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‘Flying Cottage’ Approval Near By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday May 03, 2005

South Berkeley’s “Flying Cottage,” the controversial three-story pop-up at 3045 Shattuck Ave., seems to be headed for a soft landing—with only a question of parking yet to be decided. 

City planning department officials told Zoning Adjustments Board members that they’ve have withdrawn their objections to owner Christine Sun’s building. 

Though neighbors were less than happy, Senior Planner Debbie Sanderson said the only issue remaining was whether or not Sun had remedied the nuisance issues that had halted the development last year. 

A court case had left the structure in limbo, a weathering and blue-shrouded hulk dominating the intersection of Shattuck and Emerson Street. 

Project foes sat patiently throughout Thursday’s seven-hour ZAB meeting, waiting their turn—which finally arrived around midnight. Architect Andus Brandt, representing Sun, bided his time buried in a black-jacketed book, The Assassinations. 

Sanderson said ZAB had no say over the design, nor of Sun’s right to build a three-story structure. 

Although Sun’s is the only full three-story building on Shattuck south of Ashby, Planning Manager Mark Rhoades said that because of the commercial zoning along the thoroughfare, any owner was entitled to build to that height. 

The nuisance issue revolved around Sun’s intended use for the building.  

“The staff issue was whether it was going to be used for a single-family group accommodation,” a status inferred from the first set of plans presented to the city. 

The new design calls for two separate apartments, one each on the second and third floors, with a ground floor restaurant. 

“It seems that the real current nuisance issue is not what has been done in the past or what may be done in the future, but that the building now sits unoccupied,” open to squatters and facing other hazards, said Brandt. 

Robert Lauriston, presenting a coalition of neighborhood residents, said two key issues had been raised: Whether the structure remains a nuisance and whether a use permit should be required for the additional height. 

“If you accept that three stories are allowed by right, you can expect it all along Shattuck and it was radically change the character of the existing neighborhoods,” he said. 

Despite the revised design, Lauriston said neighbors “are still concerned that Sun will use it as a group living accommodation.” 

Denise Brown, a dean of students at Berkeley High School, told ZAB that she lives “directly behind this monstrosity, which has taken away all light, sunshine and air” from her home. 

“The windows look directly down on my living room and my daughter’s bedroom. It’s truly a nuisance,” she said. 

Brown’s daughter, Sarah Real, told board members that she would be particularly uncomfortable about opening her bedroom drapes because the building’s two parking spaces were directly outside her bedroom. 

“This building towers hideously above the surrounding homes,” said Victoria Ortiz, who lives two doors south of the structure on Shattuck. 

“ZAB must not be swayed by the Planning Department, which once again supports a project detested by the neighbors who live around it,” she said. 

ZAB member Robert Allen said he was “very uncomfortable about approving a third story” which, while allowed by the zoning code, was obtained “by illegal means. I really don’t like voting on technicalities while we’re essentially saying the third floor is okay.” 

“My problem is that we can’t talk about design,” said member Dean Metzger, who added, “I still think it’s a nuisance.” 

ZAB members were also concerned about parking for the ground floor restaurant. 

While Brandt contended that by keeping the ground floor commercial square footage under 1150 square feet Sun was exempt from the need for off-street parking, that drew fire from Oakland attorney Rena Rickles, who appeared on behalf of the neighbors.  

“She’s already said it’s going to be a cafe, and cafes require three parking spaces. Where are they going to be?” asked the lawyer. 

“Arguing about parking proves the nuisance has been abated,” Brandt declared. “Staff guided us in the interpretation that they made allowing parking in the rear yard.” 

Rickles also pointed to the remaining 400 square foot ground floor space next to the restaurant which was marked on plans for tenant storage. 

The lawyer suggested that the space might actually be used by the restaurant, which would boost the restaurant’s square footage over Brandt’s no-parking-space limit as well. 

Rickles also noted that Brandt’s earlier plans had included a garage in the ground floor area instead of storage. “The applicant has destroyed parking space and then says ‘trust me’ about the 400 square feet.” 

Real’s concerns and Rickles’ conjectures clearly struck home with several ZAB members, and it was David Blake who moved to continue the hearing under May 12 with the proviso that Sun should find two off-street parking space near the project she could rent in perpetuity. 

“She has been waiting a long time,” Brandt responded, “and there’s not a simple answer. “She has been characterized as a horrible person,” he said while insisting she’s not.›