Category Archives: Real estate

Berkeley looks at public art fee for private developers

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The city of Berkeley is crafting a new law to require private developers of many buildings to spend 1% of their construction costs on public art.

Under a recommendation put forth by Mayor Tom Bates and approved in concept by the Berkeley City Council at its March 17 meeting, the “private percent for public art” legislation would apply to all new commercial and industrial buildings, and residential buildings with at least five units, except for projects in downtown Berkeley. The one-time fee would pay for publicly accessible art on-site, or the developer could instead pay into a new city pot for public art.

At the same meeting, council expanded the city’s definition of art to include installations, performance and social practice works, and other types of original displays. Continue reading »

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Old Berkeley animal shelter to become live-work units

A photo simulation of 2013 Second St. Image: Levy Design Partners
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A new live-work project for artists and craftspeople has been approved in West Berkeley by the zoning board, to take the place of the city’s old municipal animal shelter, which closed in 2012.

The project, at 2013 Second St., was unanimously approved April 9 by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board, with no one speaking against the proposal.

The four-story, 26,500-square-foot building would include 19 one-bedroom live-work rental units of approximately 1,000 square feet each. It is also set to include one vehicle and one bike parking spot per unit. According to the project staff report, “A large landscaped courtyard will provide shared work/live open space for the residents.” The old animal shelter would be demolished to make way for the new project.

Read more about West Berkeley.

The building is the latest to win approval in the increasingly busy neighborhood, where the nearby Grocery Outlet, at University Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets, is set to be demolished and replaced by a large housing complex (152 units), and plans are underway at 800 University (between Fifth and Sixth streets) for a five-story building (58 units). In recent years, new apartment developments have gone up nearby at Fourth & U (171 units) and The Avalon (99 units), which opened last May.

City staff noted last week that there aren’t very many live-work complexes in Berkeley. The West Berkeley Plan — from 1993 — put the number at about 2% of the area’s housing, but also noted that the city had no comprehensive directory of those properties.

Chris Hoff, who owns the Second Street property with his brother Greg, said theirs is the first project of its kind to come to the city in more than a decade.

“We want to run a great artist, ‘maker’ community,” he told the board. “We think it’s a great idea.” … Continue reading »

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Most expensive home for sale in Berkeley is private oasis

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The newly listed five-bedroom home on Tanglewood Road in Berkeley’s Claremont neighborhood has the distinction of being the most expensive home currently for sale in Berkeley (we don’t count the $21 million home for sale also in Berkeley’s 94705 zip code, as it is technically in Oakland).

While it is priced at $4.25 million, it is also worth knowing that the home’s owners spent around $2.5 million totally rebuilding the house after they bought it 13 years ago — a two-year process which has resulted in a stunning spot, one that has served the family of six who have dwelt there very well.

In fact, it was the 17-year-old son of the family, one of four children, who, on first seeing the original property at 25 Tanglewood, designed by noted local architect Hans Ostwald, exclaimed, “I don’t deserve to live in a house like this!” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley officials seek feedback on ‘community benefits’

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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The Berkeley City Council has launched a public discussion on what sort of benefits are required by developers who hope to construct tall buildings downtown, with two meetings focused on the topic in the next few weeks.

The conversation about “significant community benefits” generally comes up before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board, but that panel has struggled to determine whether tall building proposals it has reviewed meet current city guidelines. That’s because those guidelines, set out within Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan, are more of a menu of suggestions, rather than concrete items that can be checked off a list.

Crafters of that plan have said the city wanted to offer flexibility to developers to work with the community to come up with the right mix of benefits. But, so far, the lack of specificity has made it difficult for various stakeholders to agree on what developers should bring to the table.

Last week, council took public comment on the topic at its regular Tuesday night meeting, but did not itself much discuss the issue. Mayor Tom Bates — whose office is spearheading the new talks in collaboration with council members Jesse Arreguín, Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore — announced a special council meeting May 5 at 7 p.m. for that discussion to take place.

Separately, Councilman Arreguín also has scheduled a workshop on the subject, from 7-9 p.m. this Wednesday, April 15, in Live Oak Park’s Fireside Room. The workshop will focus on the general framework of community benefits, not specific projects, and attendees will be asked to rank the categories of benefits that matter most to them.  … Continue reading »

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Apartment, townhouse complex slated for San Pablo Ave.

