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Developer Plans More Projects for Iceland Block

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday August 07, 2007

Lost in the recent flap over the landmarking of Iceland is the future of the rest of the block on which it’s located—currently the home of McKevitt Volvo. 

Bounded by Shattuck Avenue and Milvia Street on the east and west and Derby and Ward streets on the north and south, the entire block has been slated by developer Ali Kashani to be the site of new projects. 

Formerly the property of the Weston Havens Foundation, the building site at 2700 Shattuck is listed as a project in progress on the website of Kashani’s Memar Properties (, the current owner. 

While the developer’s web site shows a conceptual drawing depicting a block-long structure curving at either end down the side streets, and lists the project as “In progress 2007,” a city staffer said the description is “somewhat optimistic.” 

“Realistically, it will be quite a while before we see something new,” said Dave Fogarty of Berkeley’s Economic Development Department. 

Not depicted on the website is the structure on the west end of the same block with the Volvo dealership: Iceland, on Milvia, which Kashani wanted to essentially demolish and rebuild as a townhouse development. 

A successful move to landmark the skating rink, upheld by a divided City Council, has stalled those plans—though landmarking doesn’t prohibit either demolition or developments which preserve the facade while adding height and interior changes. 

Kashani is out of town this week, and according to a message left on his office phone, will be unavailable for contact until Monday. 


Dealership buildings sold 

The Havens Foundation originally owned two of the Shattuck Avenue car dealership properties now being eyed by the city for redevelopment as sites for high density housing-over-retail projects—the McKevitt property and the eastern half of the 2598-2600 block of Shattuck, which is now occupied by Berkeley Honda. 

The property housing the Honda lot was bought by a partnership formed by unnamed local investors, according to Fogarty. 

The McKevitt property is situated at the divide of Shattuck Avenue and Adeline Street—and Adeline has also been targeted by Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates as the proposed focus of a new development-oriented plan. 

Both car dealerships figure prominently in the effort by city staff, spearheaded by Bates, to re-zone two areas of West Berkeley for car sales. 

The futures of both dealerships remain uncertain, said Fogarty, though McKevitt has a longer term lease on Shattuck than the Honda dealership, formerly Doten Honda, which was sold on June 1, 2005, resulting in a protracted labor dispute. 

Car manufacturers want dealerships concentrated along freeways, said Fogarty. “They like them together because buyers like to comparison shop,” he said. 

Most cities create dealership concentrations by using redevelopment statutes, often favored by land sellers as well as by dealers, said Fogarty, because of tax advantages. 

“It also represents a more efficient form of land use because dealers can combine some facilities,” he said. 

Berkeley has precluded redevelopment measures and eminent domain, Fogarty said, even though tax increment funding allowed under redevelopment law can help with creation of roadways, street lighting improvements and freeway interchanges. 

Proposals currently before the Planning Commission call for rezoning two sections of West Berkeley for car dealerships, one south of Ashby Avenue and west of San Pablo Avenue, and the other along the freeway on either site of Gilman Street. 

Concerns about the Ashby-adjacent segment were heavily criticized by the owners of the two largest business owners in the area, Ashby Lumber and Urban Ore, when the commission held its first hearing on the proposals last month. 

The Planning Commission will take up the proposals again following its August recess. 

Bates and the city’s economic development staff said the rezoning would help keep the dealers in Berkeley, along with their sales tax revenues. 

But even if the required zoning and West Berkeley plan changes are made, Fogarty said they offer no guarantee the dealers would remain in the city.  

“Even if the dealerships get the right to move to West Berkeley, they still have to secure the land at a price they can afford, and that is much more problematic, he said.  


Havens Foundation 

According its 2005 federal income tax return, the Weston Havens Foundation received $256,811 in rent against $166,146 in expenses on their 2700 Shattuck Ave. property. Comparable figures for 2598-2600 Shattuck were $220,351 in rent against expenses of $39,245. 

The foundation, which was also formed in 2005, reported incomes from properties at 2201-2017 and 2257-2267 Shattuck Ave., and reported receiving $19.88 million in real estate during the year which was formerly held by the Weston Havens Living Trust. 

The nonprofit was created from the estate of John Weston Havens. Jr., who died Oct. 7, 2001 at age 97. 

Havens was Berkeley’s own version of “old money,” a descendant of Francis Kittredge Shattuck, who stamped both his names and his architectural imprint on the face of the city. A cousin, Jeffrey Shattuck Leiter, succeeded Loni Hancock (Bates’ wife) as mayor of Berkeley when she resigned to take a federal job, and he is the former owner of other commercial properties on Shattuck Avenue.  

The foundation created by Havens’s will is based in San Francisco and is charged with funding medical and scientific research. According to its tax statement, it was funded with $28.5 million in net assets, including the Berkeley real estate.