Tag Archives: Berkeley Downtown Area Plan

Op-ed: Real progressives vote for housing

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Berkeley has a Downtown Plan. The path has not been smooth or simple, but thousands of hours, plus voter buy-in has solidly approved it.

It was a compromise – the outgrowth of hundreds of hours of public meetings that took place from 2005 to 2009 by a special Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission. This original plan, approved by City Council, was later overturned.

The 2010 ballot’s Measure R could only be advisory, but it gave Berkeley voters the opportunity … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: The politics of hospital closures

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Despite its summer resolution opposing the closure of Alta Bates Hospital, the City Council’s failure to plan for the medical needs of Berkeley rests squarely upon the shoulders of its majority members and their appointees to the Planning Commission and Zoning Adjustments Board.

Planning and zoning are fundamental obligations and powers of government. However, the Bates-dominated council abdicated these responsibilities when it rezoned the Herrick Hospital site without any serious thought as to what this might mean to the future … Continue reading »

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Judge tosses out legal challenge to Berkeley high-rise

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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An Alameda County Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied numerous challenges to the Environmental Impact Report prepared for 2211 Harold Way, meaning that construction of an 18-story, 302-unit building with 10,000-square feet of retail space and new movie theaters in Berkeley’s downtown can proceed – unless the decision is appealed.

In a 16-page ruling, Judge Frank Roesch denied the 15 claims Berkeley residents Kelly Hammargren and James Hendry had filed in January to stop the project. The two had filed separate challenges which were combined. Roesch conducted a four-hour court hearing on the challenges on Aug. 26.

In December, the city council approved the complex, which will be the largest construction project built since Berkeley adopted the Downtown Area Plan in 2012. Under the plan, density downtown was increased and Berkeley sanctioned the construction of seven towers ranging from 120 to 180 feet high. In exchange, developers were required to provide extraordinary community benefits.

City officials ordered the developer of 2211 Harold Way, HSR Berkeley Investments, to make a $10.5 million payment into the Housing Trust Fund, with another $1 million going into an arts fund. Habitot Children’s Museum, which will be displaced because of the project, will receive $250,000 of that money. The developer has also agreed to use union labor and to rebuild the Shattuck Cinemas. Berkeley applied a $6 million credit for the labor agreement and a $5.5 million credit for the theater. The developer will also have to pay into a streets fund and a childcare fund.

The first $2 million of that payment will be made when HSR Berkeley Investments obtains its building permit. Half will go into the housing fund then, and the other half to the arts fund. The developer will have to pay $3.5 million – or post a bond or otherwise guarantee payment – when it gets its occupancy permit.

‘The project team is pleased with the decision as it reinforces our perspective that the lawsuits were specious to begin with,” said Mark Rhoades of Rhoades Planning Group, which assisted Penner in the entitlement process. “The decision also reinforces the voters’ desires for the Downtown Plan as it is reflected in this project after more than 35 public meetings. The project team is currently in discussion on the next steps but the strength of the decision likely means that the project will move forward even IF there is an appeal.” … Continue reading »

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Court considers challenge to Berkeley high-rise

James Hendry and Kelly Hammargren await the start of the court hearing on their challenge to the 2211 Harold Way project. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Two opponents of the 18-story apartment complex planned for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley made a case in court Friday that the approval of the 302-unit building should be revisited.

Kelly Hammargren and James Hendry appeared before Judge Frank Roesch in Alameda County Superior Court to argue that the environmental impact report for the building was so deeply flawed that the project should be stopped.

              Read complete coverage of 2211 Harold Way on Berkeleyside.

The packed hearing, which brought out many of the long-time opponents of the project, lasted four hours. Neither Hammargren nor Hendry had legal representation, and clearly struggled with how to frame their legal arguments. Hammargren, for example, asked to introduce a map delineating the area west of the project. She wanted to show how close Berkeley High School is to 2211 Harold Way as part of her argument that Berkeley and the developer should have considered the impact of diesel particulates from fuel exhaust on the high school.

The judge denied her motion because the map was not part of the administrative record, which includes 15,000 pages of documents from Berkeley’s consideration of the project, as well as notes, videos, and tape recordings from many of the 37 public hearings. The CEQA hearing could only focus on what was already part of the record, not other evidence, he said.

Hammargren, who has devoted more than two years of her life to stopping the project, often tried to persuade the judge using an argument she might have made in front of the Berkeley City Council. The judge repeatedly told her to stick to legal issues and not make political speeches. He also reprimanded audience members when they burst into applause after Hammargren made a point.

