Landmarks Commission Approves Shattuck Hotel Revamp

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday December 11, 2007

The Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve the rehabilitation and alteration of the exterior of the Shattuck Hotel. 

The hotel, at 2086 Allston Way, had allowed overnight guests to stay in one part of the hotel while renovating a different part of its interior, until it was shut down by the Berkeley fire marshal on Nov. 15 for multiple violations of the fire code. 

Two of the three long-term hotel tenants surrendered their possessions and reached settlement agreements with owner Perry Patel after the fire marshal ordered them to vacate the premises. Currently no long-term or overnight guests are being allowed to stay in the hotel. 

One of the tenants had filed a petition for a reduction in rent against former owner — Sanjiv Kakkar — which was resolved several months ago. 

According to the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, if guests stay at the hotel for more than 14 days, they are entitled to rent control. The owners also have to register the tenancy. 

“The Patels had to pay $40,000 in registration fees since the Kakkars had not properly registered all the tenants,” Jay Kelekian, executive director for the Rent Stabilization Board, told the Planet. 

“The Kakkars told us that there were only three tenants whereas there were a lot more.” 

Kelekian added that the three long-term tenants were paying between $600 to $1,100 per month each for their rooms depending on how long they had lived there. 

“Mr. Patel was looking at the necessary permits to get the tenants relocated under the scenario that they could return once the construction was complete,” he said. 

“The rent stabilization ordinance requires landlords to obtain permits from the city for substantial repairs, and to give tenants a 30-day notice to leave. Prior to the fire marshal coming, Patel negotiated a settlement with one tenant. When the fire marshal red-tagged the building, two more settlements were reached ... The tenants got a lot less notice than they were entitled to but so did Mr. Patel and all the other guests at the hotel.” 

Patel, who bought the property recently with plans to develop it into a four-star hotel, refused to disclose the settlement amount to the Planet. 

“The tenants had a right to move back after the construction was complete but they reached a financial settlement instead,” said Kelekian, who did not want to disclose the amount. 

“It was a substantial sum ... More than any of them had ever paid in rent in their three years there.” 

Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief David Orth told the Planet that the fire marshal had gone to the hotel after being alerted about problems with the fire alarm system on Nov. 12. 

“The type of work that was going on had created significant fire hazards,” he said. 

“We wanted to evacuate the building right then, but we gave the tenants 36 hours to pack their bags and placed a fire watch for safety measures in the lobby and the floors. But the system did not work. Another fire alarm came in on the morning of Nov. 15 and we found out that people had not evacuated the building in the proper way. A lot of guests were unaccounted for. So I immediately closed it down.” 

According to Orth, the violations included a lack of fire alarms in some of the guest rooms and taped-up fire detectors. 

“This is one of the last hotels in the city to not have installed a sprinkler system,” he said. 

“The construction work has left openings between the floors that have created chimneys for smoke and fire to pass through the floor. Big holes have broken through the concrete floor which have deactivated the fire alarm system. These are not things that can be easily mitigated ... The owner was doing construction under a permit but I am not sure whether he exceeded the limits of the permit or not.” 

Orth added that although fire alarms had gone off at the hotel before, he had not been aware of such a high level of violation. 

“It was only when we went into the sleeping rooms that we found out how unsafe an environment it was for people to live in,” he said. 

Patel told the Planet that he had not been aware of the violations. 

“It was something that the fire marshal brought to my attention,” he said. “The goal was to relocate the tenants but we didn’t get around to it. We had a demolition permit so we started on the fifth floor and were working our way down. I didn’t know the renovations were creating an unsafe environment. I think the Permit Center was aware that we had people living in the building.”