Category Archives: Real estate

Housing views show split in South, West Berkeley races

Berkeley City Council Districts 2 & 3 forum, League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany Emeryville, Berkeley Community Media, Sept. 12, 2016. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley City Council candidates for South and West Berkeley took the stage Monday night to share their views on housing, diversity, homelessness, the economy and public safety, among other topics.

The forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany Emeryville, was the first to bring together the candidates for District 2 (West Berkeley) and District 3 (South Berkeley) to help get their views out to voters in a group setting.

See more local election events coming up.

Three people are vying for District 2: Cheryl Davila, Nanci Armstrong-Temple and incumbent Darryl Moore.

Beside them on the podium were the four District 3 candidates: Mark CoplanAl G. MurrayDeborah Matthews and Ben Bartlett. That race will have an open seat, with Councilman Max Anderson on the road to retirement. Anderson has held the seat for 12 years. … Continue reading »

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Court considers challenge to Berkeley high-rise

James Hendry and Kelly Hammargren await the start of the court hearing on their challenge to the 2211 Harold Way project. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Two opponents of the 18-story apartment complex planned for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley made a case in court Friday that the approval of the 302-unit building should be revisited.

Kelly Hammargren and James Hendry appeared before Judge Frank Roesch in Alameda County Superior Court to argue that the environmental impact report for the building was so deeply flawed that the project should be stopped.

              Read complete coverage of 2211 Harold Way on Berkeleyside.

The packed hearing, which brought out many of the long-time opponents of the project, lasted four hours. Neither Hammargren nor Hendry had legal representation, and clearly struggled with how to frame their legal arguments. Hammargren, for example, asked to introduce a map delineating the area west of the project. She wanted to show how close Berkeley High School is to 2211 Harold Way as part of her argument that Berkeley and the developer should have considered the impact of diesel particulates from fuel exhaust on the high school.

The judge denied her motion because the map was not part of the administrative record, which includes 15,000 pages of documents from Berkeley’s consideration of the project, as well as notes, videos, and tape recordings from many of the 37 public hearings. The CEQA hearing could only focus on what was already part of the record, not other evidence, he said.

Hammargren, who has devoted more than two years of her life to stopping the project, often tried to persuade the judge using an argument she might have made in front of the Berkeley City Council. The judge repeatedly told her to stick to legal issues and not make political speeches. He also reprimanded audience members when they burst into applause after Hammargren made a point.

“This is a court of law,” said Judge Roesch. “We don’t applaud anyone. We don’t think that political speeches are very helpful in solving the puzzle.”

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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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UC Berkeley to build 10-story hotel at University, Oxford

UC Berkeley is in negotiations with a developer to construct a hotel on University Avenue and Oxford Street. Photo: UC Berkeley
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UC Berkeley is negotiating with a developer to construct a 200-room, 10-story hotel on the northwest corner of University Avenue and Oxford Street.

The university issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the project in 2015 and received seven responses, according to Christine Shaff, the communications director for UC’s Real Estate Division. The university narrowed that down to a finalist, with whom it is negotiating, she said. Shaff declined to release the name of the development group.

Cal wants a developer to build a single structure that abuts University and Oxford, stands 115 feet high and has about 200 rooms, according to the RFP. The university has requested the structure be an “upscale, full service or select-service hotel” with a public lobby, dining facility, meeting space and recreational space. The design and inclusion of those elements would depend, of course, on the design the development group comes up with, according to the documents. … Continue reading »

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Grocery Outlet to close Aug. 20; housing planned

The Berkeley Grocery Outlet is closing Aug. 20 to make way for housing. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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It’s the end of an era in West Berkeley with Grocery Outlet closing later this month to make way for about 150 new housing units.

Grocery Outlet told Berkeleyside that its final day open in Berkeley, at 2001 Fourth St., will be Saturday, Aug. 20. That followed an email blast from the company to customers alerting them of the closure.

“We’re Sad to Go,” the email read. “It is with heavy hearts that we prepare to leave our Berkeley location. Please take advantage of our Liquidation Sale.”

Shoppers who visit the store now will find 20% sales in many departments.

“Thank you for being our customers in Berkeley. We’ll be opening more Bay Area locations soon,” the brief message reads.

One employee who said she was not authorized to speak with the media said store staff would be transferred to other locations. Berkeleyside has reached out to Grocery Outlet for confirmation.

Shoppers said Wednesday that they were sorry to see the store close. … Continue reading »

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Proposed in Berkeley: 50 units in place of Anh Hong

A developer would like to replace Anh Hong with 50 new housing units. Image: Trachtenberg Architects
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A Dublin-based developer has proposed to replace a downtown Berkeley Vietnamese restaurant with a 7-story building featuring 50 housing units and a 1,500-square-foot ground-floor restaurant.

The building, at 2067 University Ave., would have no car parking, but it would provide parking for 48 bikes, according to preliminary project plans submitted to the city. The project site is located just west of Shattuck Avenue and close to the downtown Berkeley BART station.

Read more about housing in Berkeley.

Project architect David Trachtenberg is representing the property owner, identified only as “2067 University Avenue Apartments,” through the city permitting process.

