Category Archives: Urban planning

John King: Keeping downtown Berkeley’s design distinctive is a tall order

BAM:PFA. Photo- Paul Chinn, The Chronicle
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By John King / San Francisco Chronicle

A walk through downtown Berkeley reveals a treasure of pre-World War II architecture, different styles and materials blending together in comfortable structures that were built for their time but seem to grow in stature with each passing decade.

The newer buildings? Not so much. And the ones on deck — one as tall as anything now there — could be even less satisfying.

The problem isn’t the scale of what’s proposed, or the architectural mishmash in the mix. It’s the way that a confusing process encourages checklists over creativity, while opponents would rather fight to stop nearly all change, rather than find ways to make that change enrich downtown’s sense of place.

Nearly 20 projects are now in the works in the area roughly bounded by Berkeley Way on the north, Dwight Way on the south, UC Berkeley on the east and the Civic Center on the west. … Continue reading »

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Adeline report highlights desire for affordable housing

Neighbors present their vision for the Adeline Corridor while city consultants act as scribe. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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The city of Berkeley unveiled its preliminary existing conditions report for the Adeline Corridor planning project at a packed community meeting Saturday, Aug. 29.

The presentation was the culmination of five months spent gathering community input on the Adeline Corridor grant, a $750,000 award from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in 2014. Money from the grant can only be used for planning purposes in the “corridor,” which covers about 100 acres stretching south from Dwight Way to the Berkeley/Oakland border.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage related to the Adeline Corridor.

Throughout the spring and summer, the city collected 1,118 surveys at “IDEA Centers” set up at neighborhood venues, online and through a youth outreach effort. The report summarizes survey respondents’ desires and concerns, and details recent demographic and economic changes in the project area.

“Clearly the number one thing that people said was their issue and challenge and something they’d like to improve in the neighborhood” was affordable housing, said Mukul Malhotra, principal at MIG, the Berkeley-based consultant hired by the city to oversee the grant.

The risk of displacement in the area is “significant and ongoing,” said Malhotra at the meeting, which reportedly brought more than 150 attendants to Harriet Tubman Terrace, at 2870 Adeline St. … Continue reading »

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Two historic Berkeley homes get a makeover

The John Woolley house is the blue-gray one and the Ellen Blood House is the yellow one. The owners, architect, and builder worked hard to restore the turreted window on the Woolley House. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Two historic Berkeley homes with a combined age of 263 years have been given a complete makeover, and their doors were opened Tuesday to show off their shiny new parts.

The John Woolley House, first built on Telegraph Avenue in 1876, and the Ellen Blood House, constructed on Durant Avenue in 1891, were moved in 2014 to a new location on Regent Street and Dwight Way. John Gordon of Gordon Commercial Realty and his wife, Janis Mitchell, who bought the homes for $1 each, restored, renovated, and expanded the two houses using as much original material as possible. They also added a floor to the Woolley house. Gone are two decaying, although historic homes. In their place are five gleaming apartments with all the trappings of 21st century living: sleek appliances, gas fireplaces with marble mantles, and high-tech flooring. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley neighbors say affordability will be key to proposed Adeline Street project

Conceptual plans for 2902 Adeline, which the developer says will likely change as the project goes through the entitlement process. Image: Trachtenberg Architects
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About 40 people crammed into the community room at the South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library on Wednesday night to hear about a new project proposed at Adeline and Russell streets, and offer feedback to the developer.

The project — which would replace AW Pottery at 2908 Adeline — is in its very early stages, and has not yet been submitted to the city of Berkeley, said developer Cody Fornari of San Francisco-based real estate firm Realtex. Fornari said the South Berkeley property, at 2902 Adeline St., is currently in escrow and has not officially changed hands.

Realtex is also working on a proposal to construct a 7-story building on Telegraph Avenue — where restaurants including Norikonoko and Finfiné have been in operation for more than two decades. The company also won approval last year for a 5-story building at University and McGee avenues, but has not yet broken ground.

