Category Archives: Urban planning
After lying vacant for years, work has begun on a controversial, five-story, 98-unit mixed-use housing development on a lot at the southeast corner of San Pablo and Ashby avenues.
City officials and representatives from Gerding Edlen, the developer, will host a ceremonial “turning of the dirt” ceremony Tuesday at noon. Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Darryl Moore plan to be there, as well as Brent Gaulke, vice president of Gerdling Edlen. … Continue reading »
Berkeley zoning board members voted 6-3 last week to reject an application from a San Francisco-based development firm that hopes to build the city’s first micro-unit housing project.
In September, many zoning board commissioners told Axis Development Group that the proposal, at 2701 Shattuck Ave., was too large and too dense for the neighborhood. They asked Axis to consider a four-story alternative, and to make more room on the northeast corner of the site, which is close to an adjacent single-family home. City staff had earlier suggested the removal of up to 12 units from the project.
Thursday night, Axis presented its latest version of the five-story project, currently set to include 67 units that range in size from 269 to 344 square feet, as well as a roughly 2,000-square-foot full service restaurant with valet parking, and a small parking garage. (Read more about the latest plans here.) Following the September zoning board meeting, Axis removed three units from the project’s fifth story. Company representatives said they felt this change addressed the board’s concerns.
Commissioners who voted against the project Thursday criticized Axis for failing to take their feedback in September seriously.
“I’m astonished at how fully the applicant has ignored our very clear suggestions. Very clear,” Commissioner Shoshana O’Keefe said. “From staff, from us. I was at the last meeting, I know what was said. I can’t believe you would come up here with a straight face and say you were confused as to what we were asking for.” … Continue reading »
A group of local residents is asking the city to raise funds to turn an old, fenced-off railroad bed in south Berkeley, called the Santa Fe Right of Way, into open space with community gardens and a trail that connects to the Ohlone Greenway.
The challenge is that the parks department is already seriously underfunded. Officials are considering a measure for next November’s ballot for a tax increase of at least $20 on average, just to keep from having to lay off park maintenance workers.
Last Wednesday night, the Park Commissioners discussed the ballot measure. About 14 supporters of the Santa Fe project and several Willard Pool advocates urged the commissioners to fund these large projects, as well.
“We want to make sure that the Santa Fe Right of Way should be among the key — if not flagship — projects on ballot measure,” said John Steere, president of Berkeley Partners for Parks. … Continue reading »
A new mixed-use development on University Avenue, set to contain 41 units, has begun wending its way through the city of Berkeley’s permit approval process.
The project, called “The Overture” — perhaps referencing its 1812 University address with a nod to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture — would be a transit-oriented mixed-used building at University just west of Martin Luther King Jr. Way. … Continue reading »
Work has started on a project to build a four-story apartment building in central Berkeley after a nearly nine-year gap since the city approved the plans.
According to a construction worker on site last week, the project is expected to take about a year to complete. Overaa Construction, which is based in Richmond, appears to be managing the work that is underway, as evidenced by various signs around the construction site, but has not responded to multiple calls or emails requesting comment about the plans.
A resident who lives near the site alerted Berkeleyside to activity at 2489 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in late September: “It’s a very visible site and now has bulldozers on it and there is no posted information on what is going on.… My understanding is that there were plans before the real estate slump to develop this site and now it may be going ahead but nobody really knows.” … Continue reading »
A controversial micro-unit mixed-used proposal aimed for a quiet stretch of Shattuck Avenue, south of downtown, is still too big, say Berkeley city staff, who advised zoning board members to deny the application later this week.
The project, at 2701 Shattuck, at Derby, is scheduled for its third review by the city Zoning Adjustments Board on Thursday. The project has received extensive feedback from city commissioners, who asked developers to shrink the project in September, citing concerns about its compatibility with the nearby residential neighborhood. … Continue reading »
A coalition of city and campus groups is proposing to erect a decorative lighted archway on Telegraph Avenue to better define the shopping district.
The arch, which would be erected near Dwight Way, would serve to “emphasize and celebrate the four blocks of Telegraph between Dwight and Bancroft that distinguish it from Oakland’s Temescal and Berkeley’s Downtown,” according to an encroachment request letter submitted to the city. Students standing at the soon-to-be remodeled Lower Sproul Plaza would be able to look down the street and see the arch, and those at Dwight could look north to the campus, creating a visual connection between the University and the Avenue. … Continue reading »
The city of Berkeley and Ken Sarachan have settled a lawsuit over his empty lot at 2501 Haste St. on the corner of Telegraph Avenue, clearing the way for the construction of a a six-story, mixed-use, Moorish, palace-like structure inspired by Italian hill towns, Tibetan forts and the rock-cut architecture of Petra in Jordan.