A rendering of Shorenstein Properties proposed complex. This would be the view from San Pablo Avenue and Jones Street. Pyatok Architects
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One of the region’s biggest developers has set its sights on Berkeley and is proposing to build a 5-story, 170-unit mixed-use complex at 1500 San Pablo Ave.

Shorenstein Properties is developing the 1.65-acre-site that covers most of a square block and is bounded by San Pablo Avenue to the east, Jones Street to the north, 10th Street to the west, and is near Hopkins. The land, long owned by Michael McNevin, once served as the home of McNevin Cadillac and is now the service department of Berkeley Honda.

The complex, which would be just a short walk to Acme Bread, Bartavelle Café, and the Kermit Lynch wine shop, will be a mix of two-and-a-half-bedroom townhouses, two-bedroom apartments, one-bedroom, junior one-bedroom, and studio apartments. The average unit size would be more than 800 square feet, according to documents submitted to the city, and should appeal to singles, professionals, couples, families, and retirees. The building will also have space for either offices or retail. The developer is including applications for permits for a restaurant with a bar, a café, and outdoor eating space. … Continue reading »

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LeConte residents express concern about Berkeley Honda’s move to site of Any Mountain store

A photo of a preliminary rendering of 2777 Shattuck Ave. prepared by Trachtenberg Architects
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More than 50 residents of the LeConte neighborhood turned up for a meeting Wednesday night to hear about Berkeley Honda’s plans to move into the historic Shattuck Avenue building now housing Any Mountain.

While numerous people at the raucous – and sometimes unruly – meeting said they support the family-owned Berkeley Honda, they said it should not move to its proposed location at 2777 Shattuck Ave. between Stuart and Ward streets.

Neighbors expressed concern about too many cars, congestion, the safety of children walking to Willard Middle School and Le Conte Elementary School, and how the presence of a service garage could bring down property values. … Continue reading »

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New proposal will keep Raiders in San Francisco Bay

 

Caption for photo: The new stadium complex for the Oakland Raiders, floating off the San Francisco waterfront for a night game on a calm winter evening.
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Update, April 2, 12:45 a.m. This was indeed an April Fools’ Day story. We hope you enjoyed!

Original story, April 1, 11 a.m. At a surprise press conference at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard this morning, Mark Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, announced a new plan to keep the team in Oakland. Or more accurately, to keep the Raiders in the San Francisco Bay. Only some of the games will be played in Oakland.

Despite the recent contract extension, and despite talk of a new “Coliseum City,” the Raiders will proceed with plans to abandon the aging Oakland Coliseum after the 2015-16 season. But instead of the proposed joint venture with the San Diego Chargers, which calls for the two teams to share a new $1.7 billion stadium in Los Angeles, the new venue will float in the Bay.

“Hull-based structures can always be built on much shorter lead times,” explained Davis. “No building permits, no land use issues, no traffic plans, no zoning, no EIR. All we need is classification by American Bureau of Shipping, and a few Coast Guard inspections, and we’re good to go. The shipyard promises a launch date early next year, and the tow across the Pacific from China will take less than 45 days.” … Continue reading »

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Thursday: Groundbreaking for new Dwight Way project

From left: Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, architect Richard Christiani, Dan Deibel, president of Olympic Residential Group, and Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner. Photo: Ted Friedman
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A 99-unit, 6-story building planned in downtown Berkeley is kicking off construction in earnest with a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday afternoon.

Demolition began last summer at 2121 Dwight Way, at Shattuck Avenue. Since then, the project has changed hands and promises a wide range of amenities to renters, such as high-quality kitchens, pet-friendly features, shuffleboard and “the latest Wi-Fi technology” in a communal lounge. There’s also 5,100 square feet of ground floor retail space “suited for a café and neighborhood-serving specialties.”

San Carlos-based Olympic Residential Group bought the property — where furniture shop Modernaire used to be located — in February. (Modernaire moved to 1621 San Pablo Ave.) The project is scheduled to be complete by summer 2016.

Read more about real estate in Berkeley.

