Members of Berkeley’s Design Review Committee (DRC) last week hurled stinging rebukes at a former city employee turned developer and his five-story condominium and retail building planned for the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Derby Street.
Ronnie Turner, a former city housing supervisor now vice president of the board of the Rev. Gordon Choyce’s Jubilee Restoration Inc., the project developer, presented the latest version of his plans for the 41,779-square-foot structure at Thursday evening’s DRC meeting.
“It’s insulting that you didn’t even bring your architect and your landscape architect,” DRC member Robert Allen told Turner. Architects accompanied every other project presented to the committee that evening.
“There’s absolutely nothing about it I can support,” said member Carrie Olson.
“It’s far too massive,” said committee vice chair David Snippen. “There were five pejorative statements from (city) planning staff that tells me it shouldn’t have been brought here tonight. . .This should’ve been stopped and not been brought to design review at this point.”
Committee member Rob Ludlow, himself a licensed architect, said, “The purpose of this committee is to develop a design in a collegial review, which is hard to do without a architect.”
For starters, Ludlow suggested, the developer should take out one of the middle floors.
“These are thoroughly inadequate plans,” said DRC Chair Burton Edwards, another architect. “They’re not appropriate. As designed, this is a non-starter with this body. I will recommend denial to the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) before I can ever approve such a project. You’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Rolf Bell, who lives on Ward Street, a block away from the proposed site, called the project “a big, stark massive building. . .a visual Berlin Wall.” Neighbors could, he said, support a four-story building—but not one that resulted in more cars parking on nearby residential streets.
He said neighbors were also hoping for a design more in keeping with the character of the surrounding neighborhood, including the Craftsman-style homes just behind the project on Derby.
A city staff report noted that “the project would (be) overdeveloping the project site,” creating “a very tight and looming relationship. . .to the residential buildings to the east of the property,” casting an excessive shadow on them as well.
The project has been mired in the DRC process for nearly a year.
Berkeley Bowl West
Committee members lavished praise on Berkeley architect Kava Massih, who gave the panel its first look at his plans for the new Berkeley Bowl planned for 920 Heinz Ave. in West Berkeley.
The 91,060-square-foot three-story project will sit atop an underground parking lot and feature a semi-detached 7,070-square-foot building offering prepared food for on- and off-site consumption.
The proposed steel-clad structure drew approval from Ludlow, who called it “a nice clean design, appropriate for the area.”
“A great building, nicely styled—very beautiful,” said Snippen.
“A wonderful project. The scale is perfect,” said Allen.
“I like the project,” said Olson. “I think it will fit right in.”
Members offered critiques of the plantings, but Massih’s designs had carried the day in their first public showing. After incorporating the suggested changes, he’ll be back before the panel in search of final approval.
University Avenue Senior Housing
The committee also liked what they saw in the latest version of Satellite Housing’s plans for an 80-unit senior residential facility at 1535 University Ave., though they found flaws with some of the specifics.
Steve Wollmer, a neighborhood resident active in PlanBerkeley.Org., a group that monitors construction projects on University Avenue, said he generally supported the four-story, 80,501-square-foot project, while noting that the University Avenue Strategic Plan (UASP) called for a three-story building with a 20-foot setback at the site.
The City Council, at the urging of member Linda Maio, had deemed the project complete and exempt from the UASP in February, he said.
“I actually like this project,” said Olson, though she expressed reservations about the vivid murals of Berkeley artist Juana Alicia, retained by Satellite to add color to their building.
Alicia’s bold creations, often involving Hispanic themes, are featured at several Bay Area sites, including a pair of five-story creations at the UC San Francisco Medical Center and the critically acclaimed “Santuario/Sanctuary” fresco at the new International Terminal and San Francisco International Airport.
Margot Smith of the Berkeley Gray Panthers, offered support for both the project and the art. “It will make a tremendous difference to people entering Berkeley via University Avenue,” she said.
Architect Erick Mitiken, accompanied by his landscape architect, fielded questions and critiques.
Though they withheld final approval, it was clear that the committee liked the project and that once their critiques were incorporated into the plans, approval would likely follow.
Bayer’s Building 66
Bayer Corporation fielded a full-scale delegation when they presented their revised plans for Building 66 at their Berkeley campus and emerged with the committee’s blessings for the two-story, 34,000-square-foot structure at 800 Dwight Way.
The DRC had suggested slight modifications to the plans presented to the on June 17, and they liked what they saw Thursday night, voting the approval that clears the way for final action by ZAB.