Under the settlement, Berkeley agreed to drop its lawsuit to force Sarachan to pay $640,000 in liens or have the city sell the lot at auction. In exchange, Sarachan agreed to meet specific deadlines to pursue and build something on the lot that has been vacant for more than 20 years. … Continue reading »
Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council voted to change parking rates in three city-owned garages, downtown and near the Cal campus, as part of its goBerkeley effort to change driver behavior and make it easier for visitors to find street parking.
The multi-pronged campaign has been underway since earlier this year, and has included the promotion of alternative modes of transportation — via the distribution of car-sharing memberships and free transit passes — as well as adjustments to parking meter rates and time limits downtown, south of the UC Berkeley campus and in the Elmwood.
The pilot program aims to reduce pollution, congestion and drivers circling for a spot by using what’s known as demand-responsive pricing, which sets parking rates based on a supply-and-demand philosophy. The most convenient spots tend to be the most expensive and are available for shorter amounts of time, while spots further away, which are in less demand, are cheaper and can be used for longer periods. … Continue reading »
In the wake of public frustration and confusion after Berkeley adjusted many of its parking meters to require a minimum cash payment of 30 or 35 cents, depending on the area, the city has rolled back the changes to allow meters city-wide to register any amount from a nickel on up.
According to a city staff report prepared for a September vote by the Berkeley City Council to fix the problem, the city began hearing criticism about the meter minimum earlier this year during its goBerkeley outreach campaign to change metered parking rates and time limits in three of the city’s business districts.
Members of the public said they were confused because meters were failing to register payment. Unbeknownst to some, it was because the 30- or 35-cent threshold had not been met. Putting in change that didn’t register left some wondering if the meters were broken. So they were unsure whether to keep trying, find a new space, or walk away and try their luck. … Continue reading »
City zoning board members approved a 77-unit mixed-use housing development near downtown Berkeley late last week, expressing excitement about a “unique” design set to include more than a dozen working rooftop farm plots and a novel approach to parking.
“Garden Village,” at 2201 Dwight Way at Fulton Street, brings with it a number of innovative features, from its composition — it’s made up of 18 distinct but connected “volumes,” or towers, that range in height from 3 to 5 stories and are connected by open-air walkways; its more than 12,000 square feet of rooftop farming plots; and its small garage, which offers just enough space for a fleet of shared vehicles that will be rentable by tenants.
Without the car-sharing idea, the project would have required room for 71 vehicles. Instead, Berkeley-based developer Nautilus Group decided it would purchase a fleet of four to 10 automobiles and contract with a car-sharing operator called Getaround to run the “car-share pod” operation. (The city required Nautilus to pay for a parking demand study to bolster the justification for that approach.)
Zoning board Commissioner Shoshana O’Keefe described the concept as potentially “genius,” adding that the notion of projects that fold effective car-sharing programs into their plans “might be the magic solution” to the hairy issue of meeting parking demand efficiently in a densely-populated community. … Continue reading »
After months of outreach and planning, new parking meter rules designed to change business-as-usual in three commercial districts in Berkeley go into effect Tuesday, Oct. 15.
The changes, under the moniker goBerkeley, are designed to make it easier for drivers to find parking spaces in three of the city’s busiest commercial areas, and to cut down on pollution associated with circling to find a spot. The city says it hopes goBerkeley will make it easier for visitors “to dine, shop and enjoy the arts in three of the City’s most vibrant districts,” according to a statement released by officials last week.
The goBerkeley model is based on the concept of “demand-responsive” pricing, so that prices reflect demand in several congested areas around town. The hope is to free up one or two spaces per block, by raising or adjusting the pricing in a way that will encourage some of the people currently filling spaces to move a bit farther away or use alternative modes of transportation. The city has been studying current parking demand, and plans to analyze how the changes affect behavior.
“If it does what we hope it will – increase parking while decreasing pollution and traffic – the impact is huge,” said city spokesman Matthai Chakko. … Continue reading »
A proposal for a new University Avenue mixed-use development, set to include 58 units, sailed through Berkeley zoning board review Thursday night, winning acclaim from commissioners for what they said was its beautiful design and sensitivity to the surrounding neighborhood.
The 45- to 55-foot-tall building will feature 1,175 square feet of office or retail space, and 60 parking spaces. Two structures currently on site — which have housed a construction company, a veterinary clinic (circa 1973) and, later, medical research labs — will be demolished to make way for the project, which is named “The Aquatic” and was designed by Berkeley-based Trachtenberg Architects. (See the project staff report here.)
The building project site, at 800 University Ave. on the south side of the street, straddles two different zoning designations; as a result, the north side of the property will reach five stories, and the southern portion will rise to just four. Parking will be provided in both a ground-floor garage and an open lot behind the building. Four units in the development will be available to very-low income residents, and the project will put $240,000 into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. … Continue reading »