ZAB Postpones Trader Joe’s Building Vote Again

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday December 01, 2006

The Zoning Adjustments Board continued the hearing for the Trader Joe’s building project on 1885 University Ave. until Dec. 14 because city staff requested more time to prepare the staff report, findings and conditions.  

The modified project—after being approved by the Design Review Commission—had been returned to ZAB on Nov. 9. At that meeting, Berkeley-based developers Evan McDonald and Chris Hudson had asked the board to give preliminary consideration to a design of a mixed-use development with 14,390 square feet of retail, and 157 parking spaces in a two-level parking garage. 

ZAB members have asked staff to prepare a report outlining density bonus options and a traffic analysis as well as provide conditions for approval of the project. Member Dean Metzger had requested more details of the project, including areas of commercial space and usable open space.  

Residents opposing the project had expressed concerns about how the city would apply the state’s affordable housing density bonus statute to the project and address issues related to traffic and building size.  

Those in favor of the project had said that it would reduce the number of daily car trips by a large margin and provide much-needed affordable housing in Berkeley. 


BUSD bus depot 

The ZAB also heard a request from the Berkeley Unified School District for a use permit to establish a bus depot at 1325 Sixth St. (including bus and staff/visitor parking, office and classroom space, and a mechanical shop). 

Eric Smith, deputy superintendent for the BUSD, said that the proposed transportation facility included the construction of a 4,100-square-foot single-story administrative office building with a classroom, a 6,550-square-foot single-story mechanical shop, a vehicle washing station and associated surface parking area. 

The surface parking would provide space for 19 large school buses, 13 small school buses, a district van, and 37 staff and visitor parking spaces. The proposed classroom space would be used for teaching bus drivers emergency and other safety techniques. 

West Berkeley neighbors who appeared in opposition to the project cited air quality, noise, pollution and traffic issues and said they did not want to see another “industrial facility” in the area. 

“West Berkeley is not the best place for this,” said Gary Parsons, a neighbor. “This was not the long range vision plan for this corridor. In a neighborhood that is battling with Pacific Steel Casting, here we are facing a lot of diesel everyday.” 

Smith told the body that the school district had selected the site after deliberation with the city staff. 

“When we look at it from an operational point of view there is no alternate site,” he said. “We are traveling on several of those streets right now. So as far as the traffic is concerned, it is already there.” 

The board asked the staff and the applicant for the exact number of buses that would be running on diesel but a definite number could not be given. Staff said that they would be coming back with the relevant findings at the next meeting. 


Residential units 

ZAB members continued the request for a use permit for a proposed project at 2701 Shattuck Ave./2100 Derby St. to Dec. 14. 

Todd Jersey, the architect for the project, described the plan as a 34,894-square-foot, five-story mixed-use building with 24 residential units (five inclusionary), 3,198 square feet of commercial floor area within up to 4 ground floor tenant spaces (to include a 2,000 square foot quick-service food use) and 24 parking spaces. 

Metzger said that he was interested to know how the design would impact the neighborhood. With the exception of the 60-foot-tall UC Storage building at the corner of Ward Street, the predominant architecture of the immediate vicinity is made up of one to three story buildings. 

The height of the proposed building is 54 feet. Members of the LeConte neighborhood association expressed concerns about the height, density and shape of the building. A neighbor objected to the project especially because it was a dwelling unit close to the eighteen cell phone towers that have been proposed to be located on top of UC Storage. The board continued the project to Dec. 14. 

The board declined the request of Jim Novosel of The Bay Architects for a use permit to demolish an existing single-family dwelling and construct four new dwelling units. The City Council had directed ZAB to consider the project subject to inclusionary housing requirement. The applicant had requested a variance from these requirements, which the board denied. 


Bookstore to crisis unit 

ZAB also approved a use permit for the City of Berkeley Mental Health/ Health and Human Services Division to change the use of an existing commercial tenant space on 2433 Channing Way from a retail bookstore to administrative office space for the City of Berkeley’s Health and Human Services mobile crisis team. 


Food services 

ZAB approved a use permit for the Hummingbird Cafe to operate a carry-out food service store (no seating) in an existing commercial space at 1842 Euclid Ave. with no off-street parking.  

ZAB also approved a use permit for the Vanessa Bistro on 1715 Solano Ave. to add the sales of spirits to the existing sale of beer and wine in the existing full-service restaurant and provide to outside seating, but denied a variance to allow it to close at midnight.