Category Archives: Real estate

Whoopi Goldberg selling her Berkeley home for $1.275M

Photo: Thornwall Properties
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Whoopi Goldberg, comedienne, actress and talk-show host, is selling the central Berkeley home she has owned for 30 years for $1.275 million.

The restored 1890 Victorian-style home, with its New Orleans-style front porch and columns, is one of Goldberg’s last ties to Berkeley, where she once fell in love and kick-started a career that would result in an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award.

The property, which sits at 2212 McKinley Ave. near Bancroft Avenue, is made up of a 1,455-square-foot house and a two-story cottage, converted from a barn into 1,635 square feet of living space, including a second kitchen and full bathroom. Thornwall Properties has the listing.Continue reading »

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Protesters demand halt on new construction in Berkeley

Anti building protesters. Photo Tracey Taylor
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In the wake of a balcony collapse that killed six Irish students in Berkeley this week, a small group gathered on the steps of City Hall today to ask that the city put a moratorium on commercial construction in Berkeley until it is clear that buildings are being inspected correctly and that codes are being enforced.

Holding placards that read “Safety 1st! No new bldgs,” “Inspections now” and “Berkeley is in mourning,” the seven protesters say that all new construction should be halted until the city can “review its procedures,” according to spokeswoman Margot Smith.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

“Given the level of this tragedy, we have to go forward beyond a perfunctory investigation,” she said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to see that buildings are safe and that they remain safe. We need to see if codes are being enforced.”Continue reading »

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ZAB to downtown garage developer: Step up your game

A rendering of the upgraded Center Street garage. The Zoning Adjustments Board was critical of the plan, saying it was not ambitious enough. Image: CMA
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Berkeley zoning board members told the developer of the Center Street garage overhaul at a project preview session last week that they want him to go above and beyond the submitted plans in terms of green features and physical design.

“I am dismayed by this project in a major way,” said Zoning Adjustments Board Commission Chairman Prakash Pinto on Thursday night. “It’s rather mundane. It’s got some lipstick on it as far as I’m concerned.”

Read more about parking in Berkeley.

The downtown Berkeley garage is a bit different than most that come before the zoning board because it is a municipal project and not one brought forward by a private developer. In December 2013, the city voted to pay up to $1 million to San Francisco-based Conversion Management Associates Inc. to plan and manage the overhaul. Money for the project is coming from the city’s off-street parking fund, including $350,000 last year and $650,000 in fiscal year 2015.

Pinto, who was not particularly vocal during the first several hours of Thursday’s meeting, spoke with emotion for several minutes about his disappointment in the garage proposal. He focused in particular on the green aspects of the design, saying city projects should be a model for superior environmental standards, especially when the city asks so much of private developers downtown. (Under the Downtown Area Plan, most projects are required to meet a LEED Gold standard or its equivalent.)

Pinto said, too, that the garage could be a beautiful structure with creative features without necessarily costing the city an excessive amount of money.

The other commissioners echoed Pinto’s sentiments and added their own concerns regarding the look of the structure, plans for its public restrooms, parking spaces for the disabled and electric vehicles, the possibility of open space for recreation and more.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Center Street garage project gets first review

The Center Street garage project would demolish the existing structure and build an eight story garage with retail and art display space. Photo: Zoning Adjustments Board project review
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The Center Street garage project, which proposes a larger, greener and seismically safer parking structure for downtown Berkeley, is slated for discussion at the upcoming Zoning Adjustments Board meeting this Thursday.

Until construction is complete, the project is likely to cause downtown parking to become more difficult than it already is. Under the current plans, an 8-story parking garage with commercial and arts display spaces on the ground floors would take the place of the existing structure, which would be demolished.

Read more about parking in Berkeley.

The Center Street garage is one of the most heavily used off-street parking areas downtown. It operates “at or near capacity during the daytime on most weekdays, and occasionally reaches capacity during weekday evenings and some weekends,” according to the city.

Discussions about the project have been in the works for two years. Thursday night will be the zoning board’s first chance to “preview” the project. Commissioners will provide comment to the city, but otherwise no action is expected. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Home sharing in Berkeley is a vital income source that serves entire community

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This coming Tuesday, June 9th, the Berkeley City Council plans to vote on a set of recommendations to regulate short term rentals, such as those facilitated through websites like Airbnb and VRBO. Following other municipalities, Berkeley’s current proposal seeks to limit short-term rentals in owner or renter occupied units as well as eliminate the ability to rent out accessory dwellings on owner occupied property, including backyard cottages and mother-in-law suites.

