Followers of Berkeley news over the past year might rightly conclude that town suffers from an edifice complex.
Big buildings, including a couple of giants proposed for the city center, have fueled endless controversy—and filled a significant chunk of the Daily Planet’s news pages as well.
A Planning Commission subcommittee devoted long sessions to discussions of what could become the largest building to rise in the city in decades, a proposed 12-story-or-more hotel for the what is already Berkeley’s high-rise intersection.
The University of California is negotiating with a private developer to build the structure at the northeast corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street.
If built—and the “if” remains a big one—the edifice would rise directly across Shattuck Avenue from the Wells Fargo and Power Bar Buildings, the city’s reigning high-rises.
The fate of the project, which would be the cornerstone of a University of California complex featuring museums and a meeting center, depends on whether the university can make the hotel profitable enough to draw the big bucks of a major developer.
Carpenter & Co., a leading hotelier, has an exclusive negotiating with the university which expires at the end of February, a six-month extension of an one-year agreement that ended without a deal.
A half block to the west along Center Street is the site of the Seagate Building, an already approved but legally challenged nine-story residential complex with three levels of underground parking and a ground floor that will be devoted primarily to rehearsal space for the Berkeley Repertory Theater.
The Seagate project proved controversial from the start, and the Zoning Adjustment Board’s approval of the project has been met with an appeal which alleges that the approval failed to pass legal or procedural muster.
Work on another major downtown project finally commenced in the autumn after a long hiatus in developmental limbo.
Library Gardens, Transaction Financial’s 176-unit apartment complex with five street-level shops, replaces the demolished Kittredge Street Garage, just west of the central library.
Completion is scheduled for July, 2006.
Other projects that made news in 2004 included:
2004 proved especially momentous for Berkeley developer Patrick Kennedy.
Teaming with multimillionaire UC Berkeley Professor David Teece, Kennedy has built some of the city’s most controversial structures and emerged as a lightning rod in the struggles between slow-growth preservationists and “smart growth” development advocates.
The city also launched an investigation into heating units at the seven-story Gaia Building that replaced the old Berkeley Farms creamery at 2116 Allston Way.
By promising to devote the ground floor to so-called cultural uses, Kennedy qualified for an additional floor of housing, though the “cultural bonus” space still remains vacant nearly three years after the building opened. A jazz cafe is now scheduled to open soon in part of the space.
Kennedy won an additional floor by providing apartments reserved for low income tenants, enabling him to build a seven-story structure, two floors over the downtown plan’s five-floor limit. Critics said that by incorporating lofts into his units, Kennedy actually created the equivalent of a nine-floor building.
Over the past two years, the Gaia Building has been repeatedly shrouded with plastic and screening as repair crews have battled the leaks that have caused ongoing mold problems.
According to lawsuits filed by Kennedy, the repairs have now equaled the original construction costs. By year’s end, the Gaia Building was once again partially shrouded.
Three other Kennedy/Teece projects opened in the fall: the Fine Arts Building on Shattuck Avenue and the Touriel and Bachenheimer buildings on University Avenue.
Like most of Kennedy’s projects, they were funded by construction loans underwritten by ABAG, the Association of Bay Area Governments, which supports projects that include affordable units.
Berkeley Bowl II
West Berkeley’s biggest project is still in the planning stages, and sparking its own fires of controversy.
Owner Glen Yasuda’s plan to build an upsized version of the Berkeley Bowl at Ninth Street and Heinz Avenue has provoked concerns from neighbors worried about increased traffic and the intrusion of commercial uses into West Berkeley’s manufacturing and light industrially zoned areas.
Members of the city Design Review Committee gave their blessings to architect Kava Massih’s plans for a 91,060-square-foot three-building complex.
Before Yasuda’s new market can be built, the Berkeley Planning Commission must first approve both zoning changes and an amendment to the city’s General Plan.
Commissioners will hold a combined workshop and public hearing on the proposal at their Jan. 12 meeting.