“This is a court of law,” said Judge Roesch. “We don’t applaud anyone. We don’t think that political speeches are very helpful in solving the puzzle.”

Continue reading »

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New 16-story downtown Berkeley hotel gets go-ahead

The proposed downtown hotel at Center and Shattuck. Image: JRDV Urban International
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board on Thursday night approved plans for a 16-story, 334-room hotel, with conference center, to be built on the Bank of America site at 2129 Shattuck Ave. (at Center Street).

The vote was unanimous and ZAB commissioners universally praised the project developer, Pyramid Hotel Group, for its responsiveness throughout the approval process, and for taking into account the needs of the community and stakeholders. Commissioner Steven Donaldson said Pyramid had been a “model for how developers can work with the city.”

See city documents on the hotel plans

Read more details on the hotel project on Berkeleyside.

The proposal considered by ZAB on Thursday was essentially the same as the one the board saw the last time it was in front of them when it certified its Environment Impact Report, said city principal planner Greg Powell. Changes made to the plans in recent months included dropping the idea of condos, aesthetic revisions to the architecture including “quieting it down,” and enhancing the project’s community benefits, the principal one of which concerns the project’s labor agreements. … Continue reading »

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Proposal to convert, expand UC Press building for offices

UC Press rendering. Image: DEVI DUTTA ARCHITECTURE, INC.
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board will consider a proposal Thursday that would see the UC Press building at 2120 Berkeley Way renovated into a modern 6-story office building with the addition of three new stories.

The proposal, submitted by the Rhoades Planning Group, with a design by Berkeley’s Devi Dutta Architecture, was originally submitted to the city in September and has been reviewed by the Design Review Committee.

The plan would retain the existing building, but “completely upgrade and modernize [its] interior while preserving the façade on the first three floors and adding three new levels above,” according to the project documents. The remodel of the former publishing house, which is located between Shattuck Avenue and Walnut Street, would create open floor plans, allowing for greater light, install new skylights, windows and building systems. … Continue reading »

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Housing forum: Climate right for development in Berkeley

Denise Pinkston, vice-chair of ZAB and an Oakland-based developer, talks to a group about the housing crisis in the state while Mark Rhoades of the Rhoades Planning Group listens. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The development climate in Berkeley has improved so much in the past six years that there are now approximately 2,500 apartment units in the pipeline — a dramatic change from the two decades between 1970 and 1990 when only 600 units were built, according to experts who spoke at a forum on multi-family development held in Berkeley on Jan. 21.

The city is no longer looked upon as a place just to build student housing. With its foodie culture, rich history, music and art scenes, ­as well as the ability it affords developers to charge higher rents than in Oakland and other East Bay cities, Berkeley is now a popular place to build.

Read more about Berkeley development on Berkeleyside.

“Berkeley is no longer this campus college market,” said Stephen Lawton, volunteer program leader for the non-profit Urban Land Institute which hosted the event at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley.  “The hot San Francisco market is finally reaching across the bay in this cycle.” … Continue reading »

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180-foot high-rise proposed over Berkeley Walgreens

Terrace Green Apartments is proposed at 2190 Shattuck. Image: WRNS Studio
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A San Mateo-based developer has submitted an application to build a 180-foot-tall mixed-use high-rise in downtown Berkeley over a redesigned Walgreens store.

Shattuck Terrace Green Apartments at 2190 Shattuck Ave., just north of Allston Way, is set to include 274 units, 12,000 square feet of commercial space, and a 19,000-square-foot underground garage with spots for more than 80 vehicles. The 18-story structure would replace a 2-story retail building. Walgreens is there now, and is expected to return if Terrace Green is built, according to project documents.

Read more about tall buildings proposed in Berkeley in past Berkeleyside coverage.

The city’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 in Berkeley’s downtown core, and two 120-foot-high buildings. UC Berkeley has the right to build two more 120-foot structures. … Continue reading »

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Lawsuits filed to stop building of Harold Way complex

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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Update: This story was updated Jan. 15 to add another lawsuit. Scroll to the bottom of the story for details.

Kelly Hammargren, one of the most active opponents of the planned 18-story high-rise at 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley, filed a lawsuit Wednesday charging that the city of Berkeley did not do an adequate environmental review of the 302-unit complex.

