Council to Hear Trader Joe’s Building Appeal

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday July 13, 2007

The Berkeley City Council will hold a public hearing Monday to consider an appeal regarding the decision by the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) to approve the Trader Joe’s project at 1885 University Ave. 

The special council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther KIng Jr. Way. 

ZAB voted 5-3-1 in December to approve the controversial five-story project plan, which includes 148 apartments, 14,390 square feet of retail space, 109 tenant and 48 commercial parking spaces and two truck-loading spaces at the corner of University and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

A group of neighbors were concerned about the size of the project, how the density bonus would be applied, parking and traffic issues and alcohol sales. 

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

At a Jan. 11 meeting, ZAB voted to modify an existing condition on parking according to language supplied by area resident Stephen Wollmer. The modified condition states that the “residents of the project shall not be permitted to participate in the City’s Residential Parking Permit program.”  

The board also approved a use permit for beer and wine sales at Trader Joe’s, independent of the Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC) license. 

Wollmer filed an appeal on Feb. 2 on behalf of Neighbors for a Livable Berkeley Way against ZAB’s decision to approve the proposed project and called upon City Council to minimize the  

project’s detriment to the citizens of Berkeley. 

The proposed project has been before ZAB for nine hearings and before the Design Review Committee for five. 

In a letter to the Planet, Wollmer called the proposed project “detrimental and blatantly illegal” and said it failed to conform to state law. 

Additionally, he stated: 

• It is 20,000 square feet and 25 units larger than the Zoning Ordinance allows and state law requires. 

• It ignores the Zoning Ordinance development standards for building height and setbacks. 

• Its size and design elements cause significant detriment to the surrounding neighborhood. 

• Its retail tenant will cause traffic and parking chaos in an already congested area, impacts far beyond those foreseen by a deeply flawed transportation study. 

• It sets a dangerous precedent for the city by granting density bonus units reserved by state law for affordable housing to subsidize a commercial use, here for Trader Joe’s parking lot, and conceivably in the next project for any commercial use an applicant may propose and the ZAB determines that the city needs or wants.