Tag Archives: Berkeley urban planning
A 6-story building set to include 50 rental units and four live-work units was approved Thursday night by Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board, though neighborhood opposition will likely mean an appeal to City Council.
Nearly 300 people have signed a petition asking for changes to the project, at 2902 Adeline St. in South Berkeley, and many showed up Thursday to testify before the zoning board. Many neighbors asked the board to delay its vote until the Adeline Corridor community process is complete, or to approve a 4-story building instead.
The Adeline Corridor planning process has been underway since 2015, but it was paused while the city changed consultants to herald it through to completion, city leaders said recently. It is scheduled to end in 2017. The majority of the board, citing in part the housing crisis, did not indicate support for holding up development pending the completion of that process.
The project has drawn so much attention both because of its size and because the South Berkeley neighborhood has not seen the level of development happening in recent years around downtown, or along many of the city’s other large commercial avenues, such as University and San Pablo, in West Berkeley or in the Southside neighborhood near the UC Berkeley campus.
Supporters of the petition are lobbying for a minimum of 40% below-market-rate units in the project and more parking, as well as community benefits from developer Realtex, such as the dedication of 5% of rental proceeds to South Berkeley nonprofits. Zoning board members said Thursday night that those asks are beyond what the city can require, and a majority of the board voted to approve the project as submitted.
Public testimony lasted for more than three hours and included many passionate speakers on both sides: neighbors concerned with the project’s impacts on South Berkeley, as well as advocates of increased density, particularly on transit corridors and near BART, who say the state’s housing crisis demands timely approval of projects like this one. Unlike many zoning board meetings where public comment tends to be dominated by stiff opposition, Thursday night’s speakers included quite a few voices in favor of approval.
Many in the former group were dismissive of those in the latter camp of self-described “YIMBYs,” or “yes-in-my-back-yard” residents, who say they want to see appropriate housing built as quickly as possible. Petition-signers tended to be homeowners who are older and have lived in the city longer. Many of the YIMBYs said they didn’t live in the immediate neighborhood, were younger renters, and were more likely to be car-free or “car-light.”
“It’s fairly obvious to me who doesn’t live in the neighborhood,” one man told the board as he described the reasons for his opposition to the project. “It’s completely out of context for the neighborhood. I’m not interested in turning Berkeley into New York City.” … Continue reading »
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 »
To glimpse Telegraph Avenue as its visionaries and community leaders see it is to view a thriving, bustling European-like utopia, complete with pedestrian plaza, solar-powered trash cans, and enough parklets and bicycle racks to make even the most cynical hipster swoon.
The ambitious if bureaucratically titled “Telegraph Public Realm Plan” has a sweeping vision that’s soon to hit the pavement — first in increments and demonstrations, and then, if all goes well, full-fledged cosmetic surgery for the historic avenue.
“We began with near-term design interventions we can make that would be noticeable and create some buzz around the avenue,” Matt Taecker, of Taecker Planning and Design, told Berkeleyside in a phone interview. The designs were created by Taecker and Alex Bergtraun of Studio Bergtraun.
“Simultaneously, we were thinking about the long-term vision, and we also came up with something that is quite interesting: it’s a shared street, a plaza, where you allow cars to drive. But it’s a pedestrian-oriented space and the cars will pass slowly because you’ve done certain things design-wise.”
Two demonstration projects are set to kick off the changes, with the aim of testing and refining design features, and making significant changes that are light on the city’s wallet. … Continue reading »
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.
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.”
Who Berkeley residents vote onto the Berkeley City Council this November could dramatically alter how the city looks in the future. The Berkeley City Council currently stands divided, with pro-development council members claiming the majority of votes, but that could all change once ballots are cast this fall. While some on the council favor more aggressive development as a way to abate the housing affordability crisis, others take issue with the rampant building that tends to favor affluent residents while displacing those without large … Continue reading »
After waging a six-year legal battle over the right to build a mansion and 10-car garage in the Berkeley hills, Lotus Development Corp. founder Mitch Kapor and his wife Freada Kapor-Klein have put their property on the market.
The Kapors were not available to comment by publication time.
The legal battle began when the Berkeley Hillside Preservation Group, sued the city over the need to conduct an environmental impact report (EIR) of the Kapors’ building plans on the Rose Street property.
In general, single-family homes are exempt from conducting state-mandated impact reports but the Hillside Preservation Group argued that the proposed structure was exceptionally large and in an area that was susceptible to landslides. In order to build the mansion, the road would also have to be widened. Together, the group argued, the plans would generate an impact to the environment, and thus required a review. … Continue reading »
Realigned intersections, relocated roadways, new bicycle lanes, and affordable housing on public lots are among preliminary ideas city planners have floated for the Adeline Corridor planning project.
At a meeting Saturday, May 21, at the South Berkeley Senior Center, planning staff and consultants from MIG, the firm working on the project, revealed initial ideas they have developed based on public input collected over the past year. A $750,000 award from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission funds the process, which is slated to culminate in winter or spring 2017 with a long-term plan for the corridor.
The project area covers about 100 acres stretching south from Dwight Way to the Oakland border.
