pay up to $1 million to San Francisco-based Conversion Management Associates Inc. to plan and manage the overhaul. Money for the project is coming from the city’s off-street parking fund, including $350,000 last year and $650,000 in fiscal year 2015.

Pinto, who was not particularly vocal during the first several hours of Thursday’s meeting, spoke with emotion for several minutes about his disappointment in the garage proposal. He focused in particular on the green aspects of the design, saying city projects should be a model for superior environmental standards, especially when the city asks so much of private developers downtown. (Under the Downtown Area Plan, most projects are required to meet a LEED Gold standard or its equivalent.)

Pinto said, too, that the garage could be a beautiful structure with creative features without necessarily costing the city an excessive amount of money.

The other commissioners echoed Pinto’s sentiments and added their own concerns regarding the look of the structure, plans for its public restrooms, parking spaces for the disabled and electric vehicles, the possibility of open space for recreation and more.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Center Street garage project gets first review

The Center Street garage project would demolish the existing structure and build an eight story garage with retail and art display space. Photo: Zoning Adjustments Board project review
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The Center Street garage project, which proposes a larger, greener and seismically safer parking structure for downtown Berkeley, is slated for discussion at the upcoming Zoning Adjustments Board meeting this Thursday.

Until construction is complete, the project is likely to cause downtown parking to become more difficult than it already is. Under the current plans, an 8-story parking garage with commercial and arts display spaces on the ground floors would take the place of the existing structure, which would be demolished.

Read more about parking in Berkeley.

The Center Street garage is one of the most heavily used off-street parking areas downtown. It operates “at or near capacity during the daytime on most weekdays, and occasionally reaches capacity during weekday evenings and some weekends,” according to the city.

Discussions about the project have been in the works for two years. Thursday night will be the zoning board’s first chance to “preview” the project. Commissioners will provide comment to the city, but otherwise no action is expected. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Home sharing in Berkeley is a vital income source that serves entire community

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This coming Tuesday, June 9th, the Berkeley City Council plans to vote on a set of recommendations to regulate short term rentals, such as those facilitated through websites like Airbnb and VRBO. Following other municipalities, Berkeley’s current proposal seeks to limit short-term rentals in owner or renter occupied units as well as eliminate the ability to rent out accessory dwellings on owner occupied property, including backyard cottages and mother-in-law suites.

I urge the Berkeley City Council and Berkeley residents to consider the stories of short-term rental hosts as we begin the process of defining and regulating this new housing landscape. In my neighborhood, West Berkeley, many low to middle income residents, like my multigenerational family (public school educator, non-profit worker, and musician), are able to remain in their homes and help provide for their families by renting out unused spaces on their property. Home sharers come from all walks of life: professionals between jobs, homeowners struggling with chronic disease, retirees unable to live off of social security alone, and artists and musicians with unstable incomes. Berkeley is expensive for all of us- homeowners and renters alike. … Continue reading »

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Court takes Berkeley’s side in Mitch Kapor home case

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The California Supreme Court has left intact a ruling limiting environmental review of large single-family homes, such as the one philanthropist and Lotus Development Corp. founder Mitch Kapor and his wife Freada Kapor-Klein applied to build at 2707 Rose St. in North Berkeley.

The decision, which was released on May 27, was the latest development in the Berkeley Hillside Preservation vs City of Berkeley case that has been in and out of court since 2010 when Kapor was given approval by the city of Berkeley to build a 6,478-square-foot home (with a 3,394-square-foot garage) on the sloping Rose Street lot.

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

Arguments have centered over whether Berkeley should prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) for the project — for which single family homes like this one are exempt unless unusual circumstances can be proved. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley rental rates skyrocket, causing headaches for students and those on middle incomes

An apartment for rent on Spruce Street. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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This is the second in a Berkeleyside series on housing. Read our first story on short term rentals.

The heated economy has pushed Berkeley rental rates significantly higher this past year, a jump of anywhere from 10% to 30.9%, depending on which study you look at, forcing some students to double and triple up in mini-dorm-like situations, and middle-class workers to stretch to meet their rents.

At the same time, technology workers and those in finance or other well-paying professions are snapping up luxury apartments that can cost from $2,500 a month for a studio to $5,400 for a three-bedroom, two-bath pad.

“The problem is that we are an extremely desirable community,” said Mayor Tom Bates. “With high rents in San Francisco a lot of people choose to be here. As a consequence we have huge demand.” … Continue reading »

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