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Telegraph Peet’s Wins Approval at ZAB

By Suzanne La Barre
Tuesday July 18, 2006

Three days after one Berkeley institution closed its doors on Telegraph Avenue another won overwhelming approval to open.  

The Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) unanimously approved plans to establish a Peet’s Coffee and Tea at the corner of Telegraph and Dwight Way Thursday, just a block from where Cody’s Books, a Telegraph Avenue fixture for nearly half a century, stands empty as of last Monday. 

Despite calls from city planning staff to deny the project—the project requires building permits typically tough to obtain—ZAB members voted their support, sans debate or hesitation.  

“The fifth block (of Telegraph) needs a shot in the arm,” said board member Andy Katz. “There’s a chance for this to give Telegraph a big boost.” 

Pending final ZAB approval next week, Peet’s will move into a vacant 1,710-square-foot retail space at 2501 Telegraph Ave. The corner storefront, formerly occupied by Krishna Copy, is part of the historic Mrs. Edmund P. King Building, a two-story Colonial Revival structure that includes Sharks vintage clothing and four residential units. 

Property owners John Gordon and Janis Mitchell expect to expend $270,000 renovating the storefront. Peet’s will open by November, Mitchell said.  

“We’re excited, we’re happy, we’re all great Peet’s fans,” Mitchell said after the meeting Thursday.  

A handful of Telegraph area shopkeepers and residents shared her sentiment. 

“As you all know, Telegraph Avenue is a blighted area,” said Doris Moskowitz of Moe’s Books on Telegraph, between Dwight and Haste Street. “The idea (that) Peet’s would come there is the best we’ve heard of in a long time … Here we have an opportunity to bring a really good business to a street that really needs it.” 

Sales tax revenue along Telegraph Avenue has declined since 1992, according to city Community Development Coordinator Dave Fogarty. Peet’s won’t necessarily fatten the city’s sales tax coffers, he said. It will, however, attract shoppers who don’t typically frequent Telegraph Avenue. 

“I think it’s important to have a Peet’s, but not for sales tax revenue,” Fogarty said in a phone interview last week. “It upgrades the whole image of the area. Peet’s is a very prestigious company.” 

Peet’s, a Berkeley-based company now headquartered in Emeryville, operates 120 stores nationwide—including five in Berkeley—and boasts more than $175 million in annual revenues. 

“This is not a faceless corporation,” Doug Welsh, vice president of the Peet’s coffee division, told the board Thursday. He underscored that he and many of his Peet’s colleagues are longtime Berkeley residents with children in Berkeley’s public schools. 

Opposition to the proposed project came primarily from owners of two existing quick-serve restaurants on Telegraph Avenue, wary of competition.  

“We have had a difficult time in the last 20 years,” said Dari Shamtoob, who manages Bayking Doughnuts and Pastries on Telegraph, flanked by Moe’s and the former Cody’s storefront. “Cody’s closing will only make it more difficult for us. If Peet’s comes, that’s one more business that will go.” 

But his voice was by-and-large drowned out by Peet’s supporters.  

“For us, it is not just the opening of another coffee shop,” said Marlon Maus, the president of a homeowners’ association on the 2600 block of Telegraph Avenue. “It really is a symbol of something much more important … People do need clean, safe, attractive places where they can congregate. Right now there are none.” 

Maus said, “This may be a sign Telegraph is not in a freefall, but turning around for the better. We hope this will encourage others to invest in our neighborhood.”