Throughout the info session, many in attendance expressed concern about the project — still in the “conceptual phase” —  which is currently set to include 47 residential units, eight live-work units and 18 parking spaces. The building is proposed to reach 6 stories, or 65 feet tall. … Continue reading »

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Hundreds gather in Berkeley to remember balcony victims

Hundreds gathered in Civic Center Park Sunday night for a "Month's Mind" to honor and remember those killed in the June 16 balcony collapse. Photo: Ted Friedman
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A month after a fifth-floor balcony snapped off the façade of 2020 Kittredge St. in Berkeley, sending six people in their 20s to their deaths and injuring seven others, hundreds of people gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Sunday to honor them.

The event was a “Month’s Mind,” a traditional Irish requiem mass held a month after a death, according to Philip Grant, the Irish consul general in San Francisco. It is meant to remember and honor the deceased. There is a moment of silence for reflection.

“It’s a moment of reflection on what happened and where we’ve come,” said Grant. … Continue reading »

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Juhu Beach Club backs effort for Temescal parklet

Photo: Juhu Beach Club
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On Tuesday, Juhu Beach Club launched a crowdfunding campaign to transform two parking spaces into a community parklet at 510 51st Street in Temescal. The parklet is one of 16 to have recently been approved by the city of Oakland. Other restaurants whose plans were given the go-ahead include Boot & Shoe Service, Stag’s Lunchette, and Antidote Juicery.

The 51st Street parklet will be located by the Temescal Triangle, in front of Juhu Beach Club, a popular Indian street-food restaurant owned by former “Top Chef” contestant Preeti Mistry and her wife Ann Nadeau.

Juhu Beach Club is the primary business sponsor of the initiative, and Mistry hopes to raise $29,000 through an Indiegogo campaign to fund the project. The campaign will run for eight weeks, and Mistry said that construction will start as soon as they secure the funding. … Continue reading »

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On downtown Berkeley street, the poetry is underfoot

Poetry Walk Photo edrdo
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On a downtown Berkeley city block, poetry is a constant companion.

Stretched along both sides of Addison Street between Milvia Street and Shattuck Avenue, cast-iron “stepping stone” plaques engraved with fired, glass porcelain enamel lettering speak the language of poets from Ohlone Indians to contemporary wordsmiths.

Known as the “Berkeley Poetry Walk” and anthologized in The Addison Street Anthology,  published by Berkeley-based Heyday Books, the public-art project was a massive undertaking completed in 2003 by a team of pivotal volunteers, private donors, the City of Berkeley, City staff and the Civic Arts Commission. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council to consider undergrounding utility wires

Utility wires at Grant and Bancroft. The City Council will vote on a proposal to look into moving Berkeley's wires underground. Photo: Google Maps
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UPDATE, July 13: Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, who originally brought the undergrounding item to council, will recommend at this week’s meeting that the item be held over until September. “I originally brought this item forward and I feel that it is an extremely important issue. Fearing that it will be discussed at 1:30 a.m., I would prefer to delay it to another time,” she told Berkeleyside. “It deserves a good vetting  and discussion.” The commissions involved in the issue are in agreement with her, she added. The item is currenly listed as 57th on a 62-item long agenda. The last council meeting, June 30, ran until 1:30 a.m.

ORIGINAL STORY: Three city commissions have asked the Berkeley City Council to approve the creation of a plan to underground the city’s electrical wires, and council is set to consider the issue Tuesday night.

The report, submitted by Margo Schueler, Sofia Zander and Bob Flasher (chairs of the Public Works, Transportation and Disaster and Fire Safety commissions), names disaster preparedness and community feedback as the core reasons for undergrounding the wires. … Continue reading »

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City looks to continue goBerkeley parking program

New parking meters with credit card payment options are part of the goBerkeley program. Photo: Steer Davies Gleave/goBerkeley
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City Manager Christine Daniel has asked the Berkeley City Council to continue the goBerkeley parking program, which adjusts rates in high-demand commercial neighborhoods, for six more years.

Daniel made the recommendation in a June memo, where she estimated the costs of continuing the program at about $280,000 per year. She did not recommend expanding the program geographically or extending parking meter hours as part of the report.

The pilot program, which included the Elmwood commercial district, the downtown area and Southside Berkeley around Telegraph Avenue, began in 2013 and was originally scheduled to end in October, but the removal of a “sunset” clause from the Berkeley Municipal Code in September 2013 enables the program to continue as long as it has funding.

Read more about parking issues in Berkeley.

