Category Archives: Real estate

Initiative aims to tighten ‘green’ parts of Downtown Plan

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Update: 6//14: The initiative has qualified for the November 2014 ballot.

Original story: City Councilman Jesse Arreguín, some members of the environmental community, the labor community, and preservationists are circulating a ballot initiative that would drastically overhaul elements of the Berkeley Downtown Area Plan endorsed by voters in 2010 and codified by the city council in 2012.

The initiative would restore the “green” in the “Green Vision” part of the plan, according to Arreguín.

It would essentially mandate that all buildings in the downtown core taller than 60 feet high follow the more stringent “Green Pathways” provision of the Downtown Area Plan, rather than making that an optional track for developers. … Continue reading »

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‘Moorish palace’ plans for Telegraph show little progress

The design for a mixed-use project at 2501 Haste St. Courtesy: Kirk E. Peterson & Associates
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The frustration was palpable Thursday night as zoning board commissioners noted the lack of headway by the property owner of a highly anticipated mixed-use project proposed on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue.

The empty lot at 2501 Haste St., at Telegraph, has been vacant for more than 20 years, though owner Ken Sarachan has said he would like to build a 6-story Moorish palace-like structure there.

In 2012, Sarachan submitted preliminary plans to the community about his vision. But the process since then has been murky. Issues quickly cropped up related to the fate of an historic home on the project site, the potential need for an environmental review, and existing liens on the property which added up to $640,000. The latest hurdle is due to missing documents and details needed from the project architect, which must be turned in to the city before any approvals can take place. … Continue reading »

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See plans Tuesday for new downtown Berkeley hotel

A 16-story hotel has been proposed on Center Street at Shattuck Avenue.  Image: JRDV Urban International
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A 16-story high-rise hotel under consideration in downtown Berkeley is making its way through the city approval process, with three preview meetings already completed before city panels related to development decisions. No votes have yet been taken, but are expected in the coming months.

The hotel, proposed by Jim Didion and Center Street Partners LLC, would replace the 1970s-era one-story Bank of America building and parking lot at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street. If approved, the project would transform one of the most visible corners in downtown Berkeley.

An open house about the project is scheduled for Tuesday, April 15, from 5-7 p.m. at the Marsh Theater, 2120 Allston Way. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley home with personality, built for famed geologist

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Idiosyncratic and lovely. Both words describe the recently listed home at 1555 La Vereda Road in North Berkeley.

The three-bedroom house with separate cottage, which is priced at $1,095,000, was built for — and in part by — the renowned geologist Andrew Cowper Lawson in the 1930s.

Lawson was a traveler, art collector and enthusiastic builder. He had already had one distinctive home designed for him when he decided to have his next one built right behind it. Bernard Maybeck created the now landmarked “Pompeian villa” on La Loma Avenue for Lawson in 1907. … Continue reading »

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Staff recommend denial of proposed Hillegass remodel

2610 Hillegass Ave., Berkeley, CA. Image: Google maps
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A use permit request from a Hillegass Avenue property manager who hopes to convert eight one-bedroom units into two-bedroom apartments has been recommended for denial by the city’s zoning board which meets tonight, Thursday March 13.

The proposal, at 2610 Hillegass, just south of Parker Street, would not change the building’s size, but would result in the remodel of all of the building’s one-bedroom units into two-bedrooms. The 23-unit building currently includes 10 two-bedroom units and five three-bedroom apartments. … Continue reading »

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Farm Burger, Soccer Pro, Road Runner Sports to Berkeley

Farm Burger veggie
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A new shopping destination is emerging at the intersection of 10th and Gilman streets in West Berkeley. Three new businesses have just signed leases to move into the Gilman District, a commercial hub whose transition was kickstarted by Whole Foods’ decision to move into the area last year.

Soccer Pro and Road Runner Sports are both opening up in the complex formerly known as Gilman Village, and Jason Mann will open the first west coast outlet of Farm Burger, a farm-to-table restaurant that hopes to incorporate a boutique-style craft brewery. They will join Philz Coffee and Doughnut Dolly as new tenants who have already signed leases. … Continue reading »

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TCHO Chocolate to move from San Francisco to Berkeley

Tcho SF by Essentialsaltes:CC
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TCHO, the high-end chocolate company founded in 2005, will move its entire production and retail facility from San Francisco’s Pier 17 and an East Bay warehouse to 3100 San Pablo Ave. (just south of Ashby) in southwest Berkeley.

The company has signed a 12-year lease, with an option to grow, for 49,000 square feet in the Marchant Building, part of a 395,000-square-foot property consisting of retail, office, R&D, and light industrial space. The move will begin in April.

TCHO’s recently appointed CEO, Andrew Burke, said the move was prompted by the need for more space as the company is growing fast. “We looked extensively for a long time, but could not find the space we needed in San Francisco. The Marchant Building was the ideal mixed-use space –manufacturing/warehouse/retail/office,” he said. The new location is more than 30% larger than the Pier 17 space, which has been the company’s headquarters for the past nine years. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley building set for Northside comes under fire

Felled trees at Ridge Road. Photo- Ted Friedman
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UPDATE, APRIL 23, 2014: Several trees were cut down early today, Wednesday April 23, on the site of the proposed new building. Reports suggest crews were working on the trees at 7 a.m. Ted Friedman filed this photograph showing a cleared area next to the volleyball court:

ORIGINAL STORY: Neighbors to a proposed new UC Berkeley building say its modern design, and the need to remove several trees in the area in order to build it, are threats to the aesthetic and value of the historic Northside neighborhood. And the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) agrees. … Continue reading »

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Lawsuit yields money for historic preservation in Berkeley

Concerned Library Users did not want Berkeley to tear down the old South Branch because they and others considered it historically significant.
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Berkeley residents may soon see the fruits of a legal settlement between the city and a group that sued over plans to tear down and rebuild two branch libraries.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced Wednesday that it will award $87,000 in grant money to historic places in South and West Berkeley. The money can be used for maintenance, physical improvements, and preservation of historic properties.

