Category Archives: Real estate

Berkeley School Board may levy new fees on development

The Bonar Street headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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The Berkeley School Board is set to vote Wednesday night on whether to collect new fees from building projects in Berkeley to raise money for facilities needs.

School districts are allowed under state law to collect those fees, though Berkeley Unified has not done so in the past.

The board announced its intention to investigate what kind of fees it could levy back in October 2015.

Tonight, Nov. 16, it is set to vote on whether to put those fees in place.

If approved, the fees would go into effect Jan. 16, said BUSD spokesman Charles Burress. Projects that have submitted an application to the city before then would not be subject to the fees. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Real progressives vote for housing

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Berkeley has a Downtown Plan. The path has not been smooth or simple, but thousands of hours, plus voter buy-in has solidly approved it.

It was a compromise – the outgrowth of hundreds of hours of public meetings that took place from 2005 to 2009 by a special Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission. This original plan, approved by City Council, was later overturned.

The 2010 ballot’s Measure R could only be advisory, but it gave Berkeley voters the opportunity … Continue reading »

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State watchdog agency investigates $790,540 donated to Yes on Measure DD campaign

Election 2016 campaign lawn signs. Photo: Kelly Owen
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The Fair Political Practices Commission has launched an investigation into whether the supporters of Yes on Measure DD may have violated the financial disclosure requirements of the Political Reform Act.

The FPPC mailed a letter Wednesday to the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association and the “Committee for Real Affordable Housing – Yes on Measure DD, No on Measure U1, Sponsored by the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association,” alerting them that an investigation had started.

“At this time we have not made any determination in this matter,” said the letter, signed by Galena West, chief of the enforcement division. “We are simply providing you with this information and will be contacting you again regarding this matter.”

The investigation stems from an Oct. 16 complaint lodged by UC Berkeley’s Progressive Student Alliance. The group contended that the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association listed donations for the Yes on Measure DD and no on Measure U1 campaigns as coming from various LLCs and properties rather than individuals. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: There is a lot wrong with Measure U1

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There is a lot wrong with Measure U1. The tax rate imposed is many times higher than that imposed on virtually all other businesses and that charged in other cities. A 3% tax on gross receipts is the equivalent of a 5% to 17% on income, depending on the degree to which the property is mortgaged. Even a die-hard believer in progressive taxes should likely find a combined federal, state and local tax rate over 70% to be a bit … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: The race for mayor — a disconnect on development

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I’ve had many a conversation lately with white liberals in Berkeley who lament the rise of Donald Trump. They always seem to be bewildered about how this could be happening in our country, how someone like that could be so close to grabbing power. When our conversations turn to local politics, however, there seems to be a disconnect about how the dehumanizing policies that Trump is proposing for the country have much in common with ones that are in play … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Don’t be misled by big landlords who will spend $1M to defeat Measure U1

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Berkeley’s biggest landlords have already spent $800,000 and are on track to spend $1,000,000 by Election Day. If they are successful they will save millions of dollars every year and prevent the development of hundreds of units of affordable housing. Of course, they can’t just say “vote to save big landlords money”, so they hide behind a smoke screen. They created Measure DD, which raises only a token amount for affordable housing and they mail out phony accusations against Measure U1, … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Vote no on Measure U1, which is a shill for big developers

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In his op-ed article urging a Yes vote on Measure U1 and a No vote on Measure DD—the two rental housing tax hikes appearing on the Berkeley ballot—Stephen Barton, the former Berkeley housing director, embarrasses himself by shilling for big real estate developers and their regressive approach to housing tax policy.

For voters just starting to pay attention, Measure DD would raise the Berkeley tax on owners of residential rental units from 1.081% of gross receipts on rents to 1.5% … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Why Laurie Capitelli shouldn’t be mayor, why Jessie Arreguín should: Equity & jobs

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West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies (WEBAIC) urges you not to support Laurie Capitelli for mayor because of his central role in a destructive, multi-year, anti-equity effort to force out West Berkeley companies and their thousands of productive middle-wage jobs. Vote for Jesse Arreguín, who has been a consistently strong supporter of West Berkeley’s sustainable industrial maker and arts ecosystem and the thousands of good, family-wage jobs it provides.

The effort to displace West Berkeley’s thousands of good jobs for … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: We’re a city. Get used to it

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Strolling out of the North Berkeley BART station one might be forgiven for thinking they had taken the wrong train. Despite standing well within city limits, there are no buildings taller than three stories, and no commercial buildings within a two-block radius of the station, only a giant parking lot. Homes that would happily sit in Glen Rock or Orinda watch over a vast expanse of asphalt waste.

By the Ashby BART station, in contrast, there are coffee shops, food … Continue reading »

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Real estate

New housing OK’d in Berkeley as ‘YIMBYs’ win the night

A rendering of the proposed view of 2902 Adeline, looking southwest from Adeline and Russell streets. Image: Trachtenberg Architects
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A 6-story building set to include 50 rental units and four live-work units was approved Thursday night by Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board, though neighborhood opposition will likely mean an appeal to City Council.

Nearly 300 people have signed a petition asking for changes to the project, at 2902 Adeline St. in South Berkeley, and many showed up Thursday to testify before the zoning board. Many neighbors asked the board to delay its vote until the Adeline Corridor community process is complete, or to approve a 4-story building instead.

