Page One

Building Proposed For Vacant Lot At Telegraph, Haste:By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday September 21, 2004

Recording retailer and developer Kenneth Sarachan filed plans Thursday to build an apartment and retail complex at the long-vacant Berkeley Inn site at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street. 

Sarachan, owner of Rasputin Music and Blondie’s Pizza, needed to file by Sept. 22 or face paying off $500,000 in city liens levied on the site after Berkeley Inn owners refused to demolish the structure following a pair of fires that left it a gutted wreck, forcing the city to tear it down. 

The plans filed last week call for a two-story structure at the Telegraph Avenue end of the structure, rising to five stories at the east end. Designs call for three ground-floor retail spaces and a second-floor restaurant with a roof garden plus 20 one-bedroom apartments. 

Sarachan did not return calls seeking comment on the issue. 

The site has a long and troubled history, recounted in a city document prepared in September 1998: 

For decades the land was the site of the Inn, a single room occupancy hotel which catered to low-income residents. The property was severely damaged in a pair of fires, one in 1986 which gutted 77 units, and another in 1990 which gutted the building. 

The city demolished the remains in November 1990 and after repeated attempts to collect from the owner, filed liens against the property which were sustained in a series of lawsuits brought by the owner, Sutter Land and Development Co., Inc. 

From 1992 through 1994, the city tried to negotiate a purchase of the site in conjunction with the nonprofit Resources for Community Development (RCD) which called for 39 units to be built, 32 of them reserved for low-income tenants, with ground floor retail space for Amoeba Music. 

The proposal died with the election of Mayor Shirley Dean, who objected to the high per unit cost and use of $3 million in public funds, half from the city’s Housing Trust Fund. 

When RCD’s option expired, Sarachan bought the site for $800,000 and assumed the liens.  

After a series of attempts to develop the property with the aide of city housing funds and a significant number of low-income units, Sarachan wrote the City Council in 1997 that the economics would not work out. 

At the urging of the Telegraph Area Association to develop the property with the possible inclusion of the site of the landmarked John Woolley House, an 1891 Victorian cottage at 2509 Haste St., then City Manager Weldon Rucker ordered staff to work on plans for a mixed use development. 

One year later, the staff suggested waiving the liens to spur development, though it took near five years before a final agreement was adopted in February 2003—the one that set the Sept. 22 deadline for submission of plans. 

The new plans call for a typical Berkeley mixed-use housing and retail development, with the city-mandated inclusion of 20 percent of the apartments reserved for low-income tenants.  

While the plans filed Thursday don’t include the Woolley House property, Berkeley Community Development Project Coordinator Dave Fogarty said “the project becomes much more feasible if Sarachan is allowed to develop on the site.” 

Fogarty said Sarachan doesn’t want the university-owned site until the Victorian house is moved. 

Developer Ruegg & Ellsworth has proposed moving the Woolley House along with the Blood House, another landmark which sites on a nearby site at 2526 Durant Ave. 

Ruegg and Ellsworth wants to develop a five-story, 44-unit apartment complex at the Blood House site, but can’t do anything until they can find a new home for the landmarked structure. 

Realtor John Gordon has been looking into moving the landmarks onto property he owns at the southwest corner of Regent Street and Dwight Way, but says “I’m running my fingernails down my head trying to figure out how.” 

Gordon said he still has no agreement with the University of California, which owns the Woolley House and its lot. “We’re only in preliminary discussions,” he said.›