Tag Archives: Berkeley Downtown Area Plan

Op-ed: Begging my neighbors for respect and affordability

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I am a 23-year-old music data analyst making a $42,000 yearly salary before taxes; 46% of my income goes to rent. Nobody at my income level can afford median rent in Berkeley.

I feel utterly disrespected by my older neighbors who oppose much-needed housing.

Berkeley needs thousands of new housing units yesterday, and the hypocrisy of those delaying the approval process is transparent and insulting. As a vocal critic of Berkeley’s housing shortage, I have resisted the temptation to stereotype … Continue reading »

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ZAB approves Harold Way use permit with increased affordable housing provision

A model of Harold Way drew a lot of interest Thursday night. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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After over 30 meetings since an initial application in December 2012, the 18-story multi-use Berkeley Plaza project at 2211 Harold Way received its use permit from the Zoning Adjustments Board on Wednesday night.

The approval, with a 6-3 vote of the board, came with significant amendments to the developer’s proposed community benefits plan that allocate $4.5 million to affordable housing, in addition to the $6 million required by the housing mitigation fee.

“We’ve got to appeal it. We can’t live with those numbers,” said Mark Rhoades of Rhoades Planning Group, a project representative, to one of the union supporters at the meeting. A few minutes later, speaking to Berkeleyside, Rhoades said, “We believe that’s outside our reach.” But he said his group would decide on any action in the coming days. Any appeal would be heard by the Berkeley City Council.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

The use permit approval came at the end of a nearly five-hour meeting, with over 80 commenters from the public. The 18-story building in downtown Berkeley is set to include 302 residential units, 177 underground parking spots and more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space, including a 10-screen movie theater to replace Shattuck Cinemas. Unusually, given the heated criticism the project has attracted at previous ZAB meetings, as well as hearings at the Design Review Committee, Landmarks Preservation Commission and council, public comment was fairly evenly divided between opponents and proponents of the project.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley condo project set for latest review

1951 Shattuck Ave. Image: the bay architects
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A 12-story building set to include 92 condominiums and nearly 12,000 square feet of commercial space could get its penultimate review from Berkeley’s Design Review Committee tonight, Aug. 20.

The 120-foot-tall building would, if approved, take the place of one- and two-story buildings that currently exist on the block, housing several local businesses, including Berkeley Vacuum, the Missing Link annex and the Cutaway hair salon.

The project, at 1951-1975 Shattuck Avenue, at Berkeley Way, would be just north of the approved but not yet built Acheson Commons, and across the street from Berkeley Way West, a proposed UC Berkeley project that is slated to house several departments for the campus.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

The project could become one of seven new tall buildings downtown from 120 to 180 feet tall approved by voters during the Downtown Area Plan process in recent years. Two of those sites are reserved for UC Berkeley.

The San Francisco-based Nasser family first submitted its plans for 1951 Shattuck in December 2013. In June 2014, the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board offered preliminary feedback to the project team. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley hotel project drops condos; at DRC this week

The hotel proposed at 2129 Shattuck. Image: JRDV Urban International
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Thursday night, Berkeley’s Design Review Committee will get its third look at the 16-story hotel planned downtown at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street.

The 168-foot-tall building is set to include 336 hotel rooms, some retail, and about 11,000 square feet of conference space. A parking garage is planned on the second floor, with additional parking set to be allocated in the Center Street garage after its renovation is complete. In its prior iteration, the hotel had been set to reach 18 stories and include nearly 40 condominiums, which no longer appear in the plans.

Read more about the tall buildings proposed in downtown Berkeley.

Project representative Matt Taecker said Pyramid Hotel Group “took another look at things” and decided to take the condos out of the project, at 2129 Shattuck. As a result, the building height has been reduced by two stories and 12 feet.

“The decision was to kind of simplify things and increase the number of hotel rooms,” said Taecker. Continue reading »

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Harold Way project gets Landmarks Commission approval

Some critics of 2211 Harold Way say the models and drawings produced by the project team are inaccurate. Here, they look at a model and compare the height of Harold Way to other tall buildings downtown. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A controversial mixed-use project proposed in downtown Berkeley won an important permit Thursday night after a 6-3 vote from Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The commission had been tasked with deciding whether to grant 2211 Harold Way a structural alteration permit, which it needs to carry out excavations on the project site. The 18-story building is set to include 302 residential units, 177 underground parking spots and more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space.

