Category Archives: Real estate

402 Berkeley buildings found to need fixes after launch of inspection program spurred by balcony collapse

What appears to be rotting wood can be seen on the remains of the balcony that collapsed at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Photo: David Yee
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Inspections performed in Berkeley since last year’s deadly balcony collapse at Library Gardens found more than 400 buildings that needed work out of nearly 2,200 with weather-exposed elements, such as balconies, stairways, decks and landings, according to a city report released Wednesday afternoon.

The inspections were part of the city’s response to the Library Gardens tragedy last June, which killed six young people and seriously injured seven others when a fifth-floor balcony broke off a downtown Berkeley apartment building during a birthday celebration.

Council voted in July to require the inspection by Jan. 15, and every following three years, of all weather-exposed exterior elements in properties with at least three units. The city also stiffened requirements about building materials, venting and access to make inspections easier to do and allow for better airflow to elements that could be impacted by water damage and other problems.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage about the balcony collapse.

The Berkeley City Council is slated to receive an update Feb. 23 about the “Exterior Elevated Elements” (E3) program, which mandates the inspections. … Continue reading »

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Downtown Ace Hardware moving 2 blocks to Milvia Street

Ace Hardware will move to 2020 Milvia St. soon. Photo: Google Streetview
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Ace Hardware, which has been operating out of its space at 2145 University Ave. since 1945, will be moving sometime in the spring to 2020 Milvia St, just two blocks away.

Bill and Virginia Carpenter have to move their 16,000-square foot store because the building they are in is supposed to be extensively remodeled to make way for the 205-unit Acheson Commons apartment complex. (Equity Residential, which owns the entitlement rights to build Acheson Commons put them and its entire Berkeley portfolio up for sale last year, however.)

The Carpenters have been looking for a new space since 2012, even before the city council approved Acheson Commons in 2013. They almost moved into the old Andronico’s space on University Ave., but later decided it was not right for the store. Savers Thrift took over the space instead, but shut its doors in January.

The Carpenters wanted to stay in downtown Berkeley, where a version of the hardware store has been since 1895, said Bill Carpenter. … Continue reading »

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Future uncertain for Berkeley community garden

The garden in the summer. Photo: Ashby Community Garden
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Update Feb. 9: The city of Berkeley has filed an objection to the proposed tax sale of Ashby Gardens, which means the sale will not go forward for now. Now the gardeners and Berkeley will figure out how to raise the back taxes and pay off the county. Once that happens, the land will be put in a trust and kept as open space for 30 years, as required by law.

Original story: For the last 12 years, the Ashby Community Garden on Ashby Avenue near Acton Street has served as a place that brought neighbors together.

Residents transformed two empty plots into a verdant space with room for flowers, vegetables, chickens, bees and a greenhouse. There are now monthly public workshops on everything from fermentation to composting to making natural dyes, musical performances, and the ability to just hang out in the sun and get one’s hands dirty.

But the future of the garden is now uncertain. The owner of the parcels at 1370 Ashby Ave., who gave verbal permission in 2004 for his property to be converted into a garden, has not paid his property taxes for five years. He owes $17,460.52, and Alameda County intends to auction off his land on March 18. … Continue reading »

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Housing forum: Climate right for development in Berkeley

Denise Pinkston, vice-chair of ZAB and an Oakland-based developer, talks to a group about the housing crisis in the state while Mark Rhoades of the Rhoades Planning Group listens. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The development climate in Berkeley has improved so much in the past six years that there are now approximately 2,500 apartment units in the pipeline — a dramatic change from the two decades between 1970 and 1990 when only 600 units were built, according to experts who spoke at a forum on multi-family development held in Berkeley on Jan. 21 .

The city is no longer looked upon as a place just to build student housing. With its foodie culture, rich history, music and art scenes, ­as well as the ability it affords developers to charge higher rents than in Oakland and other East Bay cities, Berkeley is now a popular place to build.

Read more about Berkeley development on Berkeleyside.

“Berkeley is no longer this campus college market,” said Stephen Lawton, volunteer program leader for the non-profit Urban Land Institute which hosted the event at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley.  “The hot San Francisco market is finally reaching across the bay in this cycle.” … Continue reading »

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180-foot high-rise proposed over Berkeley Walgreens

Terrace Green Apartments is proposed at 2190 Shattuck. Image: WRNS Studio
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A San Mateo-based developer has submitted an application to build a 180-foot-tall mixed-use high-rise in downtown Berkeley over a redesigned Walgreens store.

