City planners are reviewing designs for a housing project at Acton Street and University Avenue that the City Council awarded to developers Panoramic Interests and Jubilee Restoration over 19 months ago.
The recently-submitted design includes 72 units of housing and about 10,000 square feet of commercial space. In May 1999, the City Council voted to give the developers a purchase option for the state-owned property at a small percentage of its value in exchange for 20 units of affordable housing in the development.
The council voted 6-3 for Panoramic Interests and Jubilee Restoration despite the for-profit status of Panoramic. A non-profit developer, Affordable Housing Associates, lost the bid for the contract even though the company proposed a smaller number of overall units but a greater number of affordable units.
Since the council awarded the project, the city, the state and the developers, have had to work out the details of the land transfer. The property is being sold under a little used government code that says state land can be sold at below market rates if it is used as affordable housing.
The land, which Councilmember Dona Spring said was valued at $1 million, will be turned over to the developers for the price of the state’s administrative costs and consideration for the commercial portion of the development. The final price of the land is still in negotiations between the developer and the state.
The transfer from the state to the developers won’t be complete until the Zoning Adjustments Board has approved a use permit.
“We’ve submitted our design to the Planning Department,” said Patrick Kennedy, the executive director of Panoramic Interests. “Next we go before the Design Review Committee and the Zoning Adjustments Board.”
He added that Walgreens Drug Stores was interested in the commercial space but had recently pulled out of the deal because the company thought it was too close to its downtown store. “But we’re hoping to get something that will be valuable to the neighborhood,” Kennedy said.
The 20 units of affordable housing will include 15 units of very-low-income housing. The U.S. Department of Housing defines very-low-income housing for people who earn 50 percent of the area’s median income.
According to Stephen Barton, the Director of Berkeley’s Housing Department, median income for a family of two is $54,100. So, by that standard 15 units will be available for two-person families earning $27,000 a year.
The other five low-income units will be available to renters who earn 80 percent of the area median income which would be $43,280 for a family of two.
Spring, who supported AHA over Panoramic and Jubilee, said the 20 units of affordable housing is not much more than a straight for-profit developer would have had to create if it paid full price for the land. “Under our inclusionary zoning laws 20 percent of the units would have had to be set aside for affordable housing,” she said. “He’s only giving five and one-half more units than he would have had to provide otherwise.”