Category Archives: Urban planning

Berkeley looks at public art fee for private developers

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The city of Berkeley is crafting a new law to require private developers of many buildings to spend 1% of their construction costs on public art.

Under a recommendation put forth by Mayor Tom Bates and approved in concept by the Berkeley City Council at its March 17 meeting, the “private percent for public art” legislation would apply to all new commercial and industrial buildings, and residential buildings with at least five units, except for projects in downtown Berkeley. The one-time fee would pay for publicly accessible art on-site, or the developer could instead pay into a new city pot for public art.

At the same meeting, council expanded the city’s definition of art to include installations, performance and social practice works, and other types of original displays. Continue reading »

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Berkeley officials seek feedback on ‘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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The Berkeley City Council has launched a public discussion on what sort of benefits are required by developers who hope to construct tall buildings downtown, with two meetings focused on the topic in the next few weeks.

The conversation about “significant community benefits” generally comes up before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board, but that panel has struggled to determine whether tall building proposals it has reviewed meet current city guidelines. That’s because those guidelines, set out within Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan, are more of a menu of suggestions, rather than concrete items that can be checked off a list.

Crafters of that plan have said the city wanted to offer flexibility to developers to work with the community to come up with the right mix of benefits. But, so far, the lack of specificity has made it difficult for various stakeholders to agree on what developers should bring to the table.

Last week, council took public comment on the topic at its regular Tuesday night meeting, but did not itself much discuss the issue. Mayor Tom Bates — whose office is spearheading the new talks in collaboration with council members Jesse Arreguín, Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore — announced a special council meeting May 5 at 7 p.m. for that discussion to take place.

Separately, Councilman Arreguín also has scheduled a workshop on the subject, from 7-9 p.m. this Wednesday, April 15, in Live Oak Park’s Fireside Room. The workshop will focus on the general framework of community benefits, not specific projects, and attendees will be asked to rank the categories of benefits that matter most to them.  … Continue reading »

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Op-eds: On park maintenance and misallocated budgets

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In the past few days, Berkeleyside has published two opinion pieces focused on the city’s parks and spending.

Diz Swift, a Berkeley public works commissioner, argued last week that Berkeley does not have the money to maintain all of the city’s parks and other facilities. There is an urgent need, Swift writes, to write “an over-arching, coherent plan for maintaining city facilities.”

“We’re very good at building new things,” Swift writes, “but then we neglect to remember we have to have funds to maintain them. Maintenance just isn’t very ‘sexy.'” … Continue reading »

Thursday: Groundbreaking for new Dwight Way project

From left: Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, architect Richard Christiani, Dan Deibel, president of Olympic Residential Group, and Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner. Photo: Ted Friedman
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A 99-unit, 6-story building planned in downtown Berkeley is kicking off construction in earnest with a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday afternoon.

Demolition began last summer at 2121 Dwight Way, at Shattuck Avenue. Since then, the project has changed hands and promises a wide range of amenities to renters, such as high-quality kitchens, pet-friendly features, shuffleboard and “the latest Wi-Fi technology” in a communal lounge. There’s also 5,100 square feet of ground floor retail space “suited for a café and neighborhood-serving specialties.”

San Carlos-based Olympic Residential Group bought the property — where furniture shop Modernaire used to be located — in February. (Modernaire moved to 1621 San Pablo Ave.) The project is scheduled to be complete by summer 2016.

Read more about real estate in Berkeley.

Olympic described the units as “Class-A luxury apartment homes,” and said in a statement released Wednesday the project, set to reach 63 feet in height, is aimed at “an eclectic mix of young professionals attracted to the transit-oriented location, empty nesters, University faculty, and UC Berkeley students looking for a high quality housing option near the campus.”  … Continue reading »

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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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State Supreme Court upholds Berkeley’s decision in Mitch Kapor’s bid to build a home in the city

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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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Op-ed: A tale of two waterfronts — why Albany is on verge of making a mistake

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Ask anyone around the Marina if they think the City of Berkeley made the right decision, back in the early ’60s, when they planned the waterfront for mixed-use development.