Saturday’s meeting, which followed an extensive community feedback process, focused on potential uses of publicly owned land and transportation routes. These initial ideas are not necessarily feasible, said Mukul Malhotra, principal at MIG.
“What we’re doing is thinking of our bigger dreams,” he said. “At the end of the day we have to create an implementable plan.” … Continue reading »
A sprawling mixed-use complex on San Pablo Avenue won approval Thursday night from Berkeley’s zoning board.
Neighbors turned up in droves for the May 12 Zoning Adjustments Board meeting. Most of those who spoke during public comment lobbied for what they said was a more efficient alternative created by three community members to reduce the impacts. Supporters of the project, some of whom said they live nearby, were also in attendance. They said the time is now for more housing, and that the alternative plan was not realistic.
See more real estate news on Berkeleyside.
The board did not vote on the project until 11 p.m., though 1500 San Pablo Ave. was the only item on the action calendar. Seven board members voted in favor while two — Igor Tregub and Shoshana O’Keefe — abstained.
Tregub had tried to win support for an alternate motion that directed the applicant, Amir Massih of 4Terra, to work with neighbors and come back later with a project that was more compatible with its surroundings. He could not get a majority vote in favor, however. O’Keefe said she liked a lot about the project but had too many questions about traffic impacts to vote Thursday night. … Continue reading »
The “Right to the City” is an idea proposed by Lefebvre that those who live in a city have a democratic right, a human right, to shape the process of urbanization.
Unfortunately we seem to live in a world where private property rights, where profit rates, trump all other human rights. We seem to live in a time where the majority of our City Council believes the neoliberal notion that markets should determine all change -— that profit-driven decision making … Continue reading »
In the past five years, the population of Berkeley has grown 5.5%, but its housing supply has only increased 1.2%.
That discrepancy, coupled with an economic boom that has pushed highly paid tech workers out of San Francisco and into the East Bay, has sent housing prices higher than ever before. Berkeley’s median rent grew $400, or 12%, to $3,584 in 2015, according to a February 2016 Berkeley city staff report. That means a person must earn $143,360 to afford a median rent apartment, according to Mayor Tom Bates. The median price of a house to buy grew even more – up 15% – to $974,000, according to staff reports.
This housing crisis is prompting the Berkeley City Council to consider about a dozen separate housing-related items on Tuesday’s agenda, including one far-reaching item put forward by Bates that includes 13 separate sections.
“Our ethnic and cultural diversity is being eroded as low- to moderate-income households are displaced or priced out,” Bates wrote in his proposal. … Continue reading »
Update, April 2: This was indeed an April Fools’ Day story. We hope you enjoyed!
Original post, April 1: In an early morning press conference hosted jointly by the Berkeley and Albany city councils, it was announced Friday the city of Albany is on track to become Berkeley’s ninth council district.
“Albany has always been thought of as the northern suburb of Berkeley,” explained Albany Rotary Chamber Chair and U.C. Professor of Geosociology Aileen Wright. “The two cities have common historical roots: If not for a misunderstanding about garbage disposal in 1909, Albany would never have been incorporated as a separate town. In fact, Albany’s original name was Ocean View, same as the Ocean View that became part of Berkeley. Culturally, the two cities have become more-or-less indistinguishable.”
“I’m tired of having to explain to people from all over the U.S. that I have nothing to do with that city in upstate New York,” complained Mayor Pete Maass of Albany. “From now on, I’ll be a Berkeley politico, and everyone the world over knows exactly what that means.” … Continue reading »
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 »
Critics question impacts of ‘Spenger’s parking lot’ project on Berkeley Fourth Street, Ohlone heritage
Berkeley community and zoning board members had a chance Thursday to weigh in on what the environmental impact report for a large mixed-use project planned for 1900 Fourth St. should focus on.
The “Spenger’s parking lot” project has been in the works for years, with efforts ramping up in 2014 when project reps said they found no evidence at the site of a Native American shellmound created in West Berkeley by the Ohlone Indians.
Members of the public who came to share their views about the project March 10 with the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board said they were not convinced by that assertion. Some said the land where the parking lot is now should be purchased by the city and turned into a park to honor the history and culture of the Ohlone. The property at 1900 Fourth is a city landmark, dating back to 2000, within the potential boundaries of the West Berkeley shellmound. The exact location of the shellmound is unknown and has been a matter of much debate.
Other speakers Thursday questioned the scale of the project, and how it will fit in with the surrounding neighborhood, as well as traffic impacts, air quality and liquefaction. The lot is bordered by Fourth Street, Hearst Avenue, University Avenue and the railroad tracks running east of Interstate 80.
A sprawling complex is planned at 1900 Fourth, across from the historic Spenger’s restaurant, set to reach up to 5 stories, with 135 apartments and a 372-space parking garage open to both residents and the public. The project’s approximately 207,600 square feet are slated to include about 33,000 square feet of retail and restaurant uses. The property is owned by Ruegg and Ellsworth, a real estate group that co-owns the parking lot with the Spenger family, which sold its Fresh Fish Grotto years ago. Robert Ellsworth, a Berkeley native, is co-owner of Ruegg and Ellsworth. The developer of the project is BHV CenterStreet Properties based in Danville.
(A video “fly through” of the project, created by the architect and set to music, appears below.) … Continue reading »