Tag Archives: Berkeley Downtown Area Plan

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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Wording of Berkeley ballot initiative headed to court

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The backers of a downtown Berkeley initiative that voters will consider in November plan to file a lawsuit next week to force the city to change the wording in the ballot measure. They contend that the summary is inaccurate, biased and misleading.

The decision to go to court was in response to Berkeley’s decision not to voluntarily change the wording of the ballot measure. City Councilman Jesse Arreguín had sent a letter on July 21 to City Attorney Zach Cowan asking for changes, but Cowan responded in a July 24 letter that he did not have the power to modify the wording. Only the Berkeley City Council, which is in recess until September, can make those changes, Cowan said.

“It is unfortunate that the City Council was not advised, at the time the biased and factually inaccurate Ballot Statement language was put forward, that such language violates legal standards,” Arreguín wrote Cowan on July 30. “In light of that omission, and given that the City Council is on recess, we have no choice but to seek judicial relief to protect the rights of all Berkeley voters to fair elections.”

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At B-Side: Implications of downtown Berkeley initiative

At the first B-Side forum co-sponsored by The Hub and Berkeleyside, participants debated the merits of this fall's downtown initiative. From left, Lance Knobel of Berkeleyside, Jesse Arreguín and Eric Panzer. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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About 50 people gathered at Berkeley’s David Brower Center last week for a discussion about the ballot initiative supporters say will put more “green” in local development, but which opponents argue will stop new projects that are contributing to a downtown renaissance and are bringing critical amenities to the city.

Berkeley Councilman Jesse Arreguín faced off against Eric Panzer, chair of Livable Berkeley and the treasurer of the group opposing the initiative. They joined Berkeleyside co-founder Lance Knobel at Impact Hub Berkeley last Tuesday evening in the first of a series of informal discussions about Berkeley issues — co-sponsored by Berkeleyside and the Hub — called The B-Side.Continue reading »

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Berkeleyside launches new talk series, The B-Side

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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This week, Berkeleyside, in collaboration with Impact Hub Berkeley, launched a new talk series designed to facilitate conversations about issues going on right here, right now in Berkeley.

The B-Side kicks off on the evening of July 15 at Impact Hub Berkeley with a talk titled “Downtown Development Initiative: Boon or Bane?” Jesse Arreguín, councilmember for District 4, will go head to head with  planner and smart growth advocate Eric Panzer in a discussion moderated by Berkeleyside co-founder Lance Knobel. Given all the plans for downtown Berkeley, and the vocal arguments for and against them, this promises to be a lively debate, and one participants will be encouraged to join. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley tall condo project gets first city reviews

Early drawings, which are set to change, of a 120-foot condo project in the works at Shattuck Avenue and Berkeley Way. Image: The Bay Architects
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Berkeley zoning board commissioners asked the architect for a 120-foot-tall building planned for Shattuck Avenue to make the project less suburban, craft a better street-level retail experience and take steps to retain existing local merchants on site during a review late last week.

The board expressed excitement about the project, but also offered extensive feedback, which was the purpose of the preview session June 26. No action was scheduled or taken.

The 12-story, mixed-use development at 1951-1975 Shattuck Ave. — called L’Argent — is set to include 78 apartments of 1,200 to 1,600 square feet on 10 floors, along with 10,000 square feet of retail on the bottom two stories. Currently, the project includes 91 parking spots and 30 bike storage spaces, according to city staff. (The project architect said there are more than 50 bicycle stalls planned.)

Read more about the details of L’Argent in past Berkeleyside coverage.

The project is in the very early stages of city review, and is likely to change in various ways over the next year as it seeks the necessary approvals and permits. … Continue reading »

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Downtown initiative on ballot; Berkeley city, schools may lose millions in fees

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The majority of the Berkeley City Council exerted its political muscle Tuesday night by voting for a ballot description for the downtown initiative drawn up by Mayor Tom Bates that is less flattering than the ones offered by the city attorney and Councilman Jesse Arreguín, the main proponent of the initiative.

Bates’ description of the initiative, which would require all buildings in the downtown area over 60 feet to meet high environmental standards that are now voluntary, uses terms like “impose significant new requirements,” and “restrict” and “reduce.” It also mentions a provision that would “reduce hours of operation for businesses selling or serving alcohol.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley mayor to push for civic center overlay, also hopes it will reduce support for downtown ‘green’ initiative

Bates wants the city council to adopt a zoning overlay to protect historic buildings in the civic center area, like Veterans' Memorial Hall. He admits he hopes the push will undermine support for a Downtown Green Initiative scheduled for November ballot. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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Mayor Tom Bates has decided to push for a civic center overlay that will protect the Main Post Office, and admits that he hopes his support will undermine the downtown green initiative scheduled for the November ballot.

