Category Archives: Urban planning

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

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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).

Read the full Supreme Court decision issued today, March 2.

The decision is a blow to the Berkeley Hillside Preservation group, which has argued over the years that the proposed North Berkeley home, designed by Berkeley’s Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects, is exceptionally large and also in a landslide zone. That, and the fact that construction of the home would, they say, require extensive work to widen the roadway, amounted to unusual circumstances requiring environmental review. … 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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Locals worry new Cal high-rise will reduce parking

Berkeley Way West as seen from Shattuck Avenue. Photo: WRNS Studio/UC Berkeley
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Some Berkeley residents and Cal employees are worried a new UC Berkeley high-rise set to be built downtown might create parking issues.

The concerns were voiced at an open-house meeting to view and discuss the project, held Thursday in Cal’s Energy Biosciences Building at 2150 Berkeley Way.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

The Berkeley Way West academic building, set to reach 112 feet tall in some sections, will be built on top of an existing parking lot, exacerbating the tight parking situation for UC employees. UC Berkeley already demolished one main parking structure, the Oxford Way and Addison Street parking lot, in 2013 to make room for the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and plans to build a new aquatics center on top of the Tang Center parking lot on Bancroft Way. … Continue reading »

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Small residential hotel to open in Berkeley in a year

A rendering of 2711 Shattuck Ave. Image: Lowney Architecture
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A small residential hotel project in South Berkeley, from Patrick Kennedy‘s Panoramic Interests, is picking up steam after lying dormant since 2010.

Kennedy said Thursday he’s aiming to break ground in June, and would like to open for business in a year, if all goes well. He said the extended-stay units at the hotel are designed for short-term tenants, such as professors or other people coming to the city for brief periods who need a place to live.

“We just think it’s an unmet need in the city,” he said, of why he’s building a residential hotel. “We’re using it as kind of a laboratory to find a way to build housing more efficiently.”

Kennedy said he is looking into the possibility of using prefabricated components to speed up construction and allow for more affordable units on site. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley holds open house about downtown high-rise

This parking lot, between Hearst Avenue and Berkeley Way, is slated to become a high-rise to replace Tolman Hall. Image: Google maps
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The University of California at Berkeley says it is moving forward with plans to build a high-rise in downtown Berkeley — for its education, psychology and public health areas of study — and will hold an open house about the project this week.

The Berkeley Way West academic building is set to reach 112 feet at Berkeley Way and Shattuck Avenue, and span 320,000 gross square feet in a lot along Shattuck from Berkeley Way north to Hearst Avenue. The area is now used as surface parking for UC Berkeley affiliates.

According to the few details that have been released thus far by the university, the building will reach up to 112 feet at its southwest corner, but will be “stepped lower” at the northern edge of the site at Hearst.

The city of Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan, which was adopted in 2012 after Berkeley voters endorsed its concepts in 2010, allows for the construction of three 180-foot-tall buildings, including a hotel, in Berkeley’s downtown core and outer core, and two 120-foot-high buildings. UC Berkeley has the right to build two additional 120-foot-tall structures. … Continue reading »

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A tragic death in Berkeley spurs funds for traffic beacons

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Nine months after a 98-year-old pedestrian was killed by a motorist while crossing Sacramento Street in a crosswalk in the middle of the day, the city is taking steps to install a flashing beacon pedestrian alert at the intersection where the accident occurred.

Joseph Luft, a Berkeley resident, psychologist and former San Francisco State University professor, was out for one of his regular strolls around lunchtime April 5 when he was hit by a car while crossing Sacramento at Bancroft Way. He died that evening at the hospital.

The driver, Robert Gilchrist, was charged with felony vehicular manslaughter and is being held in Santa Rita jail, with a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Dec. 31. Gilchrist didn’t have a valid driver’s license at the time of the accident and told police he was legally blind.

In the wake of Luft’s death, a number of residents complained to city officials about safety at the Sacramento-Bancroft intersection, which is the site of an assisted living facility, and near Washington Elementary School. Cars barreling down Sacramento, a thoroughfare, often don’t see or stop for pedestrians, even when they’re in the crosswalk, residents said. … Continue reading »

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State court hears Mitch Kapor Berkeley home case

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The long-running saga of philanthropist and Lotus founder Mitch Kapor’s attempt to build a new home in North Berkeley landed at the California Supreme Court in Los Angeles on Tuesday this week.

At the Dec. 2 hearing, the Court heard arguments on whether the rules that exempt most proposed single-family homes from undergoing an environmental impact report (EIR) should apply to the proposal by Kapor, and his wife Freada Kapor Klein, to build a new home with a 10-car garage at 2707 Rose St.

According to Bob Egelko, the Chronicle’s courts reporter, at the one-hour hearing Susan Brandt-Hawley, a lawyer for the Berkeley Hillside Preservation group, re-iterated arguments that have been presented to Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board (which originally approved the project in January 2010), and the Alameda County Superior Court, which subsequently denied an appeal on the case.

Brandt-Hawley said that building a “huge home” in a “landslide zone,” which will also require extensive work to widen the roadway, should amount to unusual circumstances requiring environmental review. She cited testimony by the group’s expert witness, engineer Lawrence Karp. … Continue reading »

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