Shattuck Terrace Green Apartments at 2190 Shattuck Ave., just north of Allston Way, is set to include 274 units, 12,000 square feet of commercial space, and a 19,000-square-foot underground garage with spots for more than 80 vehicles. The 18-story structure would replace a 2-story retail building. Walgreens is there now, and is expected to return if Terrace Green is built, according to project documents.

Read more about tall buildings proposed in Berkeley in past Berkeleyside coverage.

The city’s Downtown Area Plan, which was adopted in 2012 after Berkeley voters endorsed its concepts in 2010, allows for the construction of three 180-foot-tall buildings in Berkeley’s downtown core, and two 120-foot-high buildings. UC Berkeley has the right to build two more 120-foot structures. … Continue reading »

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Lawsuits filed to stop building of Harold Way complex

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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Update: This story was updated Jan. 15 to add another lawsuit. Scroll to the bottom of the story for details.

Kelly Hammargren, one of the most active opponents of the planned 18-story high-rise at 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley, filed a lawsuit Wednesday charging that the city of Berkeley did not do an adequate environmental review of the 302-unit complex.

Hammargren filed her lawsuit on the last day permitted to file a legal challenge, which was 30 days after the Berkeley City Council’s Dec. 8 vote approving the project was certified. None of the other residents who opposed the 2211 Harold Way project joined Hammargren in the lawsuit, nor is there a law firm representing her interests. Hammargren intends to represent herself, at least for now.

Read complete coverage of 2211 Harold Way on Berkeleyside.

In 2012, when the then recently passed Downtown Area Plan was adopted, three neighborhood preservation groups joined together to file a suit against the city. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: An open letter to the Landmark Preservation Commission about Telegraph Village

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To the Landmark Preservation Commissioners:

At your Jan. 7 meeting, you acted to dismiss landmark (or related) status for a quaint, “uncategorizable”, unsafe, barely patronized — and utterly unique and irreplaceable — relic of ‘the Ingrate Generation’. In so doing, you really have felt the pulse of our times.

In denying the application of ‘The Village’ (2556 Telegraph) for landmark (or related) status, of all Berkeley’s national and city landmarks, only three 60s/70s-era sites remain so honored. One is the … Continue reading »

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The biggest Berkeley stories of 2015

Irish Consul General Philip Grant praised the first responders for their compassion. Photo: David Yee
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2015 was an eventful year. Six young people died when a balcony on a relatively new building broke off. Race was a huge topic, from the controversy surrounding Kamau Bell’s treatment at the Elmwood Café to a racist threat made on a Berkeley High School computer, to a peaceful protest walkout by hundreds of students.

Berkeley approved the first new tall building in its downtown in more than 40 years. It also passed new laws to restrict the behavior of homeless people. The housing and rental markets went crazy, leaving many to wonder: Who can afford to live in Berkeley? Not least as the median price of a home in Berkeley breached the $1 million mark.

But there were some lighter moments too, such as the business owner whose Wall Street Journal was stolen every morning, and our report on naked tree-hugging protesters.

Here is a selection of the top stories of the year. Some were chosen because they drew the most readers and others because they reverberated deeply in city life. … Continue reading »

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Urban planning

Zoning board approves new units on Telegraph, Shattuck

The Nexus at 2539 Telegraph Ave. has been approved. Image: Lowney Architecture
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Berkeley’s zoning board approved two largely car-free buildings Thursday set to add 92 new residential units to the city’s housing stock.

Both of the projects — 70 units on Telegraph Avenue and 22 units on Shattuck Avenue — were proposed by Patrick Kennedy’s Berkeley-based Panoramic Interests.

The Telegraph project, dubbed The Nexus, is set to take the place of a 1-story office building where the nationally recognized Center for Independent Living got its start. The center has since moved to a new home at the Ed Roberts Campus and representatives from the organization told the Zoning Adjustments Board on Thursday that a decision on the Telegraph property would help them move ahead with their own plans for the organization’s future.