More than 60 people turned out to Thursday night’s meeting, including more than 50 local residents who spoke forcefully against the project, and about six who spoke in favor. Many project opponents made their disapproval known by hissing and jeering at the handful of speakers who said Berkeley needs more housing, and that Harold Way will be a good project for the city. Commission Chair Christopher Linvill repeatedly had to ask the crowd to quiet down and give the project supporters their chance to speak. The public comment period lasted roughly three hours. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: The Harold Way Project, as presented, will sacrifice Berkeley’s unique character

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The construction of the first, true high-rise in the city of Berkeley (in this case the Harold Way Project), will forever change the nature of our very unusual, human-scale city. Under the unfortunately voter-approved Downtown Plan, once the high-rise limit is breached, the city will never turn back as it rushes forward to become part of what Bay Area planners sometimes admiringly refer to as “the vernacular of today.” And there is no way the skyscrapers will be forever … Continue reading »

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Carpenters union protests new Berkeley balconies

The Varsity in downtown Berkeley is nearly complete. Photo: Courtesy of the Varsity Berkeley
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Protesters from the local carpenters union set up a large display on Shattuck Avenue on Tuesday to question the construction standards of balconies at a new downtown Berkeley apartment building that’s nearing completion.

Scott Littlehale, spokesman for the Hayward-based Carpenters Union Local 713, said the community should be paying close attention to building standards for projects, like the new Varsity Berkeley, that were approved by the city prior to the passage of urgency ordinances last month by the Berkeley City Council that mandate stricter building standards for balconies. Littlehale said his group has concerns about “generally deteriorating standards” for construction around the Bay Area, and said the group plans to return Wednesday to continue to demonstrate.

Project developer William Schrader Jr. told Berkeleyside on Tuesday afternoon that his building, Varsity Berkeley — formerly known as The Durant — is safe, and that the accusations being levied against it are false. He outlined the steps he has taken in recent months to ensure that his building’s 31 balconies are secure and can be used with confidence. Schrader said his building plans, which he has adjusted, have been reviewed and approved by the city following the Library Gardens collapse in June. … Continue reading »

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New plan calls for 10 theaters at 2211 Harold Way

The developer of 2211 Harold Way and Landmark Theatres are nearing a deal to build 10 new theaters in the proposed complex. Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin
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The developer of 2211 Harold Way and Landmark Theatres are nearing a deal to increase the number of movie theaters in the 302-unit building in downtown Berkeley to 10 — but detractors say the changes do not go far enough.

After discussions with Ted Mundorf, the CEO of Landmark, Joseph Penner of HSR Berkeley Investments has submitted a new set of plans with the 10 theaters. Previously, the number of theaters proposed had ranged from zero to nine.

The current plan, which still needs city approval, would place the box office by the sidewalk on Shattuck Avenue, much like it currently is. There would be four theaters on the street level. Patrons would take an escalator, stairs or an elevator one flight down to the six other theaters. There would also be bathrooms, a bar, a lounge and a snack bar on the bottom level. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council adopts community benefits package

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday to clarify its approach to the community benefits required of developers who wish to construct buildings taller than 75 feet downtown.

Seven of these buildings were approved when Berkeley residents voted in favor of the city’s Downtown Area Plan in 2010, but the type of significant community benefits required of those projects was left vague to allow flexibility during the permitting process.

Since then, city zoning board commissioners have expressed frustration about that ambiguity, and asked for more direction from council. In April, council launched a series of public discussions to clarify the requirements.

In late June, city officials voted in favor of a proposal from council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore designed to help guide the process going forward. They described their proposition as a compromise meant to combine the best elements of earlier proposals that had been introduced by Councilman Jesse Arreguín and, separately, Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli.

