Locals worry new Cal high-rise will reduce parking

Berkeley Way West as seen from Shattuck Avenue. Photo: WRNS Studio/UC Berkeley
A rendering of Berkeley Way West as it would be seen from Shattuck Avenue. Image: WRNS Studio/UC Berkeley

Some Berkeley residents and Cal employees are worried a new UC Berkeley high-rise set to be built downtown might create parking issues.

The concerns were voiced at an open-house meeting to view and discuss the project, held Thursday in Cal’s Energy Biosciences Building at 2150 Berkeley Way.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

The Berkeley Way West academic building, set to reach 112 feet tall in some sections, will be built on top of an existing parking lot, exacerbating the tight parking situation for UC employees. UC Berkeley already demolished one main parking structure, the Oxford Way and Addison Street parking lot, in 2013 to make room for the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and plans to build a new aquatics center on top of the Tang Center parking lot on Bancroft Way.


Berkeley Way West - north elevation. Photo: WRNS Studio/UC Berkeley
The north elevation of Berkeley Way West. Image: WRNS Studio/UC Berkeley

The university is currently constructing parking garages at the new Lower Sproul Plaza, and at Maxwell Field next to the Cal Memorial Stadium. Both projects are scheduled to be completed this fall.

After a presentation by university officials showed no replacement for the lost parking near the new building, several of the estimated 70 people in attendance voiced their frustrations.

“Existing parking spaces are removed, and people are moved around without providing a certain amount of parking spaces for employees,” said Harald Frey, a Berkeley resident and UC employee. “It’s certain that on the west side of the campus, parking is a real problem. If this parking lot goes, it will only amplify it.”

Read more about parking issues in Berkeley.

Emily Marthinsen, associate vice chancellor of UC Berkeley’s real estate division, said the plan presented Thursday was not the final iteration, and that the parking lot at the site was always meant to be temporary. When those attending the meeting suggested the university build a parking garage underneath the new building, Marthinsen shot it down, citing budget limitations.

“Building parking underneath is very expensive,” Marthinsen said. “The state doesn’t want to pay for parking garages, and we [UC Berkeley] don’t want to pay for it.”

This parking lot, between Hearst Avenue and Berkeley Way, is slated to become a high-rise to replace Tolman Hall. Image: Google maps
This parking lot, between Hearst Avenue and Berkeley Way, is the site of the proposed new UC Berkeley high-rise. Image: Google Maps

In an effort to preserve parking space in the area, some suggested converting the planned pedestrian plaza on Berkeley Way, or the existing garden in front of the Energy Biosciences Building, into reserved parking lots.

Berkeley cannot compel UC Berkeley to build more parking because it is a state institution and does not have to comply with local zoning laws.

Budgeted to cost around $150-160 million, the new building will house the Department of Psychology, The Graduate School of Education, and the School of Public Health. The Graduate School of Education and the Department of Psychology are currently located in Tolman Hall, which the university has determined is seismically unsafe. Construction is set to start this summer and be completed before the fall 2017 semester.

The ground-floor façade of the new structure, facing Shattuck Avenue, will have retail stores to blend in with Shattuck’s commercial corridor. The designs also call for a pedestrian breezeway that will link Shattuck to the garden in front of the Energy Biosciences Building.

The new building will be across the street from another proposed high-rise, the 120-foot L’Argent building, which will comprise apartments with retail on the ground floor.

While it will be reducing parking options for local drivers, the building will be well equipped for cyclists with plans for 250 bicycle lockers with shower facilities and dressing rooms.

Campus officials had no clear answers for those who currently drive and use the existing parking lot.

“Nobody is denying parking is a challenge,” Marthinsen said. “We are trying to figure out ways to resolve this parking issue.”

People looked at plans for a new UC high rise at an open house for Berkeley Way West.Photo: Seung Y. Lee
People looked at plans for a new UC Berkeley high-rise at an open house for Berkeley Way West. Photo: Seung Y. Lee

Seung Y. Lee is a journalist who has previously worked at the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and the Daily Californian.

Related:
UC Berkeley holds open house about downtown high-rise (01.07.15)
Berkeley tall condo project gets first city reviews (06.30.14)
New 120-foot building proposed for downtown (12.09.13)
New aquatics center raises parking, planning concerns (04.04.13)

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