Category Archives: Real estate

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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53 trees come down on UC Berkeley land as grocery store, senior living project kicks off

Activists said they planned to meet in Albany on Thursday night to discuss next steps, after UC Berkeley cut down trees at University Village to prepare for a development project. Photo: Ed Fields
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UC Berkeley has begun the process of removing dozens of trees from its University Village property in Albany as work begins on a vacant lot slated for development that has been the site of numerous protests in recent years.

University spokeswoman Christine Shaff said Thursday afternoon by email that 53 trees will be removed from the property, on San Pablo Avenue near Monroe Street. Those trees will be replaced on a 2.5-to-1 basis, she added.

The project, which received formal approval last year from the Albany City Council “will bring senior housing and retail, including a grocery store, to serve nearby student-family housing as well as the Albany and west Berkeley communities,” Shaff said. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Honda hopes to take over Any Mountain space

Berkeley Honda is hoping to take over 2777 Shattuck Ave.,the space now occupied by Any Mountain. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley Honda, which was displaced from its home at 2600 Shattuck Ave. in November, is making plans to move down the street into the building now occupied by Any Mountain, at 2777 Shattuck. Any Mountain has yet to find a new location in the city.

If Berkeley approves the auto dealership’s application, it would end a seven-year odyssey for one of Berkeley’s largest generators of sales tax. The dealership learned in 2008 that it had to leave its home of 40 years on Shattuck Avenue to make way for a mixed-use development called Parker Place. The dealership attempted to move to other locales in Berkeley, only to see them fall through. It is now renting temporary space at 2627 Shattuck Ave.

“It’s going to be Honda’s latest showroom design,” said Tim Beinke, the dealer/operator who owns the business with his father, Steve. “We have a lot of new products coming out. We have plug-in cars and a list of smaller vehicles.” … Continue reading »

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Thalassa space becoming music venue, beer garden

Site of new music venue and beer garden. Photo: Kate Williams
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The former Thalassa space in downtown Berkeley is not going to sit empty for long. The popular pool hall shut down last fall after losing its lease on the building, moved up the hill to Telegraph and Durant, and re-opened as Berkeley Public.

Now the enormous former pool hall, which is located at 2367 Shattuck Ave. between Channing and Durant, is being reconfigured as a craft beer garden and live music venue, says Alex Popov, who is spearheading the effort. Popov is a familiar name in the Berkeley food and drink scene; he founded Smart Alec’s in 1996 and Pappy’s Grill in 2012, and is running Liquid Entertainment, the company in charge of the music venue project.

The entirety of the venue, whose name has not been finalized, is huge — 12,000 square feet in total — and will be able to host special food and drink events in addition to concerts. Popov says that they will make use of the two large store-front entrances, one on Shattuck and one on Durant, which allow the venue to have a separate entrance for both the music and restaurant areas. … Continue reading »

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Legal battles over Berkeley’s main Post Office continue

Tony Rossmann, Brian Turner, and City of Berkeley employee Moni Law (from left to right) answer questions. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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The city of Berkeley is pushing forward with a lawsuit to stop the sale of the downtown Berkeley Post Office, despite the U.S. Postal Service’s claim that it is unnecessary as there is no imminent plan to sell the building, an attorney working for Berkeley told a crowd at a community meeting Thursday.

After a deal between the USPS and local developer Hudson McDonald fell through in early December, and the building at 2000 Allston Way was taken off the market, the postal service filed a motion Jan. 22 to dismiss the lawsuits against it, saying they are moot without a prospective buyer interested in the building. Whether the Berkeley Post Office is placed back on the market is under consideration, according to USPS spokesperson Augustine Ruiz.

Read more about the Berkeley Post Office.

The city and the privately funded nonprofit National Trust for Historical Preservation, which filed separate lawsuits in November, argue that their original complaints remain unaddressed by the USPS, and the case needs to move forward to prevent repeated violations in the future. … Continue reading »

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Developer of downtown Berkeley hotel offers ‘tapered’ tower; hopes for quick design review

The new plans for the 18-story hotel at 2129 Shattuck Avenue. Photo: JDRV Urban Architects
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Berkeley’s Design Review Committee will get an early peek this week of new, revised plans for the high-rise hotel on Shattuck Avenue and Center Street — part of the developers’ push to get the project through the planning process quickly.

The plan just submitted shows an 18-story building, rather than 16-story hotel, although both the new and old designs called for structures 180-feet high, according to the documents sent to the city. There will be 254 hotel rooms, all with bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. There will be 30 condominiums on six floors (floors 13-18), a restaurant, a bar, a new Bank of America branch, and two lobbies fronting Center Street. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley close to deal for long-empty Telegraph lot

Ken Sarachan, who owns multiple properties on Telegraph Avenue, bought 2501 Haste St. in 1994. The Berkeley Inn was located there until a fire destroyed it. The mural was recently removed. Photo: Ted Friedman
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UC Berkeley and property owner Ken Sarachan are close to a joint-venture development deal for the long-empty lot at the north-east corner of Haste and Telegraph, which means that new student housing might be in place there by August 2017.

“We are in negotiations, deep negotiations,” said Robert Lalanne, UC’s Vice-Chancellor for Real Estate. Lalanne said he would like to think they are getting very close to a deal.

The university would take over Sarachan’s entitlement of the proposed development for the site: a six-story Moorish, palace-like structure inspired by Italian hill towns, Tibetan forts and the rock-cut architecture of Petra in Jordan. The university would then turn over the project  to a developer, who would build the structure. Lalanne declined to name the developer as a contract had not been signed. … Continue reading »

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Shotgun Players to create studio at old Serendipity Books

Shotgun Players are transforming the old Serendipity Books on University Avenue into a rehearsal space. Photo: Google Images
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Berkeley’s Shotgun Players has purchased the building on University Avenue that once housed Serendipity Books and will turn it into a new rehearsal and shop space.

A large gift from an anonymous donor allowed Shotgun to buy the 5,200-square foot building at 1201 University (at San Pablo) in March 2014. The Board of Directors and other donors have contributed $1.6 million to renovate the space. Shotgun will now look to the broader community to raise an additional $175,000.

“I am humbled and awed by the outpouring of support from the Shotguns community,” Patrick Dooley, the theater’s artistic director, said in a press release. “The generosity of our supporters is truly inspiring. After years of being nomadic, Shotgun realized the secret to longevity is not just in great theatre, but also in long term investments like real estate.” … Continue reading »

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New 16-story downtown condo/hotel project to appeal to empty nesters, visiting professors

Jim Didion of Center Street LLC (left) and Richard Kelleher, CEO of Pyramid Hotels, are teaming up to construct a 16-story hotel in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The new developer of a 16-story hotel in downtown Berkeley plans to build up to 35 condominiums and include kitchens in every room so people can stay for extended periods of time.

The Pyramid Hotel Group has extensive experience constructing hotels near universities, according to the company’s founder and CEO, Richard M. Kelleher, who was in Berkeley this week to discuss the project with city officials and community activists. Many people who visit university towns are academics or family members who want to stay in the area for a long time, he said. The new hotel will cater to them, although there will also be guests who stay for short periods of time, he said.

The hotel will be built with union labor and staffed with union employees — part of Pyramid Hotel Group’s commitment to be a good community member, said Kelleher. … Continue reading »

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