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100 Condos Planned for Corner of Ashby And San Pablo

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday March 27, 2007

A four-story condominium-over-retail complex may soon be rising at the corner of two of Berkeley’s busiest streets. 

That’s the hope of veteran Berkeley developer Ali Kashani and a San Francisco firm who have launched a joint plan to build a four-story building on a three-quarter-acre lot at the southeast corner of San Pablo and Ashby avenues. 

The building as currently conceived will feature up to 100 condos built over ground floor commercial space on a 34,200-square-foot lot. 

“We just closed escrow,” Kashani said Monday. 

The founder of Berkeley’s non-profit Affordable Housing Associates and now a commercial developer, Kashani has teamed with Rawson, Blum and Leon (RBL) of San Francisco. 

Kashani said the developers waited for two years while Shell Oil cleaned up the site from contamination caused by leaking tanks during the property’s earlier incarnation as a gasoline station. 

“We didn’t start until we had an agreement from Shell that they would clean up the site and agree to clean up anything that might be found in the future,” Kashani said. 

With the site clean and escrow closed, the next stage is hiring an architect and figuring out exactly how many units will go into the building. 

Berkeley architect Kava Massih “has done some studies that show the site could handle a hundred units, but we don’t know yet what the final number will be,” he said, but Massih has not been formally hired to design the project. 

“We’re a little behind on getting the design done, and we will hire an architect soon. Our hope is to get the design started in the next two to three weeks, and then develop some preliminary designs and massing studies we can show to the public two months after that.” 

One major incentive for rapid movement are the high carrying costs for holding undeveloped land, he said. 

The site is currently zoned West Berkeley Commercial, which would allow for a four-story, 50-foot-high building, Kashani said. 

Another consideration in design is the fate of the city’s density bonus ordinance, which is now undergoing revisions. But as currently planned, one-fifth of the condos will be made available at reduced rates affordable to buyers who make up to 120 percent of the area median income, Kashani said. 

RBL owns a half-billion in projects, located mostly on the West Coast, and Kashani’s Oakland-based Memar Properties is a growing force in the East Bay development scene. 

According to an RBL press release, the project will feature 100 condominiums built atop a ground floor base featuring 12,000 square feet of retail space, but Kashani stressed that those numbers weren’t final. 


Other condos 

The city will be also be getting another 53 condos, but not from new construction. 

Berkeley’s Planning and Development Department posted a list of 11 existing properties on its web site Monday identifying properties given preliminary approval for changing from rental to condominiums. 

The largest is a 12-unit building at 1901 Parker St. at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, followed by a 9-unit property at 1200-1214 Spruce Street at the corner of Eunice Street. The others range in size from 2 to 6 units. 

Selection is just the first of three stages in the approval process under which the city can convert a total of 100 rental units to ownership status every year. 

After selection, owners must file forms to apply for zoning inspections to ensure the buildings comply with city zoning law, and once declared in conformance, the properties must then be approved for a new map that provides the legal groundwork for final conversion. 

On properties with four or fewer units, city planning staff can approve the maps, but properties with more units must be approved by a vote of the city Planning Commission. 

A complete list of the properties is posted on the web at