I urge the Berkeley City Council and Berkeley residents to consider the stories of short-term rental hosts as we begin the process of defining and regulating this new housing landscape. In my neighborhood, West Berkeley, many low to middle income residents, like my multigenerational family (public school educator, non-profit worker, and musician), are able to remain in their homes and help provide for their families by renting out unused spaces on their property. Home sharers come from all walks of life: professionals between jobs, homeowners struggling with chronic disease, retirees unable to live off of social security alone, and artists and musicians with unstable incomes. Berkeley is expensive for all of us- homeowners and renters alike. … Continue reading »

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Court takes Berkeley’s side in Mitch Kapor home case

evoi0429kaporhouse
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The California Supreme Court has left intact a ruling limiting environmental review of large single-family homes, such as the one philanthropist and Lotus Development Corp. founder Mitch Kapor and his wife Freada Kapor-Klein applied to build at 2707 Rose St. in North Berkeley.

The decision, which was released on May 27, was the latest development in the Berkeley Hillside Preservation vs City of Berkeley case that has been in and out of court since 2010 when Kapor was given approval by the city of Berkeley to build a 6,478-square-foot home (with a 3,394-square-foot garage) on the sloping Rose Street lot.

Catch up on Berkeleyside’s full coverage of the Rose Street case.

Arguments have centered over whether Berkeley should prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) for the project — for which single family homes like this one are exempt unless unusual circumstances can be proved. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley rental rates skyrocket, causing headaches for students and those on middle incomes

An apartment for rent on Spruce Street. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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This is the second in a Berkeleyside series on housing. Read our first story on short term rentals.

The heated economy has pushed Berkeley rental rates significantly higher this past year, a jump of anywhere from 10% to 30.9%, depending on which study you look at, forcing some students to double and triple up in mini-dorm-like situations, and middle-class workers to stretch to meet their rents.

At the same time, technology workers and those in finance or other well-paying professions are snapping up luxury apartments that can cost from $2,500 a month for a studio to $5,400 for a three-bedroom, two-bath pad.

“The problem is that we are an extremely desirable community,” said Mayor Tom Bates. “With high rents in San Francisco a lot of people choose to be here. As a consequence we have huge demand.” … Continue reading »

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Short-term rentals are squeezing out Berkeley renters

The owners of this rent-controlled apartment complex at 3100 College Ave. are renting out three of its apartments on Airbnb. Berkeley law does not allow rentals shorter than 14 days. Photo: Melati
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This is the first story in a Berkeleyside series on housing. Read the second story on rental rate increases here

In late January, Daniel Moore came home to his apartment in a 12-unit complex on College Avenue to find there was a new keypad lock on the front gate.

Moore, who had been living at 3100 College for 12 years, didn’t have the combination to the keypad. He was locked out of his own building.

That was just the first of a series of mysterious changes to the apartment complex, alterations that his landlords never told him about. Suddenly, washer and dryer units were installed on every landing. New couches appeared in the hallways.

Then Moore started hearing loud noises from the unit above him. It appeared as if a family of five had moved in suddenly and the kids were stomping on the new stone kitchen floor. That family moved out, but was replaced by others, people who stayed up until 3 a.m.

It turns out that three units in Moore’s rent-controlled building had been converted into short-term rentals through online rental company Airbnb.

“Airbnb has replaced our quiet environment with noise, anxiety and the nuisance of a steady flow of transients who have no investment in living here,” Moore wrote in a letter he sent to the City Council and the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.” … Continue reading »

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Artist Rich Black gives Berkeley’s UC Theatre a new mural

Rich Black mural 5/22/15 Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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Rich Black, the artist and muralist known for his high-impact art, has spent the last few days painting an eye-catching mural on the front of the UC Theatre at 2036 University Ave.

Black, who is probably best known for the murals adorning the front of the Ashby Theater (on Ashby and Martin Luther King Jr. Way), spelled out “SUPPORT” in huge yellow letters against a black background at the emerging UC Theatre. He interspersed the phrases “Employment,” Education,” and “Music” in between the letters.