“Should all the marina landfill have been reserved for open space, parkland and protected habitat, with no commercial, recreational or maritime facilities?”

“Of course not,” is the universal response. “That would have been a huge mistake.”

Albany is about to make that mistake.

The Berkeley and Albany waterfronts are similar in … Continue reading »

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Mayor paints general picture of progress for Berkeley

Mayor Tom Bates. Photo- Frances Dinkelspiel
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Mayor Tom Bates last night delivered a picaresque tour of developments in Berkeley in his State of the City address at the Shotgun Theatre’s Ashby Stage.

Bates lauded projects and improvements in each of the city’s main areas, singled out efforts to address street repairs with revenues from Measures M and BB, talked about the need for affordable housing, the police department and the December protests, and touched briefly on challenges the city faces with unfunded pension liabilities and an aging infrastructure.

“That’s a general rosy picture of how we’re doing,” Bates said at the conclusion of his main tour of what’s happening in the city.  … 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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Downtown hotel to feature condos, conference center

A 16-story hotel has been proposed on Center Street at Shattuck Avenue.  Image: JRDV Urban International
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The developer of the proposed 16-story hotel on Center Street and Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley has nixed the idea of having office space in the building, but will instead include a conference center and condominiums, along with hotel rooms.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

Jim Didion of Center Street Partners LLC is also bringing in the Pyramid Hotel Group as a financial backer for the project at 2129 Shattuck Ave., according to a recent press release. Pyramid, which currently runs the Berkeley Marina Hotel (officially known as Doubletree by Hilton Berkeley Marina) and formerly operated the Claremont Hotel, will work with Center Street Partners through the entitlement process and to develop the hotel. Didion will stay on as managing partner, according to the press release. … Continue reading »

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Housing to replace Berkeley Grocery Outlet building

The zoning board approved a new development at 2001 Fourth St. in December. Image: Trachtenberg Architects
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A sprawling mixed-use housing complex, designed by Trachtenberg Architects, has been approved for Fourth Street and University Avenue in West Berkeley, along with about 8,500 square feet of retail the developer says he hopes could become a grocery store.

The 5-story, 152-unit complex at 2001 Fourth St. is set to include nearly 200 vehicle parking spots, as well as space for more than 80 bicycles and nine motorcycles. Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board approved the project at its Dec. 11 meeting nearly unanimously, with seven members in favor, Commissioner Igor Tregub voting against the project, and Commissioner Steven Donaldson recusing himself because he is a neighbor.

Read more about West Berkeley.

The project is slated to include 12 very-low-income units — to be distributed throughout the property — and will also pay $400,000 into the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which the city uses to help build additional affordable housing in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Saul’s applies to build a parklet in front of deli

A rendering shows the canopied parklet designed by architect David Trachtenberg.
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Three parking spaces in front of Saul’s Deli at 1475 Shattuck Ave. could soon be replaced by greenery and public seating.

Saul’s owner Peter Levitt has applied for a permit to build a parklet, which would be the third approved under the city’s Parklets Pilot Program launched in July 2013. The first parklet opened in front of the Cheese Board Collective in August. A second one was scheduled to open shortly after the Cheese Board parklet, in front of Philz Coffee and Guerilla Café. That scheme ran into some obstacles but is back on track. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Zoning Board considers community benefits of proposed downtown high-rise

2211 Harold Way. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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As Berkeley officials grappled with what the concept of “community benefits” actually means, the developer of the 18-story high rise at 2211 Harold Way announced at a Jan. 8 meeting of the Zoning Adjustments Board that he is willing to financially assist both the Habitot Children’s Museum and Boss, (Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency) as well as other organizations who must  relocate when the building is constructed.

Joseph Penner, head of Hill Street Investments of Los Angeles, also announced that Landmark Theaters had redesigned its plans for new theaters in the complex. There will now be nine theaters instead of the six theaters previously announced. Landmark has decided it will no longer include stadium seating in the theaters, which frees up room for additional theaters. (There are currently 11 theaters in the Shattuck Cinema complex.) … Continue reading »

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