ZAB Resolves Marin Ave. Views, University Ave. Condo Units By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday May 03, 2005

Barring further appeals, the long-running battle that has pitted neighbors against would-be neighbors in a contest over views from the Berkeley hills has come to an end. 

Zoning Adjustments Board members voted their own amendments Thursday to plans for the single-family residence David and Kelly Klopp Richmond hope to build at 2615 Marin Ave., a half block west of Grizzly Peak Boulevard. 

Over the course of the long-running dispute, said their attorney Rena Rickles, the Richmonds submitted several plan revisions but were unable to reach a compromise with neighbors, especially George and Daphne Kalmar, owners of a home at 2635 Marin, and Matthew White, who owns a house at 2633 Marin. 

The ensuing struggle employed more lawyers, a surveying firm and endless hours of city staff time and the efforts of both ZAB and the City Council. 

The project was back on the ZAB agenda Thursday on a remand from the council, who had rejected an earlier ZAB compromise reached last August, ruling against city staff recommendations, that had been appealed by the neighbors. 

The neighbors were concerned that the home would block their views of the Golden Gate Bridge, a point that had found considerable sympathy from Mayor Tom Bates when they appealed the earlier ZAB ruling to the city council. 

The council set two conditions in remanding the project back to ZAB, said planner Stephen Ford. First, the Richmonds couldn’t add additional height to the building in the future without an additional use permit, and second, that the upper story deck couldn’t be enclosed without yet another permit. 

The council also recommended dropping the roof height by another foot. 

The home’s third level is parking, dug into the hillside below the two residential levels. 

Further complicating the issue was the avowed intention of yet another neighbor to add height to a home that could largely obliterate the views from the Richmonds’ home. 

“It’s time to say enough is enough,” declared ZAB member Bob Allen. “I absolutely disagree with the mayor’s statement that we’re here to protect the views of people who were here first.” 

Allen noted that the lot the Richmonds bought had been vacant for years, available to neighbors who could have bought it to preserve their existing views. 

“These people have every right to build,” Allen said. “The Kalmars will still have a spectacular view, and most people in the city would be glad to have it.” 

Member Chris Tiedemann noted that ZAB had initially approved a roofline three feet higher than the one rejected by the city council, “but we have to respect the council remand.” In light of the council’s intention to protect Golden Gate views, she said, “the house has to be lowered.” 

“I think it was fair before,” said member Jesse Anthony. 

“The ordinance is always interpreted to protect the existing landowners’ views,” said member Dave Blake. “It’s an unfair ordinance, but that doesn’t give us the right to ignore it.” 

“Reasonable development on this lot means a reasonable view,” said member Rick Judd. “If they sink the house into the hillside, the Richmonds will lose their views faster than their uphill neighbors because their downhill neighbors have already announced their intent to build up.” 

While Chair Andy Katz said he would vote against dropping the height of the Richmonds’ home by a foot, when it came time for a vote he reversed his stand. 

In the end, ZAB voted for a permit that required a one-foot reduction in height, restrictions of future development on the front and rear of the structure and mandated a permit for any expansion in square footage, despite a city ordinance that allows homeowners a single by-right expansion of up to 499 square feet without a permit. 

When it came time for a vote, only members Blake, Carrie Sprague and Tiedemann voted no. 


Other Actions 

ZAB members voted unanimously to allow homeowner Bruce Nordmann to add two bedrooms onto his residence at 1737 Grant St. 

While the addition had sparked a lengthy discussion of by-right additions at the last ZAB meeting, the issue didn’t arise during discussions Thursday. And when the dust had settled, Nordmann was granted his addition by a unanimous vote, despite an appearance by City Councilmember Linda Maio, who owns an adjoining home. 

The thorny density bonus issue reared its ugly head during a discussion of the five-story residential condo and commercial complex planned for the site of the former Tune-Up Masters at 1698 University Ave. 

After ZAB had approved the project for 23 units, city staff completed a new density bonus analysis that entitled developer Avi Nevo’s Pacific Bay Investments to two more units. 

ZAB member Rick Judd asked fellow members to approve the two units, partly on the grounds that delays while the issue was resolved had resulted in higher construction costs as the price of materials rose. 

Member Chris Tiedemann endorsed Judd’s proposal. 

Dean Metzger said he was concerned with just how “affordable” condos would be that were priced for a “low income rate” of 120 percent of area median income (AMI) for a family of four. 

As finally approved over the dissenting votes of Metzger and Carrie Sprague, the project will include three condos available at 120 percent AMI and one at 90 percent.I