Category Archives: Real estate

Berkeley plans ‘very efficient garage that people will be happy to come to’

Designs are coming along for an updated Center Street garage. Image: Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects
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As plans proceed for an updated municipal garage on downtown Berkeley’s Center Street, project details are firming up, and the plan for where people can expect to park while construction is underway has been released.

The city is planning to demolish its circa 1958 5-story parking structure at 2025 Center and replace it with a modern 8-story structure featuring a double-helix design to halve the time it takes drivers to exit the garage.

Last Thursday, July 23, the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board learned about the newest iteration of the plans for the project, and gave feedback to city staff about several issues they still hope to see addressed. The project is set to return to the board Aug. 27 for a vote.

Read more about parking in Berkeley.

Earlier this month, the city’s Design Review Committee gave the project a favorable review. The city’s Civic Arts Commission is also on board, and is helping determine the process the city will use to select public art — described as colored LED lighting on the façade — that will appear on site. Last Thursday, zoning board commissioners said they were largely pleased with how the project is coming along.

“I’ve seen this project four times and it gets better and better,” said Commissioner Richard Christiani. “Generally it’s a very well-thought-out building. It’s nice to see so much attention given to a structure like this.”Continue reading »

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New plan calls for 10 theaters at 2211 Harold Way

The developer of 2211 Harold Way and Landmark Theatres are nearing a deal to build 10 new theaters in the proposed complex. Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin
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The developer of 2211 Harold Way and Landmark Theatres are nearing a deal to increase the number of movie theaters in the 302-unit building in downtown Berkeley to 10 — but detractors say the changes do not go far enough.

After discussions with Ted Mundorf, the CEO of Landmark, Joseph Penner of HSR Berkeley Investments has submitted a new set of plans with the 10 theaters. Previously, the number of theaters proposed had ranged from zero to nine.

The current plan, which still needs city approval, would place the box office by the sidewalk on Shattuck Avenue, much like it currently is. There would be four theaters on the street level. Patrons would take an escalator, stairs or an elevator one flight down to the six other theaters. There would also be bathrooms, a bar, a lounge and a snack bar on the bottom level. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley neighbors say affordability will be key to proposed Adeline Street project

Conceptual plans for 2902 Adeline, which the developer says will likely change as the project goes through the entitlement process. Image: Trachtenberg Architects
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About 40 people crammed into the community room at the South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library on Wednesday night to hear about a new project proposed at Adeline and Russell streets, and offer feedback to the developer.

The project — which would replace AW Pottery at 2908 Adeline — is in its very early stages, and has not yet been submitted to the city of Berkeley, said developer Cody Fornari of San Francisco-based real estate firm Realtex. Fornari said the South Berkeley property, at 2902 Adeline St., is currently in escrow and has not officially changed hands.

Realtex is also working on a proposal to construct a 7-story building on Telegraph Avenue — where restaurants including Norikonoko and Finfiné have been in operation for more than two decades. The company also won approval last year for a 5-story building at University and McGee avenues, but has not yet broken ground.

Throughout the info session, many in attendance expressed concern about the project — still in the “conceptual phase” —  which is currently set to include 47 residential units, eight live-work units and 18 parking spaces. The building is proposed to reach 6 stories, or 65 feet tall. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council adopts community benefits package

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 voted Tuesday to clarify its approach to the community benefits required of developers who wish to construct buildings taller than 75 feet downtown.

Seven of these buildings were approved when Berkeley residents voted in favor of the city’s Downtown Area Plan in 2010, but the type of significant community benefits required of those projects was left vague to allow flexibility during the permitting process.

Since then, city zoning board commissioners have expressed frustration about that ambiguity, and asked for more direction from council. In April, council launched a series of public discussions to clarify the requirements.

In late June, city officials voted in favor of a proposal from council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore designed to help guide the process going forward. They described their proposition as a compromise meant to combine the best elements of earlier proposals that had been introduced by Councilman Jesse Arreguín and, separately, Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli.

Council ratified that vote Tuesday night. The four-part resolution will now be shared with the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board to help it determine whether projects that come before it meet the city’s requirements. The resolution is meant to offer guidance to the zoning board about the council’s policy as it relates to significant community benefits. The resolution could, however, potentially be challenged by a referendum from local residents who disagree with the approach. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council approves new laws for building safety

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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After a deadly balcony collapse in June that killed six and injured seven in downtown Berkeley, the City Council voted Tuesday night to change several laws to improve building safety throughout the city.

Council voted unanimously to require periodic inspections of all existing weather-exposed exterior building elements, including balconies, stairs and decks. Those elements now need to be inspected within the next six months, and every following three years.

City planning director Eric Angstadt said 6,000 buildings in Berkeley would be affected by the new program, which he said covers “anything exposed to weather that could have water intrusion, [and] yield deterioration.”

An investigation by city building inspectors identified wood rot as the sole contributing factor in the June 16 collapse of a fifth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Let’s say ‘yes’ to a vibrant downtown Berkeley

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As a long-time resident and member of the Downtown Area Planning Committee I have participated in ten years of planning, debate, initiatives, referendums and heated viewpoints on the future of our downtown. After two decisive votes, the hugely popular new plan is finally underway with exciting new buildings proposed that will contribute greatly to achieving our community vision for Downtown.

Now is the time to listen to the 74% of Berkeley voters who want a vibrant downtown and to say YES to the … Continue reading »

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Real estate

Berkeley council to address balcony safety after collapse

Remnants of beams from removed balconies show contrast between the condition of the wood from the collapsed balcony and the balcony it fell upon at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early Tuesday morning accident. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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The Berkeley City Council may vote next week to amend the municipal code in an effort to make local buildings safer following the fatal collapse in June of a wood-rotted fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens.

The city pledged last month to consider the adoption of stricter rules related to building inspections following the accident at the downtown Berkeley apartment complex during a birthday celebration June 16. Six died and seven were injured as a result of the collapse. The Alameda County district attorney’s office has since launched an investigation and is considering the possibility of whether to file criminal charges.

The items on council’s action calendar at its July 14 meeting — the final one before summer recess — include amendments to the city’s municipal code suggested by the director of the planning department, along with two items from Councilman Jesse Arreguín. Arreguín is asking the city to consider requiring the steel reinforcement of balconies in all new construction, as well as a requirement to post signage on some balconies specifying their maximum weight capacity.

Berkeley planning director Eric Angstadt has suggested a slew of amendments to the municipal code, including three related “urgency ordinances” to the building code, housing code and Residential Rental Housing Safety Program. Under state law, urgency ordinances may be adopted immediately. … Continue reading »

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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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