The Adeline Corridor planning process has been underway since 2015, but it was paused while the city changed consultants to herald it through to completion, city leaders said recently. It is scheduled to end in 2017. The majority of the board, citing in part the housing crisis, did not indicate support for holding up development pending the completion of that process.

The project has drawn so much attention both because of its size and because the South Berkeley neighborhood has not seen the level of development happening in recent years around downtown, or along many of the city’s other large commercial avenues, such as University and San Pablo, in West Berkeley or in the Southside neighborhood near the UC Berkeley campus.

Supporters of the petition are lobbying for a minimum of 40% below-market-rate units in the project and more parking, as well as community benefits from developer Realtex, such as the dedication of 5% of rental proceeds to South Berkeley nonprofits. Zoning board members said Thursday night that those asks are beyond what the city can require, and a majority of the board voted to approve the project as submitted.

Public testimony lasted for more than three hours and included many passionate speakers on both sides: neighbors concerned with the project’s impacts on South Berkeley, as well as advocates of increased density, particularly on transit corridors and near BART, who say the state’s housing crisis demands timely approval of projects like this one. Unlike many zoning board meetings where public comment tends to be dominated by stiff opposition, Thursday night’s speakers included quite a few voices in favor of approval.

Many in the former group were dismissive of those in the latter camp of self-described “YIMBYs,” or “yes-in-my-back-yard” residents, who say they want to see appropriate housing built as quickly as possible. Petition-signers tended to be homeowners who are older and have lived in the city longer. Many of the YIMBYs said they didn’t live in the immediate neighborhood, were younger renters, and were more likely to be car-free or “car-light.”

“It’s fairly obvious to me who doesn’t live in the neighborhood,” one man told the board as he described the reasons for his opposition to the project. “It’s completely out of context for the neighborhood. I’m not interested in turning Berkeley into New York City.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Vote yes on U1 and no on Measure DD to fund affordable housing

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The affordability crisis in rental housing is clear to everyone. Rising rents create hardship for tenants and result in unprecedented profits for large landlords. Taxing those windfall profits to provide affordable housing is the right thing to do. That’s why a broad community coalition of affordable housing and homeless services advocates created Measure U1 and persuaded a unanimous City Council to put it on the ballot.

Measure U1 will raise at least $3.5 million that can be used for affordable housing every year. It increases the business license tax that larger landlords already pay by an average of just $30 per unit per month.

Large landlords can easily afford to pay this tax. They are charging $82 million more in rent per year than just a few years ago. Landlords are prohibited by law from passing this tax onto tenants with few exceptions. … Continue reading »

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Judge tosses out legal challenge to Berkeley high-rise

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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An Alameda County Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied numerous challenges to the Environmental Impact Report prepared for 2211 Harold Way, meaning that construction of an 18-story, 302-unit building with 10,000-square feet of retail space and new movie theaters in Berkeley’s downtown can proceed – unless the decision is appealed.

In a 16-page ruling, Judge Frank Roesch denied the 15 claims Berkeley residents Kelly Hammargren and James Hendry had filed in January to stop the project. The two had filed separate challenges which were combined. Roesch conducted a four-hour court hearing on the challenges on Aug. 26.

In December, the city council approved the complex, which will be the largest construction project built since Berkeley adopted the Downtown Area Plan in 2012. Under the plan, density downtown was increased and Berkeley sanctioned the construction of seven towers ranging from 120 to 180 feet high. In exchange, developers were required to provide extraordinary community benefits.

City officials ordered the developer of 2211 Harold Way, HSR Berkeley Investments, to make a $10.5 million payment into the Housing Trust Fund, with another $1 million going into an arts fund. Habitot Children’s Museum, which will be displaced because of the project, will receive $250,000 of that money. The developer has also agreed to use union labor and to rebuild the Shattuck Cinemas. Berkeley applied a $6 million credit for the labor agreement and a $5.5 million credit for the theater. The developer will also have to pay into a streets fund and a childcare fund.

The first $2 million of that payment will be made when HSR Berkeley Investments obtains its building permit. Half will go into the housing fund then, and the other half to the arts fund. The developer will have to pay $3.5 million – or post a bond or otherwise guarantee payment – when it gets its occupancy permit.

‘The project team is pleased with the decision as it reinforces our perspective that the lawsuits were specious to begin with,” said Mark Rhoades of Rhoades Planning Group, which assisted Penner in the entitlement process. “The decision also reinforces the voters’ desires for the Downtown Plan as it is reflected in this project after more than 35 public meetings. The project team is currently in discussion on the next steps but the strength of the decision likely means that the project will move forward even IF there is an appeal.” … Continue reading »

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6 candidates compete for 4 slots on Berkeley Rent Board

Berkeley Rent Board candidates (clockwise from upper left): Nate Wollman, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Leah Simon-Weisberg, Christina Murphy, Igor Tregub and Judy Hunt. Photos: Courtesy
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Six candidates are vying for four open seats on Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board, in a race that has seen one slate of decidedly pro-tenant candidates boast numerous endorsements and a large war chest, while their landlord-leaning opponents lag — both in terms of endorsements and cash.

It’s an important, if not widely covered race: Established in 1980, the Rent Board controls a $4.5 million budget, and is composed of nine elected commissioners, which each draw a monthly salary of between $50 and $500. The Board is responsible for the day to day oversight and management of the city’s rent control ordinance, and moreover, those elected this election cycle will likely have a substantial influence the appointment of a new executive director, among other policy initiatives. … Continue reading »

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