Tag Archives: Shoshana O’Keefe
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 »
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 »
Berkeley ZAB round-up: The Roost approved on Blake, Center Street hotel previewed, Kennedy project put off
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 »
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 »
Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board earlier this month approved the Environmental Impact Report for a controversial 6-story apartment building proposed on Telegraph Avenue, but postponed a decision on the project’s use permit to ask for a revised design plan from the developers and allow time for other items on the agenda.
The board was set to vote at its June 11 meeting on the project’s use permit as well as the EIR, but voted to put off the permit discussion when the meeting began to run long, asking the developers instead to bring a new plan for the project that reflected the commissioners’ concerns. (The meeting ended at 12:15 a.m.)
The building, at 2539 Telegraph, which is being developed by Patrick Kennedy of Panoramic Interests, has been considered as a landmark on two separate occasions due to its connection to the Center for Independent Living, an advocacy group for the disabled which began there in 1972. The Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected landmark status for both the building and a faded mural on one of its walls.
Berkeley zoning board members told the developer of the Center Street garage overhaul at a project preview session last week that they want him to go above and beyond the submitted plans in terms of green features and physical design.
“I am dismayed by this project in a major way,” said Zoning Adjustments Board Commission Chairman Prakash Pinto on Thursday night. “It’s rather mundane. It’s got some lipstick on it as far as I’m concerned.”
Read more about parking in Berkeley.
The downtown Berkeley garage is a bit different than most that come before the zoning board because it is a municipal project and not one brought forward by a private developer. In December 2013, the city voted to pay up to $1 million to San Francisco-based Conversion Management Associates Inc. to plan and manage the overhaul. Money for the project is coming from the city’s off-street parking fund, including $350,000 last year and $650,000 in fiscal year 2015.
Pinto, who was not particularly vocal during the first several hours of Thursday’s meeting, spoke with emotion for several minutes about his disappointment in the garage proposal. He focused in particular on the green aspects of the design, saying city projects should be a model for superior environmental standards, especially when the city asks so much of private developers downtown. (Under the Downtown Area Plan, most projects are required to meet a LEED Gold standard or its equivalent.)
Pinto said, too, that the garage could be a beautiful structure with creative features without necessarily costing the city an excessive amount of money.
The other commissioners echoed Pinto’s sentiments and added their own concerns regarding the look of the structure, plans for its public restrooms, parking spaces for the disabled and electric vehicles, the possibility of open space for recreation and more. … Continue reading »
A 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 »
A proposal to construct a five-story mixed-use building in central Berkeley was approved by the zoning board earlier this month after a request to increase the number of units from 25 to 36 while reducing the on-site parking.
The project, at 1698 University Ave. (at McGee Avenue), originally was approved by the city in 2005, and modified in 2008. Since then the property has changed hands. The new owner, San Francisco-based Realtex Apartments, asked the city Zoning Adjustments Board July 10 to increase the number of units and decrease the parking requirements from the earlier proposal.
The new project, designed by Syncopated Architecture — also of San Francisco — would take the place of a vacant automotive repair station. It is set to include approximately 2,000 square feet of commercial space and nearly 25,400 square feet of residential. … Continue reading »
A six-story, mixed-use, Moorish, palace-like structure inspired by Italian hill towns is one step closer to being built on Berkeley’s iconic Telegraph Avenue after the project sailed through a review by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board last week.
ZAB commissioners were generally receptive to the building’s unusual design, according to Commissioner Steven Donaldson.
Addressing the architect of the project, Kirk E. Peterson, ZAB Commissioner Shoshana O’Keefe said she approved of the design. “It’s weird and I like that,” she said. O’Keefe said she grew up in Berkeley, had always appreciated the “weirdness” of Telegraph Avenue, and that it was good to see something unusual, “a little different,” proposed for the area. … Continue reading »
Berkeley zoning board members voted 6-3 last week to reject an application from a San Francisco-based development firm that hopes to build the city’s first micro-unit housing project.
In September, many zoning board commissioners told Axis Development Group that the proposal, at 2701 Shattuck Ave., was too large and too dense for the neighborhood. They asked Axis to consider a four-story alternative, and to make more room on the northeast corner of the site, which is close to an adjacent single-family home. City staff had earlier suggested the removal of up to 12 units from the project.
Thursday night, Axis presented its latest version of the five-story project, currently set to include 67 units that range in size from 269 to 344 square feet, as well as a roughly 2,000-square-foot full service restaurant with valet parking, and a small parking garage. (Read more about the latest plans here.) Following the September zoning board meeting, Axis removed three units from the project’s fifth story. Company representatives said they felt this change addressed the board’s concerns.
Commissioners who voted against the project Thursday criticized Axis for failing to take their feedback in September seriously.
“I’m astonished at how fully the applicant has ignored our very clear suggestions. Very clear,” Commissioner Shoshana O’Keefe said. “From staff, from us. I was at the last meeting, I know what was said. I can’t believe you would come up here with a straight face and say you were confused as to what we were asking for.” … Continue reading »
City zoning board members approved a 77-unit mixed-use housing development near downtown Berkeley late last week, expressing excitement about a “unique” design set to include more than a dozen working rooftop farm plots and a novel approach to parking.
“Garden Village,” at 2201 Dwight Way at Fulton Street, brings with it a number of innovative features, from its composition — it’s made up of 18 distinct but connected “volumes,” or towers, that range in height from 3 to 5 stories and are connected by open-air walkways; its more than 12,000 square feet of rooftop farming plots; and its small garage, which offers just enough space for a fleet of shared vehicles that will be rentable by tenants.
Without the car-sharing idea, the project would have required room for 71 vehicles. Instead, Berkeley-based developer Nautilus Group decided it would purchase a fleet of four to 10 automobiles and contract with a car-sharing operator called Getaround to run the “car-share pod” operation. (The city required Nautilus to pay for a parking demand study to bolster the justification for that approach.)
Zoning board Commissioner Shoshana O’Keefe described the concept as potentially “genius,” adding that the notion of projects that fold effective car-sharing programs into their plans “might be the magic solution” to the hairy issue of meeting parking demand efficiently in a densely-populated community. … Continue reading »