Nearly five years of complaints aimed at Kragen Auto Parts at California Street and University Avenue were answered when the City Council voted 5-4 to uphold the Zoning Board’s recommendation that its permit be revoked.
In April, the Zoning Board voted unanimously to repeal the 12-year-old store’s license after it found that Kragen violated several conditions the city imposed on it. Kragen’s challenge to the council failed after Councilmember Margaret Breland gave a strained “yes,” after asking the clerk to skip her when it was her turn to vote, waiting until the others had made their decisions.
In favor of the revocation were Mayor Shirley Dean, Councilmembers Breland, Linda Maio, Dona Spring and Kriss Worthington. Opposed were Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek, Councilmembers Polly Armstrong, Betty Olds and Diane Woolley.
Kragen faced the council in the same matter two years ago and escaped with conditions it had to agree to, in order to stay in business, such as steam-cleaning oil and other fluids from the parking lot, picking up litter and sweeping. Kragen appealed in court, but lost.
Spring said that after multiple notices it was a “constant problem getting compliance from Kragen.” She noted that it was as an expensive and time-consuming affair dealing with the company and that the message sent was that they could defy the city.
“We have spent $100,000 to $150,000 trying to get compliance from them,” she said. “How many more meetings do we need to have?”
“When does our Zoning Board mean what it says?” she said. “If we don’t pass (the recommendation), it will send a message that you can ignore the city. We have to apply the law equally.”
Armstrong called revocation “one more example of the gentrification of Berkeley.”
“If they close, there will be no more low-cost auto parts store,” she said. “And I don’t want to see jobs go away, especially entry-level jobs for our young people. The feeling is that we’re not acting like a real city.”
Armstrong added that the building will probably become “another yuppie restaurant.”
In the midst of the quarrel with the city, Kragen obtained the Grand Auto Supply store at University Avenue and Martin Luther King Way. Mayor Dean said that the location, however, is planned to be redeveloped, so Kragen is currently searching for another location on University.
And the council can’t impose any conditions on the University Avenue and Martin Luther King Way-location or any new location unless neighbors comlain about the business. The mayor said that leaves her with hopes that Kragen can clean up its act and be responsible.
“This gives them an opportunity to say, ‘We’ve learned our lesson’ and do what’s right,” she said. “It seems whatever they do, people will say they have concerns, so they have to step up to the plate.”
Calls to Kragen attorney William Segesta were not returned.