Plans by Lotus founder and philanthropist Mitch Kapor to build a new home in Berkeley, which have been more than two years in the making, have been put on hold following a court ruling in favor of a citizen group challenging the construction.
The City of Berkeley is to be ordered to conduct an environmental impact report on Kapor’s project, a reversal of a previous decision by the Alameda Superior Court which ruled that Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board had conducted due process in approving use permits for the Kapors to build a home at 2707 Rose Street.
The Feb. 15th ruling, by the First District Court of Appeal, makes Berkeley’s January 2010 decision unlawful.
In its appeal, the Berkeley Hillside Preservation Group argued that the project, which would see a contemporary style home (including a 10-car garage) built on the north Berkeley lot, should not be exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Single family homes are normally exempt, but the group used expert opinion to argue that the construction would have “significal environmental impacts.”
Geotechnical expert Dr Lawrence Karp presented evidence of unstudied “massive grading” and potential for seismic lurching of hillside fills. The lot is adjacent to the La Loma overpass, which was built in 1958.
Susan Nunes Fadley, an appelant in the appeal and Berkeley Hillside Preservation Group member, said in a statement: “We are grateful for this comprehensive ruling and look forward to an EIR process that will take an objective look at the project, its environmental impacts, and feasible mitigation measures and alternatives.”
Speaking to Berkeleyside, Mitch Kapor’s attorney, Amrit Kulkarni, said: “We are really disappointed by the court’s decision and are considering all our options. We feel it is unfair that Mr Kapor has had to undergo so many hardships when his project complied with the city’s development standards for a single family home.”
Berkeley Hillside Preservation will recover all costs of the lawsuit from the Kapors, who will also be required to pay for the EIR.