Hammargren filed her lawsuit on the last day permitted to file a legal challenge, which was 30 days after the Berkeley City Council’s Dec. 8 vote approving the project was certified. None of the other residents who opposed the 2211 Harold Way project joined Hammargren in the lawsuit, nor is there a law firm representing her interests. Hammargren intends to represent herself, at least for now.

Read complete coverage of 2211 Harold Way on Berkeleyside.

In 2012, when the then recently passed Downtown Area Plan was adopted, three neighborhood preservation groups joined together to file a suit against the city. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley approves construction of Harold Way high-rise

The zoning board voted to certify the Harold Way EIR on Thursday night. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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After three years and 37 public meetings, the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night approved plans to build an 18-story, 302-unit mixed-use complex in Berkeley’s downtown.

The vote, which followed five hours of public testimony, requires the developer, HSR Berkeley Investments, to pay $4.5 million into the city’s Housing Trust Fund, on top of the $6 million it is already obligated to pay. That $10.5 million can be leveraged with state and federal funds to construct about 105 units of affordable housing, according to city staff. The developer will also have to pay $1 million into an arts fund, with $250,000 of that going soon to Habitot Children’s Museum to help it relocate, among other fees.

                           Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of 2211 Harold Way.

“I think it’s a major improvement for our city,” Mayor Tom Bates said after the meeting about the project slated for 2211 Harold Way. “It sends a sign we’re serious about climate change. The building is LEED Gold. It’s a block from BART. It’s going to contribute seriously to the city’s coffers. It’s a great win-win.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley City Council to consider Harold Way appeals

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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There have been more than 35 public hearings over the 180-foot-high 302-unit building proposed for 2211 Harold Way and at most of those meetings a dedicated group of people has objected to its construction.

Tonight may be their last chance – at least before the issue goes to court – to thwart what they consider an oversized building for the wealthy that doesn’t fit architecturally into the neighborhood.

The Berkeley City Council is holding a special meeting at Longfellow Middle School at 1500 Derby St. 5:30 p.m. to consider eight appeals filed over the approvals and permits issued by the Zoning Adjustments Board and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. That is one less appeal than expected; on Monday night, the Berkeley Unified School District Board voted to drop its appeal, according to president Judy Appel. BUSD and the building’s developer, HSR Berkeley Investments, worked out an agreement in recent days that will mitigate the school district’s concerns about the impact of construction on Berkeley High, which is about a half a block away. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley ZAB round-up: The Roost approved on Blake, Center Street hotel previewed, Kennedy project put off

"The Roost," looking east toward Shattuck Avenue, at 2029-2035 Blake St. Image: Devi Dutta Architecture
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Thursday night the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board approved a 5-story mixed-use project near downtown, previewed updated plans for a hotel on Center Street and postponed a decision related to a proposed residential hotel on Shattuck Avenue that the developer would like to convert to studio apartments.

“The Roost,” with parklet and dog park, approved on Blake near Shattuck

The board was unanimous in its vote to approve “The Roost,” an 82-unit project at 2029-2035 Blake St., just west of Shattuck. The 5-story building is also set to include two live-work units, about 1,900 square feet of ground-floor retail, 68 parking spaces in a basement-level garage and 67 bike parking spots. Two of the vehicle spaces will be dedicated car-share spots, and there will be 16 EV-ready parking stalls provided.

Commissioner Sophie Hahn asked the developer, represented by Mark Rhoades of the Rhoades Planning Group, to commit to include four units of below-market-rate housing on site, with four additional units either to be built on the property or paid for through fees into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. After conferring briefly with his client, Rhoades agreed to the request. … Continue reading »

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Numerous appeals filed for Berkeley’s Harold Way project

The zoning board voted to certify the Harold Way EIR on Thursday night. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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A number of different groups – including the developer himself – have filed appeals asking the Berkeley City Council to overturn various permit approvals for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley.

Mark Rhoades, acting on behalf of the property owner, Joseph Penner of HSR Berkeley Investment LLC, asked the council to reconsider the permit awarded last month by the Zoning Adjustments Board for the 18-story, 305-unit property. ZAB included a provision requiring HSR owner Joseph Penner to donate $5.5 million in cash for community benefits as a condition of approval.

The figure is too high and doesn’t give Penner proper credit for rebuilding 10 movie theaters and other things, Rhoades wrote in the appeal.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

ZAB “disregarded guidance from City Council members,” Rhoades wrote. That action “has caused a significant imbalance in the project’s financial profile jeopardizing the project and compromising the legal foundation of the city’s approval.” … Continue reading »

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