University Avenue Projects
The heaviest action has been on University Avenue, where Kennedy’s Bachenheimer and Touriel buildings opened and plans have advanced for several others.
Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) members approved one major project in December, a proposal by developer Alex Varum to build a condominium project at 1122 University Ave.
Varum’s project features two buildings—a five-story structure facing the avenue which features 48 housing units, two live/work units and two retail spaces, with a three-story, 15-unit building in the back—and 74 underground parking spaces.
Design Review Committee members gave their blessings to another major University Avenue project that same month and forwarded it on to ZAB.
Satellite Housing’s 80-unit senior housing facility planned for 1535 University won the committee’s praises, and they sent the proposal on for action by ZAB in early January.
Pacific Bay Investment won the city’s green light in November to build a five-story condominium and ground floor retail complex at the site of the former Tune-Up Masters facility at 1698 University Ave.
While the original plans called for 38 units in a 64-foot-high building, after a series of meetings with neighborhood residents and city officials, project manager Ed Cress reduced the number of dwelling units to 25, and cut 14 feet off the height while increasing parking spaces from 16 to 33.
Plans for a four-story condominium project that would occupy most of the 700 block of University remain on hold pending decisions on applications to landmark two buildings targeted for demolition on the site.
San Pablo Avenue
The largest project approved for San Pablo Avenue is the five-story condominium project at northeast corner of San Pablo and Essex Street.
San Francisco developer Charmaine Curtis bought the property—along with city permits—from Patrick Kennedy, whose development plans had been hobbled by lawsuits and neighborhood opposition.
ZAB approved her revised plans in December.
Design Review Committee members approved plans for a three-story, eight-unit residential project at 1406 San Pablo and passed them on to ZAB for action next month.
On Shattuck Avenue, besides the UC Hotel and the Fine Arts Building, the year witnessed more battles in the saga of the Flying Cottage, the turn-of-the-century cottage perched atop a plywood shell at the corner of Shattuck and Essex Street.
Developer Christina Sun’s first effort to finish the building was denied because she’d started work without the right permits, and neighbors are continuing to fight the project as she tries to get the requisite approvals.
Design Review Committee members found little to like when presented with architect Andus Brandt’s latest plans in December, issuing scathing reviews and turning a unanimous thumbs-down on revisions even Brandt admitted were less than ideal.
The committee also roasted a proposal for a five-story condo and retail project planned for 2701 Shattuck by the Choyce Family Trust, an inheritance tax shelter of the Rev. Gordon Choyce Sr., pastor of the Missionary Church of God in Christ and head of the troubled low-income housing builder Jubilee Restoration.
The panel told builder Ronnie Sullivan, an officer in Jubilee Restoration, to come back again, this time with his structural and landscape architects.
Ed Roberts Center
The most significant project approved in South Berkeley this year was the Ed Roberts Center.
Named for a noted Berkeley disability rights activist, the facility will house a consortium of organizations serving the needs of the disabled in a modernist two-story building at 3075 Adeline St.
Neighbors said they welcomed the center but contested the design, saying the glass-fronted modernist two-story structure would be strongly out of character in a neighborhood of buildings erected a century ago
Advocates say the glass is an important symbolic gesture—the antithesis of the blind walls behind which the disabled were housed for so long.
ZAB approved the project in mid-November, and a group of neighbors appealed the decision to the City Council.
Developer Kenneth Sarachan, owner of Rasputin’s Records, filed plans in September to build an apartment and retail complex at the long-vacant Berkeley Inn site at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street.
He 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 after a pair of fires had left it a gutted wreck, forcing the city to demolish it.
Sarachan’s plans 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.
Significant revisions are expected before the project ever comes to a vote.
Berkeley’s newest apartment building opened in December, the four-story Telegraph Bays apartment and retail complex at 2616 Telegraph Ave.
The building features one-, two- and three-bedroom units with rents ranging from $745 for a one-bedroom 472-square-foot inclusionary unit to $2300 for a three-bedroom, 1087-square-foot apartment. ”