Black is the creative force behind all the marketing material, programs and literature produced by Berkeley’s Shotgun Players who are based at Ashby Stage. (Watch a Berkeleyside video about Black made in 2011.) He paints the entire wall of the theater every time it puts on a new production — adapting a design he has devised to promote the play to fit the large expanse of the building’s façade. He is also the author of the flipbook, “Futura, L’Art d R. Black”
Continue reading »

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Real estate

New Berkeley Humane shelter plans approved

Project renderings of the proposed Berkeley Humane building on Ninth Street. Image: Noll & Tam Architects
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Berkeley Humane won approval last week to construct a new facility on Ninth Street, and the organization is hoping to get the community involved to help make the project a reality.

The city’s Zoning Adjustments Board approved the permit for the new building May 14 to allow demolition of the agency’s existing facility and future construction of a new 2-story, 13,211-square-foot replacement building at the same location, 2700 Ninth St. in West Berkeley. The permit was approved on consent, and neither board members nor members of the public discussed the project during the meeting.

The approval comes five years after a deadly fire destroyed most of the existing building, killing 15 cats. Since reopening in 2011, the nonprofit — officially named the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society Inc. — has operated out of only a small portion of the salvaged building. … Continue reading »

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With Harold Way EIR approval on hold pending new design, Berkeley officials to consider 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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After two recent discussions regarding the environmental impact analysis for a tall building proposed at 2211 Harold Way, the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board agreed Thursday to delay action pending new plans expected from developers.

City staff told the zoning board at its May 14 meeting that the developer is modifying plans in response to Design Review Committee feedback in April. Staff said that, rather than move ahead to certify the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), it would be better to “take a step back” and wait to learn about the project’s most recent iteration. Staff will complete a report about the project revisions and environmental analysis, and the final EIR will not come back to the board until the staff report is complete.

City planner Shannon Allen said she hopes to bring back the EIR for consideration at the end of June, followed by the community benefits and project entitlements package for Harold Way at the end of July.

The Berkeley City Council, too, is in the process of considering new policies related to the community benefits required of large projects downtown — including 2211 Harold Way — under the city’s Downtown Area Plan. That topic is slated to be back before council next Tuesday, May 26.

Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli have suggested several new guidelines, including a $100 fee per square foot for residential portions of buildings 76-120 feet tall; a $150-per-square-foot fee for that portion above 120 feet; the requirement of a project labor agreement; and voluntary on-site benefits related to arts and culture that must be approved by council. Under the proposal, the developer could get fee discounts related to the labor agreement and voluntary benefits, and “The remainder would be paid into a City fund to be used for affordable housing and arts and culture benefits.” … Continue reading »

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7-story building, no parking, proposed on Telegraph

At right: a rendering of a 7-story building proposed on Telegraph to take the place of The Village. Image: Pyatok Architects
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A quaint shopping mall on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue — the site of restaurants Norikonoko, Finfiné, Koryo and Fondue Fred — along with the adjacent electronics shop, have been proposed for demolition to make way for a 76-unit 7-story mixed-use building without parking.

According to the developer, “many of the tenants” that operate on the property — called “The Village” — have said they might simply close rather than try to find new locations elsewhere.

The developer said in project documents, submitted to the city April 21, that the units will be marketed to students, couples and young professionals alike. A proposed rooftop deck fronting on Telegraph will offer residents “sweeping views of the bay,” along with “a variety of seating, shading, planting and other amenities.”

The developer plans to include 11% affordable units on site for people making 50% of the area median income, or $32,550 ($37,200 for a couple). “Prominent retail storefront” is planned on Telegraph, with a lobby and lounge proposed on Blake Street for tenants of the residential units. A bike storage room is set to include one bike space for each unit, but no vehicle parking is proposed.  … Continue reading »

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Housing, restaurant, garage planned at Spenger’s lot

A rendering of what 1900 Fourth St. may one day look like. Image: TCA Architects
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The owners of an empty lot on Fourth Street that’s a designated city landmark related to Ohlone Indian archeological remains have applied to build a mixed-use development on the site, adding to a burst of similar building in West Berkeley.

The move was expected after a recent archeological investigation of the property at 1900 Fourth, across the street from Spenger’s restaurant and used as a parking lot, failed to find anything of significance, according to a report commissioned by property owners, developers Ruegg & Ellsworth.

Read more about West Berkeley.

The 2014 investigation was the most recent chapter in a long, contentious debate about the history of the land and the boundaries of the well-documented West Berkeley Shellmound, a 30-foot-high hill of discarded shells, bones and other debris from years of Ohlone activity. … Continue reading »

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