Kragen Site, Pacific Steel, Sisterna Top ZAB Agenda

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday April 25, 2006

The controversial proposal to build a massive five-story high-rise at the corner of University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way comes before ZAB Thursday. 

Two other lightning rods adorn the agenda—Pacific Steel Casting and the Sisterna Tract Historic District. 

Developers Chris Hudson and Evan McDonald hope to win Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) approval for their project at 1885 University Ave. that has drawn the ire of neighbors, who claim it’s too big and will cause too much traffic. 

The property is currently occupied by a strip mall with Kragen Auto Parts as the principal tenant. 

The developers have promised a sweetener for the city—a highly popular Trader Joe’s market in the ground floor commercial space. 

Neighbors have decried the building’s shadowing effects on Berkeley Way, the residential street that flanks the structure on the north. They also fear the impacts of traffic to the market, which will be directed into an entrance on their street. 

The developers have promised the city that the market will bring needed sales taxes to the city and have said they’re already entitled to build an even more massive project at the 1885 University Ave. site. 

Steve Wollmer of PlanBerkeley.org is a project neighbor and has submitted a series of lengthy objections, and city staff have provided their own massive report. 

During Thursday’s meeting, the board will take public testimony and advise the developers on issues of building height and mass. 

Also on the ZAB agenda is a proposal by Pacific Steel Casting to install air filtering equipment at their Second Street foundry. 

Neighbors have waged a long-running battle over foul odors emanating from the plant, and the company responded with a plan to install the equipment after neighbors raised the threat of a flood of small claims lawsuits. 

The proposal is listed on the board’s consent calendar. 

Another agenda item certain to generate public comment is a request by developer Gary Feiner to give retroactive approval to his demolition of a landmarked building at 2104 Sixth St. 

Part of a two-building pop-up and build-out project, the landmarked cottage was effectively demolished in direct contravention of an agreement with the city. 

A contractor removed the roof in violation of the building permit, replacing it with a steel-framed replacement. Architect Timothy Rempel, who is working for developer Gary Feiner, said the action was a mistake, leading to the firing of the contractor. 

Project neighbors who landmarked the 19th-century working-class neighborhood in response to Feiner’s plans can be expected to turn out to air their grievances, as they did at the Landmarks Preservation Commission earlier this month. 

Another West Berkeley project on the agenda is a proposal to add a rooftop parking structure to an automotive service building at 1218 Seventh St. and construct a new three-story, 8,075-square-foot building with a mezzanine on a vacant lot next door at 1220 Seventh St. 

Because of the unusually crowded agenda, the meeting will begin an hour earlier than normal at 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.w