Student housing complex across from Cal gets a ‘yes’ from Berkeley zoning board

The Standard at 2580 Bancroft Way: an aerial view looking south. Image: Johnson Lyman Architects

An eight-story student housing complex on Bancroft Way, to include about 330 beds, has been approved by Berkeley’s zoning board right across the street from the Cal campus.

The Standard, at 2580 Bancroft Way, will be privately run and open to all tenants. Units will be “a mix of studios through six bedroom/five bathroom units, with a total of 301 bedrooms and 331 beds,” according to the staff report for Thursday’s Zoning Adjustments Board meeting. Johnson Lyman Architects designed the plans.

“We’re happy to lease to anybody,” said a member of the project team, Georgia­-based Landmark Properties, Thursday night. The complex is, however, “geared toward” students, he said. The development it set to have 122 units, 11,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial, and 37 parking spots in an underground garage.

The western portion of the project site features the landmarked Fred Turner building at 2546-2554 Bancroft Way. The front of the Julia Morgan building will remain, while the rear is demolished. Expected commercial tenants and retail types were not discussed, but plans show four commercial spaces ranging from 1,500 square feet up to 3,000 square feet.


The project site sits mid-block on Bancroft, with Telegraph Avenue to the west and Bowditch Street to the east. The Bancroft Center Building — home of Avant-Card, start-up incubator The House and other shops — would be demolished. At least two former businesses on the block, Copy Central and Party Heaven, have already moved into new storefronts on Telegraph Avenue. The Urban Outfitters building would remain in place.

Stuart Baker, who runs the Telegraph Business Improvement District, told the board Thursday he’s working with merchants on their relocation plans and believes the new complex will bring more activity to the block. He said it appears most of the existing shops will be able to secure new homes nearby.

“You can’t ask for a more environmental solution, to get folks right next to where they work and study,” Baker told the board, of the idea of putting student housing right across the street from the UC Berkeley campus.

The Standard on Bancroft Way, looking south. Image: Johnson Lyman Architects

Senior city planner Leslie Mendez described the location as “excellent,” and said the project would help address the “real housing demand” faced by UC Berkeley students. Cal provides housing for just 22% of its undergraduates and 9% of its graduate students, she said. (The university is also working on the issue.)

Mendez said 11 units in The Standard would be available to tenants at the very-low-income level, and the project would put nearly $2 million into the city’s Housing Trust Fund to build affordable housing elsewhere.

A historic plaque inside the front corridor of the Fred Turner building will recognize the building’s history, and the structure will be rehabilitated. A courtyard through the entrance of that building will be open to the public during the day.

Commissioner Teresa Clarke, Councilwoman Linda Maio’s appointee on the board, said she thinks the changes will be good for the landmarked building.

“The Fred Turner building is going to really get a lot more use and admiration and accolades for Julia Morgan,” she said Thursday night. “So I’m really glad this is going forward.”

The Fred Turner building. Photo: Landmark Properties

The board approved the project after minimal public comment and discussion. Commissioner Patrick Sheahan, appointee of Councilwoman Cheryl Davila, was the lone no vote. He said he was opposed because the project made “so little effort” to address “the energy issue and climate change.”

During public comment, a representative from the Building & Construction Trades Council of Alameda County told the board he was disappointed the project does not feature a project labor agreement to use union workers on the job. Earlier in the night, he had lauded a new project downtown, Shattuck Terrace Green Apartments, for putting one of those agreements in place.

The zoning board voted in favor of the downtown project too, bringing the number of units approved Thursday night to about 400.

In July, Landmark Properties announced it was getting to work on 11 student housing developments across the nation that would create more than 7,700 new beds. The developer has projects in North Carolina, Colorado, Texas, Florida and other states. Many of those projects are also called “The Standard.”

“We’re breaking ground on more projects in 2018 than in any other year in our company’s 14­-year history,” Landmark Properties President & CEO Wes Rogers said at the time, in a prepared statement. “We’re excited to continue to see strong demand for our student housing developments across the nation, and we look forward to welcoming more residents to their new homes in the coming years.”

According to the project description from the July statement, The Standard at Berkeley will have a “state-­of-­the­-art fitness center, pool, study lounge and gaming area.”

A handful of neighbors who attended a community meeting about the project in 2017 “asked questions about construction timing and overall size of the project. People also expressed concern as to the impacts of the project on the homeless and how to control loitering on the property site,” according to Thursday’s staff report.

No one replied to mailers sent in October 2018 to notify neighbors and other stakeholders about Thursday’s permit hearing, the city said.

Construction is scheduled to begin in April 2019, with the building to open in 2021, project representatives said Thursday night.

See project documents about 2580 Bancroft on the city website.