Page One

Revitalizing San Pablo Ave. area

Pamela Thomas
Friday June 14, 2002

To the Editor: 

I would like to respond to David Sniper's letter of Wednesday June 12th concerning the proposed project at 2700 San Pablo Avenue. I am also a resident of Southwest Berkeley and want to see the area grow into a better and stronger business and residential community.  

Significant positive revitalization is slowly moving southward on San Pablo towards and into Southwest Berkeley. Many storefronts now house successful businesses and there is a growing pedestrian presence especially ay Dwight Way. Every Berkeley resident I know is encouraged and happy with the recent changes and wants to see more. Development at 2700 San Pablo represents a great opportunity to contribute to the revitalization of our local area. It is extremely important that this project is carefully considered in order to ensure that it truly contributes to its immediate neighborhood as well as to all of Berkeley. A cookie cutter approach will not do here- this project is too important - it's impact and the precedent it will make are too great. 

All of the "successful" new, large buildings Mr. Snipper compares the proposed project to are either in Downtown Berkeley (historically a dense part of the city, within 5-6 blocks of the University and a busy Bart station) or in Emeryville. The environment and context of downtown couldn't be much more different from San Pablo Avenue. As for the project in Emeryville, on San Pablo and 40th, that building has not contributed at all to pedestrian activity in any way- as anyone who drives by can see. If anything, it proves that putting a downtown sized building outside downtown, just gives you a really big building with lots of cars that need lots of parking. This proposed project will bring many cars with it and that will increase noise, traffic and congestion on an already overburdened street. 

This proposed project is too large. It appears to be 5 stories, because of the lofted fourth-floor apartments. Mr. Snipper is in incorrect in his statement that the uppermost floor has a setback. The final envelope of the building has no setback on the top floor and required additional height allowances from the ZAB in order to make the building even taller yet with an elevator utility tower rising above the roof deck. This looming wall of a building threatens a revolution of BIG buildings along San Pablo - which has many vacant and underutilized sites - altering radically the structural scale and character of the avenue. Consider the context - most of the properties directly behind the commercial buildings of San Pablo are small one and two-family dwellings ( as are behind 2700 S.P.). In addition, the avenue itself consists of almost all one and two-story buildings within Berkeley city limits. This project's 4 floors, which present a sheer face of 50 plus feet at streetside, is a very abrupt shift in scale. 

I welcome development 2700 S.P., but I and every person I have spoken with wants to see a project that conforms to the 1993 West Berkeley Plan, which foresaw "8 housing development sites with 152 units in three-story mixed use buildings on San Pablo." (This averages 19 units per development project.)  


Pamela Thomas