Developer suddenly pulls the plug on 18-story Harold Way complex in Berkeley

A drawing of the proposed Berkeley Plaza on Harold Way. Image: JRDV Architects

The developer behind an 18-story, nearly 300-unit project on Harold Way has scrapped those plans, city staff confirmed to Berkeleyside on Thursday morning, putting an end to one of the biggest development battles Berkeley has seen in recent years.

The Berkeley Daily Planet broke the news Tuesday night with a brief item on its website.

Deputy City Manager Paul Buddenhagen told Berkeleyside on Thursday that he didn’t have much information. He said only that developers described the Harold Way project as “cost prohibitive.”

“They’re no longer going to move forward,” Buddenhagen said Thursday, in response to a Berkeleyside inquiry.


The project had just filed its building permit application Dec. 16. But developer Hill Street Realty never paid the fees required to have that application reviewed, Buddenhagen said.

The project had until Jan. 20, 2020, to complete the permit application by paying those fees, he said. But paying them in 2020 would have meant the project would be subject to new requirements that went into effect in Berkeley on Jan. 1. Buddenhagen said he did not know whether the new requirements had played a role in ending project plans.

The Daily Planet’s original news brief reported that “the would-be developers of the project planned for 2211 Harold Way, which called for the demolition of the building which houses the Shattuck Cinemas, failed to pay necessary fees to complete filing the application for a building permit by today’s deadline.” There was no additional information.

The Planet later added some context, including two sentences from an email to the city, dated Tuesday, Dec. 31, at 1:02 p.m., attributed to Harold Way developer Joe Penner.

“The city believed that development projects are a never ending piggy bank they can continue to raid,” Penner wrote, according to the Planet. “Now the city will get zero.”

Buddenhagen said he did not know how the Planet got the email, which went to the city’s planning department. Berkeleyside has requested that email but so far the city has not provided it.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín said the city manager informed him of the news on Wednesday. He had no further comment.

Project consultant Mark Rhoades confirmed to Berkeleyside on Thursday that Hill Street Realty did not pay its plan check fees, which amounted to more than $1 million. Rhoades said he did not know why that was the case.

Penner has not replied to multiple inquiries from Berkeleyside.

Harold Way had been set to include a full-union project labor agreement, the reconstruction of the movie theaters at Shattuck Cinemas, $1 million for the arts and $10 million for affordable housing, which would have gone into the city’s housing trust fund.

Buddenhagen said none of the affordable housing projects in the city’s pipeline, including 2012 Berkeley Way, relied on the Harold Way money. The city has Measure O revenue, he said, to support those projects.

Berkeleyside will update this story if additional information becomes available.

Correction: Paying the application review fee after Jan. 1, 2020, would have meant new building code standards for the project, as Berkeleyside reported originally. But the city’s new electrification law would not have been one of them because it only applies to new applications for entitlements submitted after Jan. 1. This story has been corrected.

Emilie Raguso is senior reporter at Berkeleyside. Email: emilie@berkeleyside.com. Phone: 510-459-8325.