Bates wants Berkeley to adopt the exact language of the initiative, which was put forward by City Councilman Jesse Arreguín, in part because of his frustration that the council had not adopted the overlay.  Arreguín first introduced the overlay idea in July … Continue reading »

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Would new green initiative kill 2 downtown high rises?

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Update, June 14: The initiative has qualified for the November 2014 ballot.

Original story: As volunteers man the entrances to Berkeley Bowl, wander the farmers markets, and stop people on the street to collect signatures for what is called the “Green Downtown & Public Commons Initiative,” the various sides disagree on the impact the initiative may have on development in Berkeley.

City Councilman Jesse Arreguín, who is a main backer of the drive, says the initiative is merely aimed at making major developers contribute more community benefits.

“This measure is not intended to stop development at all,” said Arreguín. “Its purpose is to codify some of the community benefits that were not only made in the Downtown Plan, but in Measure R.”

But many in the development community disagree. They believe the initiative, with its higher green standards and less flexible design guidelines, could stop two current projects — the proposed 180-foot hotel at the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street, and the 17-story residential apartment tower behind the Shattuck Cinemas building. At the very least, if the initiative passes, it will make it harder to build taller structures downtown. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Beware deceptive ‘Save Post Office’ ballot petition

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Don’t be deceived. Backers of a proposed measure for the Berkeley ballot in November are circulating voter-signature petitions under the guise of “saving the Post Office.” But the main thrust of the measure is to impose prohibitively restrictive fees and requirements on new projects in Berkeley’s core downtown. It would not guarantee that the Post Office would continue operating.

The result would be a devastating blow to our acclaimed Downtown Area Plan. This successful plan was formulated through extensive public … Continue reading »

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Initiative aims to tighten ‘green’ parts of Downtown Plan

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Update: 6//14: The initiative has qualified for the November 2014 ballot.

Original story: City Councilman Jesse Arreguín, some members of the environmental community, the labor community, and preservationists are circulating a ballot initiative that would drastically overhaul elements of the Berkeley Downtown Area Plan endorsed by voters in 2010 and codified by the city council in 2012.

The initiative would restore the “green” in the “Green Vision” part of the plan, according to Arreguín.

It would essentially mandate that all buildings in the downtown core taller than 60 feet high follow the more stringent “Green Pathways” provision of the Downtown Area Plan, rather than making that an optional track for developers. … Continue reading »

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Mayor to focus on downtown, Telegraph, bike sharing, minimum wage, at State of the City address Wednesday

Mayor Tom Bates
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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates will focus on four topics Wednesday in his State of the City address: the renaissance of downtown, proposals to raise the minimum wage, the bike sharing program that is slated to launch next year, and the revitalization plan for Telegraph Avenue.

The address, which is open to the public, takes place at the Berkeley City College auditorium Wednesday, April 30, from 5:30-7 p.m. (Reservations are requested. Scroll down for details.)  … Continue reading »

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See plans Tuesday for new downtown Berkeley hotel

A 16-story hotel has been proposed on Center Street at Shattuck Avenue.  Image: JRDV Urban International
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A 16-story high-rise hotel under consideration in downtown Berkeley is making its way through the city approval process, with three preview meetings already completed before city panels related to development decisions. No votes have yet been taken, but are expected in the coming months.

The hotel, proposed by Jim Didion and Center Street Partners LLC, would replace the 1970s-era one-story Bank of America building and parking lot at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street. If approved, the project would transform one of the most visible corners in downtown Berkeley.

An open house about the project is scheduled for Tuesday, April 15, from 5-7 p.m. at the Marsh Theater, 2120 Allston Way. … Continue reading »

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‘Explosive’ downtown Berkeley housing boom under way

More than 1,400 units are in the works for downtown. Image: Downtown Berkeley Association
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More than 1,400 housing units are currently in development in downtown Berkeley, with demolition on one of the first in the pipeline scheduled to begin this week.

There are eight projects, including a hotel, planned in the downtown core, with two more planned just south, on Dwight Way, and another proposal on University Avenue just west of downtown that’s set to have its first public city review next week.

Demolition for The Durant, which has frontage on both Durant Avenue and Channing Way, was slated to begin Monday, Jan. 13, according to Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner.

Caner said the project is expected to break ground for construction several weeks after that.

According to Downtown Berkeley Association calculations, the new projects will bring at least 1,414 new units and more than 88,000 square feet of new retail space to the downtown area. Not included in those calculations is the project just beginning city review, The Overture, which would bring an additional 44 units and 4,151 square feet of retail and restaurant space to the city’s core. … Continue reading »

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