Olympic described the units as “Class-A luxury apartment homes,” and said in a statement released Wednesday the project, set to reach 63 feet in height, is aimed at “an eclectic mix of young professionals attracted to the transit-oriented location, empty nesters, University faculty, and UC Berkeley students looking for a high quality housing option near the campus.”  … Continue reading »

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Urban planning

Op-ed: Let’s build the housing that Berkeley needs

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Berkeley is in urgent need of affordable housing. We do NOT need more market-rate and upscale rentals and condos; that need has been more than adequately served. We need housing for families and low-income people who are being pushed out of Berkeley.

The adult children of middle class families cannot find affordable housing in their hometown. If Berkeley is to retain its valued character based on economic, racial, and cultural diversity, we must slow the rapidly rising rents that encourage … Continue reading »

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Officials to relax rules for Berkeley ‘granny flats’

An accessory dwelling unit on Virginia Street. Photo: Karen Chapple
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Berkeley officials voted unanimously Tuesday night to streamline the process for homeowners who want to add secondary units — sometimes called in-law units or granny flats — to their properties.

Supporters of the draft plan say it is a sustainable approach to increasing density and will allow more local residents to age in place by cutting down on the bureaucratic hurdles tied to the construction of additions, while also making those projects cheaper.

The proposal, from Mayor Tom Bates, would allow homeowners who follow certain standards to build the units “by right,” meaning they would not need to apply for an administrative use permit prior to construction. Those permits can be costly and take a long time to make their way through the approval process. Building plans would still require review by city staff, but public hearings and neighborhood feedback would be off the table. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley should ease parking rules for in-law units

The interior of the ADU designed by Motzkin.  Photo: Patricia Motzkin Architecture
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As we know, our population is aging and more people are confronting the need to plan for appropriate living arrangements. An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), either for a caretaker’s apartment or as a downsizing option, is becoming increasingly popular. The concept is not new. Commonly known as “in-law” units, these small dwelling spaces exist in a variety of forms, from basement or attic apartments to independent structures.

A major advantage of adding an ADU is that people don’t have to leave … Continue reading »

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National construction company moves to Berkeley, will repurpose Flint Ink building as its HQ

ProVen Management building. Image: courtesy Trachtenberg Architects
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PrōVen Management, a national engineering construction company that specializes in large-scale infrastructure projects, is moving its operations from San Francisco’s Jackson Square area to West Berkeley, and is turning the old Flint Ink factory into its new headquarters.

Berkeley architect David Trachtenberg is overseeing the transformation, and he said it’s one of the most exciting projects he’s worked on for some time. The plans for the site, at 1350 Fourth Street (at Gilman), include a contractor’s yard for storage of heavy equipment, a new 5,000 sq. ft equipment repair shed, and renovation of the existing 35,000 square feet of buildings for use as storage, offices, conference space, and a private art gallery. The project has received landmarks and zoning approvals and is currently in design development.

PrōVen founder Alan Varela said the company chose the Berkeley location for a number of reasons: much of the company’s large construction equipment is stored in nearby Oakland, the cost of the site was appealing compared to San Francisco (though he says Berkeley’s property taxes have proved a “surprise”), and Varela himself is now closer to his principal home in Lafayette. “I don’t have to cross the Bay Bridge,” he said. … Continue reading »

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State Supreme Court upholds Berkeley’s decision in Mitch Kapor’s bid to build a home in the city

New-pic-of-Kapor-house
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Update, 3.19.15: The Berkeley Hillside Preservation Group is asking the Supreme Court for a rehearing of its case. It filed its petition on March 18. The Supreme Court recently appointed two new justices, following two retirements, and the group is hoping a reconsideration of their arguments might bring a different result. The vote was 5-2 for the defendant at the first hearing. A decision on whether the court will grant or deny a rehearing will be known by May 29. Read the Petition for Rehearing.

Original story: The California Supreme Court today ruled in favor of the city of Berkeley and philanthropist and Lotus founder Mitch Kapor, and against a group of preservationists who have been fighting for five years a proposal from Kapor and his wife, Freada Kapor Klein, to build a new home at 2707 Rose St.

In a ruling issued Monday morning, the court said it was reversing a Court of Appeal’s decision that had effectively said the 6,478-square-foot home (with a 3,394-square-foot garage) should be subject to an environmental impact report (EIR). Single-family homes are normally exempt from EIRs, which fall under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). … Continue reading »

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