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ZAB to Act on Controversial Trader Joe’s Project

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday December 12, 2006

The long-running battle over the proposal once dubbed the Kragen project—for one of the site’s current tenants—and now the Trader Joe’s building—for a prospective future tenant—heads for a crucial decision Thursday. 

The proposed five-story residential-over-commercial project at 1885 University Ave. is only one of several controversial projects on an agenda so heavy packed that the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) is starting its meeting at 6 p.m., an hour early. 



If ZAB approves, a controversial project will soon be rising at the northwest corner of a key intersection—University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Nearby residential neighbors have battled the scale and mass of the project, while “urban infill” advocates and Trader Joe’s advocates have trumpeted its virtues. 

The project before the board calls for demolition of the current concrete block building on a site once eulogized by Allen Ginsberg and commemorated in a noted painting—and construction of a five-story, 148-apartment building with ground floor retail and two levels of parking, one for the store and the other for tenants. 

Developers Chris Hudson and Evan McDonald bolstered support for their project when they snagged Trader Joe’s as their commercial anchor. 

Stephen Wollmer, a project neighbor and an activist in, sent three separate letters to ZAB challenging the project and raising the possibility of a lawsuit should ZAB approve the project as submitted. 

Early designs were rejected by ZAB and the Design Review Committee, but subsequent revisions won the committee’s approval. Neighbors have protested the mass of the project, shadowing effects and traffic impacts. 

The latest version includes a plan to block Berkeley Way immediately west of the building to reduce an expected increase of traffic on the residential street behind the project. 

Among the other projects up for action at the ZAB meeting are: 

• An appeal by neighbors of the Iceland skating rink of ZAB’s approval of a temporary cooling system outside the 2727 Milvia St. facility; 

• A decision on approval of a five-story, 24-unit condo over commercial project at 2701 Shattuck Ave.; 

• Berkeley Unified School District’s plan to build a bus depot, classrooms and offices at 1325 Sixth St.; 

• Developer John Gordon’s plans to turn his buildings at 2629-2935 Ashby Ave. into a multi-tenant collection of shops, possibly including a fitness center; 

• Freight & Salvage Coffee House’s plans to renovate the buildings at 2020-2026 Addison St. into a new home for the cherished Berkeley institution; 

• A request by Aquatic Park Enterprises to demolish a vacant warehouse at 651 Addison St.; 

• Plans to build a two-story, three-unit residential building at 2813 Martin Luther King Jr. Way; 

• A request by the Ethiopia Restaurant at 2955 Telegraph Ave. to increase their hours of liquor service now set at 8 a.m. to midnight until 2 a.m; and 

• A request by Epicurious Garden at 1513 Shattuck Ave. to add beer to their current wine-only license and to legalize outdoor service at their Gourmet Ghetto eatery. 

The meeting will be held in City Council chambers at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, 6 p.m. 



Museum preview 

Members of the Downtown Area Plan Committee (DAPAC) will meet Dec. 19 with Toyo Ito, the avant garde Japanese architect who will design the new downtown Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) UC Berkeley plans to build on Center Street in downtown Berkeley. 

The meeting, which will be open to the public, will be held at the museum and archive’s current home at 2625 Durant Ave. from 10 a.m. until noon. 

Among the other speakers will be BAM/PFA Director Kevin Consey and Kerry O’Banion, principal planner for the university’s Capital Projects program.