Category Archives: Urban planning

Locals question Berkeley Plaza impact on theater, view

2211 Harold Way. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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Residents came out en masse Thursday night to testify before Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board about possible impacts related to a large mixed-use project planned downtown on Harold Way.

The Residences at Berkeley Plaza, at Harold and Kittredge Street, would rise 18 stories and is set to include a tower reaching, all told, nearly 200 feet. It is slated to feature about 300 units, which could either be apartments or condominiums, as well as a new six-theater cinema complex, more than 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space, and a 171-unit underground parking structure. … Continue reading »

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Historic house trucked across People’s Park to new home

Corner Dwight/Regent. Moving into placer. Photo: Ted Friedman
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After decades of painstaking planning, a historic south Berkeley house was moved this weekend, trucked across People’s Park to its new home.

Saturday morning at the crack of dawn, the 138-year-old John Woolley house at 2509 Haste St. was hoisted one block south to 2506 Dwight St., the site of a newly developing cluster of Berkeley historic homes.

The move is part of a deal that saves the house, a city-designated landmark, while opening up its site at the corner of Haste and Telegraph Avenue for development.

“I’m glad to see it moved and preserved. It’s a significant early house in the Southside neighborhood,” said Anthony Bruce, the Executive Director of the Berkeley Architectural Historical Association (BAHA), noting that he was speaking for himself and not the organization. … Continue reading »

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New hotel project is a go again after defeat of Measure R

The developer for a downtown Berkeley hotel proposal at Shattuck and Center said his plans are on hold pending November's election. Image: JRDV Urban International
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Now that Measure R, the initiative that aimed to impose stricter standards on tall buildings, has been defeated, the project to build a hotel downtown is back on track.

Developer Jim Didion of Center Street Partners LLC had stopped all design work on the hotel planned for the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street pending the outcome of Tuesday’s vote. Didion had contended that the requirements called for by Measure R would make the project financially infeasible.

But after Measure R was delivered a resounding defeat — No on R captured almost 74% of the vote, according to the most recent tally — work was set to resume, said Matthew Taecker, one of the hotel’s consultants. He said revisiting the design will be one of the team’s first tasks. … Continue reading »

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High-rise developer in Berkeley to use 100% union labor

2211 Harold Way. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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The developer behind a 180-foot-tall, mixed-use project planned in downtown Berkeley at 2211 Harold Way announced a commitment this week to use 100% union labor to construct The Residences at Berkeley Plaza.

According to Mark Rhoades of Rhoades Planning Group, a project representative, it’s the first agreement of its kind in Berkeley — between a private developer and labor — in at least 17 years.

Project developer HSR Berkeley Investments signed the labor agreement several weeks ago, after more than a year of discussion and negotiation, with the Building & Construction Trades Council of Alameda County. The group represents all 28 labor unions in the county.

The agreement will mean a livable wage, along with benefits including health care and sick leave, for an estimated 300 skilled workers. They will make, on average, $65 an hour, according to project documents. Construction for Berkeley Plaza is expected to take 2-3 years, and many of the workers hired must live in Berkeley or nearby, within the East Bay Green Corridor.

Rhoades said the agreement will cover everything “from digging the hole to doing the concrete and the steel, and including the first round of retail tenant work. It will result in a much better building, a much nicer streetscape, and a building whose systems work because of the union labor that will be putting it together.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: The League of Women Voters urges a Yes vote on Measure F

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The League of Women Voters urges a YES vote on Berkeley’s Measure F, the Parks Tax. Measure F proposes a modest increase of 2.1 cents per square foot in the current parcel tax that funds maintenance and repair of 52 parks as well as trails, medians, and 35,000 street trees.

The current tax and its inflation index are inadequate to meet the needs of the parks and urban forest. The budget of the Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront is running a … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Democracy, transparency and Measure R

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Last March after Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan received a prestigious national American Planning Association award, I wrote the following for the “Cal Planner” newsletter:

“In the end, support was overwhelming as eight of nine Council members adopted a new Downtown Area Plan … but what a long, strange trip it has been. The 2012 ‘DAP’ was forged from the crucible of Berkeley’s special style of community decision-making — fueled by passionate debate across almost 200 public meetings, … everyone … Continue reading »

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With Berkeley set to change civic center zoning, US Postal Service ponders lawsuit

The Berkeley City Council is poised to set up new zoning standards in Civic Center. Image: City of Berkeley
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The U.S. Postal Service is pushing back against a city proposal to limit development at its downtown Berkeley post office property, which has been up for sale since 2012.

Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is slated to approve that proposal, to establish more restrictive development standards in Berkeley’s civic center on nine parcels, including the post office property at Allston Way and Milvia Street.

An attorney for the post office, R. Clark Morrison, has sent five letters to the city since January in opposition to the plan, decrying it as spot zoning, and saying the city’s decision not to pursue a full environmental review in connection with the plan is at odds with its own code and the law. On Monday, Morrison declined to comment on the matter, but one city staffer familiar with the issue said the USPS is likely to sue the city if council approves the zoning changes.

Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz Jr. said via email Monday that “The Postal Service is evaluating all options with respect to the actions taken by the City of Berkeley, including evaluating the possibility of litigation.” … Continue reading »

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New beer garden, retail planned on Spenger’s block

An artist's rendering of "Fourth & Spenger" at 1901 Fourth St. Image: Abrams/Millikan
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Citing the need to revitalize a business that’s been on the decline for decades, a developer is seeking to make major changes to the West Berkeley block where Spenger’s Fish Grotto has operated since 1933.

Berkeley’s Abrams/Millikan, an architecture and design firm, has big plans for the Fourth Street property, which include the creation of a new beer garden, and the addition of retail shops, office space and parking. The existing restaurant use will remain, but on a smaller scale.

The city’s Design Review Committee took a look at those plans last week, but Abrams/Millkan — working with San Francisco-based Jamestown Properties — held a community meeting in June to provide an overview of the project. According to developers, about 20 people attended, and seven people signed a petition in support of the project, which is called “Fourth & Spenger.” The project was submitted to the city by Elliott Abrams later that month.

Read more about development in Berkeley.

In total, developers plan to add just 10,000 square feet of structure to the property. But some existing buildings on the block are set to be demolished and replaced with new uses, including about 3,500 feet for the beer garden and adjacent patio, nearly 18,000 square feet of new retail shops — on the corners of both Fourth and Fifth streets at Hearst Avenue — and 1,900 square feet for a new fish market next to the restaurant. … Continue reading »

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Judge tweaks downtown ballot summary after lawsuit

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that several of the words used by the Berkeley City Council in the ballot summary for a proposed downtown initiative to go before voters in November were biased and inaccurate, and has amended its description slightly.

In his 12-page order, Judge Evelio Grillo said he found three words in the 71-word ballot summary describing Measure R to be inaccurate and two words to be “implicit advocacy.”

Read Berkeleyside’s coverage of the downtown initiative.

The matter came before Grillo after Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguín and several others filed a lawsuit in August arguing that the language used by the council in the summary was misleading and inaccurate.

Friday, attorneys for both sides made their cases before Grillo in his courtroom in downtown Oakland.  … Continue reading »

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New 8-story Berkeley building wins easy approval

Stonefire. Image: Johnson Lyman Architects
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Berkeley’s zoning board unanimously approved a new 8-story building on University Avenue, at Milvia Street, on Thursday night.

StoneFire is set to take the place of the Firestone tire shop at 1974 University Ave..

No one spoke against the project in the relatively short hearing before the Zoning Adjustments Board on Thursday. It was the project’s first official review by the board, after a preview session in April. The project also received unanimous support from the city’s Design Review Committee after three sessions with that panel in 2013 and 2014.

Read more about development in Berkeley in past Berkeleyside coverage.

Developer William Schrader Jr., of Alamo-based The Austin Group, told the zoning board the project has been in the works for a couple of years, and that he has met extensively with the city, neighbors and stakeholders to make sure they’re on board with his plans.  … Continue reading »

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$750K grant may bring big changes to South Berkeley

The Adeline Street planning project is picking up steam. Image: Google maps
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The city of Berkeley is hoping to dramatically rethink many elements of South Berkeley, thanks to a $750,000 planning grant it received from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in May.

South Shattuck Avenue and nearly 1 mile of Adeline Street in South Berkeley might see more affordable housing, pedestrian- and bike-friendly neighborhoods, more park areas, a new theater, mass transit improvements, and more.

Those are just some of the ideas that have been proposed so far. Before any plan is adopted, officials will hold community meetings and do other outreach to gather ideas from residents, businesses and local groups and institutions. The grant will also permit Berkeley to do an environmental study, the city said earlier this year. (That study would “allow streamlined CEQA review for future projects on Adeline and south Shattuck Avenue,” according to project materials.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley installs first permeable pavers downtown

The construction site on Allston Way. Photo: Charles Siler
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Traffic may be rough come school season, but the construction project closing Allston Way outside Berkeley High School is significant: the city’s first major permeable pavement installation.

The block of Allston between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Milvia Street in downtown Berkeley is shut down for construction until mid-November while the city installs new environmentally friendly pavement, according to the city.

The new permeable interlocking concrete pavement will absorb water, rather than redirecting it to a storm drain the way traditional asphalt does. This has a number of advantages, including better heat dispersal and cleaner runoff water, according to the city Public Works Commission. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley hotel plans halted pending initiative vote

The developer for a downtown Berkeley hotel proposal at Shattuck and Center said his plans are on hold pending November's election. Image: JRDV Urban International
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A proposal for a downtown Berkeley mixed-use high-rise hotel, which had begun working its way through the city’s approval process, is now on hold pending the outcome of November’s vote on an initiative that would significantly change the city’s zoning process and requirements.

A representative from the development team for the Berkeley Place project, where the Bank of America currently operates on Center Street, announced that decision before the Berkeley City Council in July and confirmed it in the middle of the month.

But the city official who represents downtown Berkeley, and who has been a main proponent behind the new initiative, has questioned the claims that the project has truly been halted. Councilman Jesse Arreguín said developers are using the specter of the initiative to scaremonger, and are using it to make a political point. … Continue reading »

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