The Trust is encouraging “properties with a clear public benefit that are open to the public on at least a part-time basis,” to apply online by May 15 for grants ranging from $10,000 to $25,000. … Continue reading »

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A dig in a Berkeley parking lot seeks shellmound answers

An archeological dig is currently underway in the parking lot of Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto on Berkeley’s Fourth Street. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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So what’s lurking behind the recently erected wire fence around the Spenger’s parking lot, on Berkeley’s Fourth Street?

That’s precisely what the property owners are trying to find out with an archeological dig. And not for the first time.

“My hope is to clarify what cultural resources might exist so we can make the best decision on the use of the property from the standpoint of all concerned,” said Dana Ellsworth, whose family business, Ruegg and Ellsworth, co-owns the lot with a Spenger’s family entity. (They don’t own Spenger’s restaurant.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council rejects settlement over nuisance house

The city has identified 2133 Parker St. as a nuisance due to zoning code violations. A neighbor submitted this photograph Tuesday, which shows a discarded chair outside as of December. According to the resident who submitted it, the chair had been outside already for at least weeks when the photo was taken, and was still there as of Jan. 26.
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The Berkeley City Council roundly rebuffed a proposed settlement Tuesday night aimed to address problems at a “loud, unruly” party house south of the Cal campus that’s been described in testimony by neighbors as a “mini-dorm.”

Neighbors described issues with noise, drunken partiers, nudity and trash. Problems with the property, at 2133 Parker St., have been ongoing for years. In January 2012, the Berkeley City Council deemed the house a public nuisance, saying it was breaking zoning rules as a “group living accommodation” in an area that does not allow that type of housing. According to Tuesday night’s staff report, the property has 17 bedrooms across three units.

In 2012, council members told the property owner, Ali Eslami, he had to remove 10 bedrooms from the home to fix the problem. In response, Eslami sued the city the following May. Last fall, Eslami and the city attorney’s office reached a proposed settlement they hoped would put an end to the legal battle, allow Eslami to keep the existing bedrooms on site, and result in an improved environment for neighbors due to a range of guidelines Eslami agreed to follow. … Continue reading »

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Fairmont hotel group in talks to buy Claremont Hotel

The Claremont Hotel & Resort has been purchased by the  Fairmont hotel group and Richard Blum, the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein Photo: Paula Steele
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Update 1/29: The general manager of the Claremont Resort sent out the following email Tuesday night confirming that a sale of the hotel is in progress:

“The Claremont’s owner has entered into a Purchase and Sale Agreement with FRHI (The Fairmont/Raffles Hotels International group) and their Capital Partners.  It is expected that FRHI will complete the transaction on/about February 27, 2014.  The Claremont will become a Fairmont managed property at that time.”

Sincerely, Bruce Carlton
General Manager

Original story: A hotel chain that owns the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and many luxury resorts around the world will acquire the Claremont Hotel and Spa, according to internal Claremont Hotel communications and numerous employees.

FRHI Hotels and Resorts, a Toronto, Canada based chain owned by investors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, will take complete possession of the resort by Feb. 28, according to the memo, which was obtained by Berkeleyside. FRHI (Fairmont Raffles Hotels International) also owns the Raffles chain, (the Raffles in Singapore is considered its flagship hotel) and the Swiss hotel chain, Swissôtel. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley time capsule contents unveiled: historic bible, anti-liquor pamphlets, more

A bible from the 1800s, along with anti-drinking pamphlets, were among the contents of a time capsule found in Berkeley last week. Photo: Leonard Nielson
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A time capsule discovered last week during the demolition of a Berkeley community church included a carefully wrapped 1875 family bible from one of the church’s founding members, newspaper articles about the church groundbreaking in 1948, and several other related records, such as a church history and roster, published sermons related to the founding pastor, and an architectural flier about the building. Several pro-temperance fliers written by the pastor, seemingly in support of an election coming up around the time of the church’s construction, were also among the contents.

Pastor Leonard Nielson, of the Presbytery of San Francisco — which is based in Berkeley, oversees about 77 Bay Area churches, and was the former property owner of the church — opened the time capsule Monday after it was given to him by developer William Schrader Jr. Schrader is constructing a new apartment building on the site of St. Paul’s Church, at 2024 Durant Ave., where the time capsule was discovered by construction workers last week.

Schrader has plans to put the box, with modern contents, back into the new Durant apartment building behind its original cornerstone from the church.

Have ideas for what to include in the new time capsule? Share them in the comments section below. Schrader says he will consider all suggestions.

In addition to the reburial of the time capsule, Schrader said he plans to install the historic church cornerstone on the site of the new apartments. He also plans to incorporate the church’s large copper steeple as public art, part of the landscaping on the property. He hopes those efforts will serve as a way to help carry some of the past forward, he said. … Continue reading »

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