The Nexus, which also has an entrance on Regent Street, is set to reach 6 stories on the Telegraph side, and include about 5,200 square feet of commercial space, some of which could one day be a café. Nine vehicle parking spots are planned for the retail area, and 144 bike parking spots are included. Building residents will not be allowed to seek residential parking permits under existing city rules. … Continue reading »

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Tenants struggle after fire at Chandler building

The Chandler building fire in Southside Berkeley. Photo: Ted Friedman
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When a fire tore through 2449 Dwight Way the Sunday before Thanksgiving, about 30 tenants were displaced and the property owner was saddled with around $1 million in damages. The Nov. 22 disaster has brought to light what can happen in Berkeley in the aftermath of a destructive fire.

The displaced tenants describe two weeks dominated by confusion and uncertainty. After fleeing the building, which is known as the Chandler, the residents scattered, finding refuge in friends’ homes and at the Durant Hotel. The Red Cross provided some immediate financial assistance.

”Things were happening in a whirlwind,” said tenant Owen Hill. “Many of us went to a hotel because we expected it to be covered. We didn’t get solid information because we were in a panic.”

The tenants say they received conflicting information from the Rent Board about what kind of assistance they were entitled to immediately and in the long run, causing uncertainty about what kind of housing to seek. (A crowd-funding campaign set up to help the displaced has so far raised just $65.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley approves construction of Harold Way high-rise

The zoning board voted to certify the Harold Way EIR on Thursday night. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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After three years and 37 public meetings, the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night approved plans to build an 18-story, 302-unit mixed-use complex in Berkeley’s downtown.

The vote, which followed five hours of public testimony, requires the developer, HSR Berkeley Investments, to pay $4.5 million into the city’s Housing Trust Fund, on top of the $6 million it is already obligated to pay. That $10.5 million can be leveraged with state and federal funds to construct about 105 units of affordable housing, according to city staff. The developer will also have to pay $1 million into an arts fund, with $250,000 of that going soon to Habitot Children’s Museum to help it relocate, among other fees.

                           Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of 2211 Harold Way.

“I think it’s a major improvement for our city,” Mayor Tom Bates said after the meeting about the project slated for 2211 Harold Way. “It sends a sign we’re serious about climate change. The building is LEED Gold. It’s a block from BART. It’s going to contribute seriously to the city’s coffers. It’s a great win-win.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley City Council to consider Harold Way appeals

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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There have been more than 35 public hearings over the 180-foot-high 302-unit building proposed for 2211 Harold Way and at most of those meetings a dedicated group of people has objected to its construction.

Tonight may be their last chance – at least before the issue goes to court – to thwart what they consider an oversized building for the wealthy that doesn’t fit architecturally into the neighborhood.

The Berkeley City Council is holding a special meeting at Longfellow Middle School at 1500 Derby St. 5:30 p.m. to consider eight appeals filed over the approvals and permits issued by the Zoning Adjustments Board and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. That is one less appeal than expected; on Monday night, the Berkeley Unified School District Board voted to drop its appeal, according to president Judy Appel. BUSD and the building’s developer, HSR Berkeley Investments, worked out an agreement in recent days that will mitigate the school district’s concerns about the impact of construction on Berkeley High, which is about a half a block away. … Continue reading »

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Sponsored post

Home Truths: Is Berkeley real estate becoming overly reliant on high-tech salaries?

High paid tech workers are increasingly buying homes in the East Bay and they can often afford to put cash down on homes in the $1m+ range. This home at 633 San Luis Rd is on the market for $1.2m. Photo: Red Oak Realty
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Home Truths, a quarterly report on the state of the Berkeley real estate market, is brought to you by Red Oak Realty.

Tech workers make up an increasing portion of the East Bay’s population and wealth. The Oakland Chamber of Commerce recently found that the number of tech employees in that city increased 23% between 2010 and 2014. During the same period, the median home price in Oakland increased 73%. This is not to say one caused the other, but the relationship is well-established and worth further exploration. (Even The Onion thinks so.) And if it’s happening in Oakland, it’s a fair bet it’s happening next door in Berkeley.

With so many of our Berkeley neighbors working in the high-paid high-tech sector – and most of them with a mortgage — does this mean that Berkeley real estate is more exposed to a downturn if the tech sector slows?

The question takes on particular weight in the wake of recent news about the overvaluation of unicorns, from write-downs for Snapchat to low IPO prices for Square. There have been layoffs, like those at Twitter and HotelTonight. And some believe the Bay Area as a whole is poised for a correction.

Unfortunately, history may not be able to give us direction. If you look at Berkeley prices after the dot-com bust of 2000-2002, they only increased. … Continue reading »

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