City staff proposed four options for moving forward in a January work session: end the program and revert to the original rates and time limits; end the program but keep the current rates and limits; continue the program in its current areas; or continue the program and expand it to other neighborhoods.

GoBerkeley was originally supported by a grant that required close tracking of “expenses and incremental revenue,” but Daniel did not suggest continuing to fund the program through grants.  … Continue reading »

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Council declines to overturn LPC vote on Campanile Way

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Amid a raucous meeting that ran past 1 a.m., the Berkeley City Council essentially dismissed an appeal that sought to have the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission reconsider an earlier decision not to grant protected status to Campanile Way.

Three council members — Max Anderson, Jesse Arreguín and Kriss Worthington — voted in favor of the appeal, with Mayor Tom Bates opposed and the rest of the council abstaining. The vote came after an hour of public comment and discussion by the council.

The application to landmark Campanile Way came as plans for an 18-story multi-use building at 2211 Harold Way are working their way through Berkeley’s entitlements process. The development was the crux of nearly every public comment at the meeting: Residents and students alike argued that the development would mar the view from Campanile Way, which looks over the San Francisco Bay toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

Since the hearing April 2 before the landmarks commission, Harold Way developers have reworked the building massing so it would intrude even less into the view, said project representative Mark Rhoades. He emphasized Tuesday that this change was due to feedback from the city’s Design Review Committee, and was not a response to the petition for landmark status. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council to hear Campanile Way landmark appeal

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The group of Berkeley residents that lost a petition to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark the view from Campanile Way is now appealing that decision before the City Council tonight. The group, led by former LPC Commissioner Steven Finacom, is concerned that a development at 2211 Harold Way would mar what they argue is a historic view.

Read more about what’s coming up at tonight’s council meeting.

The LPC voted 5-3, with one abstention, against landmarking the path and its view, though nearly everyone at the meeting agreed that the view is fantastic. The commissioners were divided about how much the 18-story development would impact the view. Even if the petition had passed, some commissioners argued, UC Berkeley is not governed by local ordinances and would not be legally required to pay attention to the ruling. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley zoning board to consider demolition on Durant

2631 Durant
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The Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board will consider granting a permit to demolish a 2-story, 18-unit rent-controlled apartment building on Durant Avenue at its meeting Thursday, June 25, as part of the owner’s plan to replace it with a 5-story, 56-unit building.

The board’s main decision will be to determine whether to grant the demolition permit for 2631 Durant or require the owner to rehabilitate the Southside neighborhood building, just east of the now-shuttered Berkeley Art Museum. The new project would include 40 studios and 16 2-bedroom units, common facilities, bike storage, a first-floor office and 2,240 square feet of open space on a rooftop deck. Parking would not be provided.

To replace the rent-controlled units, the owner has proposed that 20 of the new units will be offered at 65% of the consumer price index, “although rents would be allowed to increase to market rate upon vacancy. These 20 units represent habitable square footage comparable to … the existing 18 units, and would accommodate the same number tenants,” according to the staff report prepared for Thursday night’s meeting.

Opponents of the demolition have asked the board to reject the permit or at least delay the vote, saying that the property had been neglected intentionally to pave the way for the new building. … Continue reading »

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ZAB approves 2539 Telegraph EIR, postpones use permit

The latest proposal, submitted to the city in April, of Patrick Kennedy's Telegraph Avenue project. Image: Lowney Architecture
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board earlier this month approved the Environmental Impact Report for a controversial 6-story apartment building proposed on Telegraph Avenue, but postponed a decision on the project’s use permit to ask for a revised design plan from the developers and allow time for other items on the agenda.

The board was set to vote at its June 11 meeting on the project’s use permit as well as the EIR, but voted to put off the permit discussion when the meeting began to run long, asking the developers instead to bring a new plan for the project that reflected the commissioners’ concerns. (The meeting ended at 12:15 a.m.)

The building, at 2539 Telegraph, which is being developed by Patrick Kennedy of Panoramic Interests, has been considered as a landmark on two separate occasions due to its connection to the Center for Independent Living, an advocacy group for the disabled which began there in 1972. The Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected landmark status for both the building and a faded mural on one of its walls.

The project has been widely criticized by neighborhood residents as too large and, in the year since the zoning board first reviewed the project, the criticism has not died down. … Continue reading »

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