Use permits would be needed to demolish the existing single-story building, construct the new building, reduce side setbacks and reduce the required parking. The project — scheduled for the consent calendar Thursday night before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board — would need a use permit to reach its proposed height of nearly 75 feet.

The project seeks to use the state “density bonus” to build to that height, which means below-market-rate units would be included on site. … Continue reading »

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Downtown Berkeley most walkable Bay Area neighborhood

Downtown Berkeley: ranked number one for walkability in new survey. Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin
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Downtown Berkeley is the most walkable neighborhood in the Bay Area, and two other Berkeley areas also make the Top 10, according to a new survey published by real-estate brokerage Redfin and Walk Score, which calculates areas’ walkability.

The report analyzed the most walkable neighborhoods of mid-size cities in the Bay Area. Downtown Berkeley placed highest with a Walk Score of 96 out of a possible 100; Southside Berkeley ranked fourth with a score of 93; and Northside Berkeley came in at number six with a score of 89.

Redfin agent Tom Hendershot puts downtown Berkeley’s winning spot down to the fact that it is a “fully functioning downtown with a large university just one block off the main strip.”

“Having the University of California, Berkeley so close to downtown offers many amenities for people there,” he said in a prepared statement, pointing in particular to “the culture, the access to everything within walking distance, and the combination of housing offered; from student housing through the university, to apartments, to traditional single family homes.” … Continue reading »

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Real estate

Proposed in Berkeley: 5 stories, 39 units on San Pablo

The proposal for 2720 San Pablo Ave. Image: Devi Dutta Architecture
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A new proposal has come in, on the former Jered’s Pottery lot, for a 5-story, 39-unit building on San Pablo Avenue in West Berkeley.

The pottery shop, at 2720 San Pablo Ave. between Carleton and Pardee streets, closed last year and moved to Richmond. The property at that time was on sale for $1.4 million; a 4-story 18-unit building had already been approved there.

The major transit corridor has been the focus of much development in recent years, with more changes potentially coming, including a large urgent care facility and hundreds of new apartments approved and proposed.

Scroll down for a round-up of more projects on San Pablo.

A 1-story garage (later used as the pottery studio) would be demolished to make way for the new building, designed by Berkeley-based Devi Dutta Architecture.

According to the applicant statement, the former gas and auto service station would be replaced by a “mixed-use and transit-oriented infill project” that includes ground-floor commercial space under four stories of apartments.  … 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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Real estate

Berkeley council votes to crack down on short-term rentals of multiple units by same owner

There are hundreds of rooms and units available to rent on Airbnb even though short-term rentals are currently illegal in Berkeley. Image: Airbnb
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Prompted by concern that too many units are being taken off Berkeley’s long-term housing market for short-term uses such as Airbnb, the City Council voted Thursday to penalize landlords who rent out multiple properties for less than two weeks.

In a unanimous vote, following a motion by Councilman Kriss Worthington, officials asked staff to initiate an enforcement process after the city gets at least three verified complaints about property owners, individuals or companies that rent out multiple units on a short-term basis. It’s the first time council has given direction to staff to enforce the rules about short-term rentals that are already on the books, according to the city attorney.

Short-term rentals — those less than 14 consecutive days — have always been illegal in Berkeley. Council has been working since 2014 to come up with rules to regulate them as the practice has become increasingly popular through sites such as Airbnb, VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and HomeAway. … Continue reading »

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Record price set for older Berkeley apartment building

This 1968 building at 2737 Fulton St. sold for $3.85M, making each unit worth $458.000, a record in Berkeley for structures built before 2000, according to real estate insiders. Photo: Google Streets
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An eight-unit apartment building at 2537 Fulton St. recently sold for $3.825 million, making the individual price for each apartment – $478,125 – the highest in Berkeley for buildings constructed before 2000, according to those involved with the deal.

The Kuwait Real Estate Company, also known as AQARAT, sold the building in late May to an undisclosed local buyer who paid all cash, Guy Nesdale, a partner in the private equity firm, Empire Square Group, which manages some of AQARAT’s assets, told RegistrySF.com.  AQARAT is one of Kuwait’s largest real-estate companies, and the first to have shares traded on the stock exchange, according to its website.

“The price escalation in the local Berkeley market made this an opportune time to divest of property,” Fahad Al-Shamlan, vice president for investments and acquisitions at AQARAT, said in a press release. The release also said the sale was record-setting. … Continue reading »

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Kapor abandons plans to build North Berkeley mansion

New-pic-of-Kapor-house
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After waging a six-year legal battle over the right to build a mansion and 10-car garage in the Berkeley hills, Lotus Development Corp. founder Mitch Kapor and his wife Freada Kapor-Klein have put their property on the market.

The lot at 2707 Rose St. went up for sale June 27 and was listed at $1.5 million, according to the real estate website Redfin.

The Kapors were not available to comment by publication time.

The legal battle began when the Berkeley Hillside Preservation Group, sued the city over the need to conduct an environmental impact report (EIR) of the Kapors’ building plans on the Rose Street property.

In general, single-family homes are exempt from conducting state-mandated impact reports but the Hillside Preservation Group argued that the proposed structure was exceptionally large and in an area that was susceptible to landslides. In order to build the mansion, the road would also have to be widened. Together, the group argued, the plans would generate an impact to the environment, and thus required a review. … 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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