Zoning Board Looks at Ninth St. Battle Over Rent-Controlled Units

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday January 22, 2008

The Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) on Thursday will hear a project proposed for 1923 9th St. and 1920 10th St. involving the demolition of five rent-controlled units to allow construction of a 15-story condominium project. 

The meeting will take place at the Council Chambers of the Old City Hall at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way at 7:00 p.m. 

Neighbors are worried about density and parking, the latter being described by some residents as extremely tight. 

Some zoning board members have expressed concern over the demolition of the five rent-controlled units. According to applicant Justin Jee, the units are occupied and the tenants will have to be evicted before construction starts. 

To approve a demolition permit for the proposed project under the Zoning Ordinance, the board needs to make specific findings that the demolition would not be detrimental to the housing stock of the neighborhood and the city. 

At an earlier meeting, board member Jesse Arreguin argued that the demolition would be damaging as it would change the character of the neighborhood. He added that the five rent-controlled units would be permanently lost and the project would set a precedent for future projects. 

However, zoning staff contends that the demolition would not be detrimental because Jee had agreed to pay an in-lieu fee to the Housing Trust Fund. 

The board might also have to make additional findings to allow the removal of rent-controlled units, one of which is that the tenant would not be involuntarily forced out of his unit. 

At the Jan. 10 meeting, the board continued the project to Thursday to allow Jee and the neighbors to enter into mediation.