Page One

ZAB votes down ‘dense’ building on San Pablo Ave.

By John Geluardi Daily Planet Staff
Monday November 13, 2000

Developer will likely appeal to City Council 


The Zoning Adjustments Board voted down plans for a four-story building at 2700 San Pablo Ave. early Friday morning after the developer’s representatives refused to scale down the design. 

Developer Patrick Kennedy sought a height variance to build a 47,000 square foot building containing 47 units of housing and some commercial space. It was 1:30 a.m. when ZAB finally voted against the project by a 7-2 vote with James Peterson and Justine Staneko abstaining.  

An unconfirmed number of units in the planned building were to be set aside for affordable housing.  

“It’s not an acceptable building for west Berkeley,” said boardmember Ted Gartner, referring to the size and density of the proposed structure on Saturday. “Over 400 people signed a petition against the building and that’s too many to ignore.” 

Project Manager Christopher Hudson argued the building was appropriate for the area. He said the building would also provide much needed housing and help revitalize that section of the San Pablo Avenue corridor. 

But at least 35 neighbors of the proposed project waited past midnight to voice their objections about the size and density of the building. 

Resident Stephen Dunn said the building is simply too dense and was concerned about design features that seem to change according to the developers whims. Dunn said the number of affordable housing units have changed several times and he has been unable to get a confirmed number from the developer or city officials. “I feel like we’re being fed a steady dose of smoke and mirrors,” Dunn said. 

David Levinson, who also lives near the proposed site, said the plan “is too massive” and should be reduced to two or three stories in keeping current building and zoning codes, which allows three stories. 

Greenbelt Alliance volunteer Janet Byron addressed the board in support of the development. She said the plan is an excellent example of redevelopment on an underutilized urban site, which in turn would helps preserve the Bay Area’s open space. 

The Greenbelt Alliance generally favors dense housing in urban areas in favor of building in open space. 

Hudson said four stories is not too high for the area and that the new mixed use building would set a positive tone for the area.  

“The city says it needs housing and these 47 units are important to Berkeley,” he said. 

Several boardmembers agreed that housing was important to the area but said they could not vote for the project as it existed. 

Boardmember James Peterson said the City of Berkeley has to decide whether it wants housing or not. He urged Hudson to present designs for a smaller building at the next ZAB meeting.  

Hudson conferred with Panoramic representative Gordon Choyce for a few moments then refused the board’s offer and requested a vote they knew would not be favorable. 

Helga Alessio, who lives right next door to the site and is a founding member of Neighbors For Responsible Development, said she was relieved ZAB voted against the project but expects the developer will appeal.  

“I think a lot of this is strategy to bring the plan before the City Council and make it a political issue,” Alessio said on Saturday. 

Councilmember Linda Maio said if the developer appeals ZAB’s decision, the Council will closely consider the project, as well as neighborhood concerns and the value of the housing to the neighborhood. She said many residents in the area support neighborhood revitalization. “To have a vital commercial area you need to have housing in the immediate neighborhood,” Maio said.