Council ratified that vote Tuesday night. The four-part resolution will now be shared with the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board to help it determine whether projects that come before it meet the city’s requirements. The resolution is meant to offer guidance to the zoning board about the council’s policy as it relates to significant community benefits. The resolution could, however, potentially be challenged by a referendum from local residents who disagree with the approach. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Let’s say ‘yes’ to a vibrant downtown Berkeley

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As a long-time resident and member of the Downtown Area Planning Committee I have participated in ten years of planning, debate, initiatives, referendums and heated viewpoints on the future of our downtown. After two decisive votes, the hugely popular new plan is finally underway with exciting new buildings proposed that will contribute greatly to achieving our community vision for Downtown.

Now is the time to listen to the 74% of Berkeley voters who want a vibrant downtown and to say YES to the … Continue reading »

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Berkeley leaders approve community benefits package; ZAB votes to certify Harold Way EIR

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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Proponents of downtown development in Berkeley won two victories Thursday night after city leaders and commissioners approved a proposal for community benefits related to tall buildings and, in a separate meeting, certified the environmental impact analysis related to the first tall building in the pipeline, at 2211 Harold Way.

The Berkeley City Council held a special meeting at 5 p.m. at Longfellow Middle School to tackle the thorny subject of what significant community benefits should be required of developers who wish to construct tall buildings downtown. Seven tall buildings were approved when local residents voted in favor of the city’s Downtown Area Plan, but the type of significant community benefits required of those projects was left vague to allow flexibility during the entitlements process.

In recent years, city zoning board commissioners have expressed frustration about that ambiguity, and asked for more direction from council. Earlier this year, council launched a series of discussions aimed to clarify the requirements. Thursday night, city officials voted in favor of a compromise proposal from council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore that will help guide the process going forward.

That proposal will now go to the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board for additional discussion. … Continue reading »

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Urban planning

Open house displays plans for Shattuck Square facelift

Shattuck Ave. Image: Google Maps
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Berkeley residents got their first look at the city’s plan to redesign traffic patterns around Shattuck Square on Tuesday night at an open house in the Aurora Theater.

The room was lined with illustrations of the project plans and grids where attendees could rate the current pedestrian, cycling and driving conditions of Shattuck Avenue. Around the displays, engineers, city officials and urban designers associated with the project were on hand to answer questions and provide additional information.

Read more about traffic safety in past Berkeleyside coverage.

The Shattuck Avenue reconfiguration and pedestrian safety project is a part of the larger Downtown Area Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in 2012 and encompasses environmental goals, transit and access, community health, economic development and more.

Among the most dangerous intersections in the city for pedestrians, the corner of University Avenue and Shattuck is number two on the list for pedestrian-car collisions and near misses. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Harold Way deserves better than Berkeley

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Harold Way could be one of the best streets in Downtown Berkeley. It’s a quiet, narrow, low-traffic, shady street with some beautiful architecture from the Dharma College buildings. It’s highly accessible – with a parking garage next door, in direct proximity to both Shattuck and Milvia (and the bike station on Shattuck), and just a few hundred feet from Downtown Berkeley BART. Harold Way is easy to get to by bus, BART, bike, foot, or car. With all the other opportunities in Downtown, a trip to Harold Way could easily be combined with a visit to the library, the theaters, the pharmacy, or even when making a transfer on the daily commute.

But right now, there’s not much to visit on Harold Way. Right now, it’s a bleak, abandoned street in the heart of our thriving downtown. A featureless wall greets pedestrians at the intersection with Allston, and runs the entire length of Harold Way and up Kittredge Street, with one break in the monotony for the sunken entrance to Habitot Children’s Museum, whose street-level windows are protected by metal bars. A recent evening walk revealed that every streetlight along the road was either burnt out or nonfunctional.

It’s ridiculous to leave such an accessible location underdeveloped when Berkeley stores and residents are facing rising rents due to limited retail and housing opportunities. Given that the eastern side of Harold Way is also the least utilized area within the Downtown Area Plan’s “Core Area” (approved by voters to allow 180-ft buildings), it’s highly sensible to build one of Berkeley’s new high-rises here, where the impact on most of Downtown and disruption to other businesses will be minimized. … Continue reading »

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