Some relief for students looking for reasonably-priced housing in the Telegraph Avenue area may be on the horizon.
A proposal for a 20-unit apartment building in the Southside neighborhood has sailed through the city’s permitting process with little opposition. However, some residents of the neighborhood are becoming concerned that the building could exacerbate the area’s chronic parking problems.
After many meetings with neighborhood groups and two appearances before the Design Review Committee, Jim Novosel of The Bay Architects, has finalized plans for the building, which will be located on the south end of Telegraph Avenue at the corner of Carleton Street.
The proposed building will contain 17, two-bedroom and three, one-bedroom apartments, three spaces for retail outlets at ground level and a rear parking garage.
The current building at the site, which houses the Winner’s Circle sporting goods store, will be demolished.
Novosel presented the project to the ZAB at its special meeting Monday night.
In interviews Thursday, many ZAB members expressed enthusiasm for the project. New ZAB member Andy Katz, a UC Berkeley student, said while he had some concerns about certain design elements of the building, he was excited about the prospect of new, student-oriented housing in the Southside area.
“I’m absolutely looking forward to having housing on that site,” he said. “It’s probably going to be primarily students that will live there. The apartments in the building will be somewhat smaller, and therefore lower in cost, than in many other new developments.”
Katz said his objections about the building’s design were mostly small issues the developer could easily address.
Other ZAB members presented more serious objections. Carrie Sprague said the drawings of the building’s rear depicted a “fortress-like wall,” which did not suit the character of the neighborhood behind it.
“To my way of looking, that building is much too dense in the back,” she said.
Novosel said on Friday he had taken the criticism into account, and would consider ways to texture the wall in question. In his defense, though, he said he had put most of his time into the design of the front of the building.
“If you drive around Berkeley and look at any building from the last 80 or so years, it’s the front where people put their resources,” he said.
“Nevertheless, we’re going to put some effort and money into making those facades nicer.”
Neighbors said Novosel met with them continuously throughout the design process and was able to address their concerns before the plans went before the city.
Karl Reeh, president of the LeConte Neighborhood Association, praised Novosel’s collaborative approach.
“We have been especially pleased that Mr. Novosel has been so proactive in getting our input on the building,” he said.
There is one aspect of the project that is still generating some controversy – parking.
Reeh said the association was prepared to fight any additional off-street parking permits for new residents.
Though every new apartment in the complex will have its own space in the parking garage, Reeh feared that some residents may have more than one car and may seek to park it on the street.
“The parking is very tight on those blocks right now,” he said. “We feel that if each apartment had an additional car, parking in the neighborhood would become very difficult.”
“Our association is prepared to appeal the project to the City Council if this isn’t settled at the next ZAB meeting.”
Mark Rhoades, the city’s director of current planning, said he does not know whether the Finance Department – the agency that issues neighborhood parking permits – has the technical capability to block new permits from certain addresses.
Rhoades said his department is currently discussing the issue with the Finance Department.
Novosel said the owner of the property, Joe Kelly of Albany’s K&S Company, would not seek to fight the neighborhood association on the issue.
“My client says that he’ll agree with whatever the consensus opinion is at the ZAB,” Novosel said.
The ZAB will vote on the project Jan. 10. If approved, Novosel said, the building is expected to begin renting sometime in the summer of 2003.