Maybeck High School Gets Green Light to Move Into St. John’s, Wareham Shows New Design for 740 Heinz

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday October 25, 2008 - 02:23:00 PM

Students at Berkeley’s Maybeck High School can move into new classrooms in St. John’s Presbyterian Church this spring, since the school received a relocation permit from city officials at a public meeting Thursday. 

St. John’s location at 2727 College Ave.—about a mile from Maybeck’s current site at the United Methodist Church on Bancroft Way—ensures that the teacher-run private coeducational prep school is still in close proximity to the UC Berkeley campus, school officials said. 

Although some neighbors had expressed concerns about traffic and noise from the proposed move, the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board approved the use permit in less than two minutes. 

School officials said earlier that the proposed project would not adversely impact the neighborhood. 

“I was overwhelmed with joy,” said Nelly Coplan, church administrator. “It’s a project we have been working on for a while. So when Maybeck dropped in on us in February—and I don’t want to sound too religious here—it was a sign from the sky. They will create a lot of new energy for us, not just in the church and fiscal matters but also social responsibility.” 

The 100-year-old congregation has been experiencing declining enrollment since the ‘70s, Coplan said, which has become a major cause of worry for the church, especially since the building’s infrastructure is in dire need of repairs. 

St. John’s has always welcomed nonprofits to its premises, leasing rooms for $35 an hour, and at times it has allowed some community groups to host events for free. Coplan said Maybeck would be paying a monthly rate for the leased space but did not want to disclose the amount since the school has not signed a contract yet. 

Maybeck will be occupying the second floor of the church center, which was previously used by the German International School and the East Bay Girls’ School, and will be converting existing classrooms into smaller spaces to meet its needs. The German International School closed in June and the East Bay Girls School closed two years ago. 

The 36-year-old school has around 240 students from all over the Bay Area and is not looking at expanding its enrollment anytime soon, Maybeck’s principal John Muster told the Planet in an earlier interview. He could not be reached for comment Friday. 

The classrooms will be spread across 7,000 square feet, Coplan said, and the school will also have access to the sanctuary, the Fireside Room and the basketball court. 

“Pastor Max is just crazy about sports and he insists that the students use the basketball hoop,” she said.  

Although Maybeck does not have any athletic programs, students attend P.E. classes. The school has an open campus which allows students to go out during lunch and free periods. St. John’s also has a skateboard ramp which is used on Wednesdays by its youth group. 

“We are not moving anybody out of the church because the school is moving in,” Coplan said. “Earlier it was 90 percent empty; that will not be the case now. After Maybeck moves in we will be maintaining the relationship we have with the non profits here but we won’t be actively seeking to lease space. Honestly I think all our rooms have been taken up by Maybeck now.” 

Wareham Shows 740 Heinz Design to ZAB 

The zoning board’s reactions to the Wareham company’s latest design for a proposed biotech institute at the site of the landmarked Copra Warehouse at 740 Heinz Ave. bordered on optimism laced with caution. 

Wareham presented the design to the board at the public meeting Thursday and is scheduled to return with a formal application in the future. Company officials said that they have submitted a formal application to the city’s planning department a few weeks ago.  

Although board members acknowledged that they preferred the latest design for the proposed lab building—which preserves the warehouse’s original facade and reflects the neighborhood architecture—more than the previous ones, they urged Chris Barglow, a partner at Wareham, and project architect Randall Dowler of Dowler-Gruman Architects to figure out a way to get a variance for the proposed project. 

Wareham will be asking the zoning board for a variance since the building’s proposed height, 72 feet, is not allowed in the neighborhood.  

Both the zoning board and the landmarks commission have criticized the design and mass of the proposed building at previous meetings. Some members of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commissions reacted favorably to Wareham’s latest design earlier this month but advised them to work on scaling back on the height. 

Barglow pointed out that the company had reduced the mass of the building to 90,000 square feet from 100,000 square feet and had kept the height at 72 feet, a decrease of almost 20 feet. He said that the building’s exterior also had a lot more brick and less glass to reflect the old industrial warehouse look so typical to the neighborhood. 

“A life sciences institute will be an asset to the City of Berkeley and the East Bay Green Corridor, but there is room for improvement,” said board member Michael Alvarez Cohen of the proposed project. 

Board member Terry Doran asked if Wareham would look into the possibility of giving some kind of community benefits to the city in exchange of a variance. 

“Is there something we could consider in the long range?” he asked. “Maybe something that would help a biology teacher at Berkeley High? Something that would benefit the city beyond the project?” 

Board chair Rick Judd acknowledged that although the new design preserved traces of the old warehouse, Wareham still had a long way to go before they could get a variance. 

“The people who wrote the West Berkeley zoning are going to think it [the height] is inappropriate,” he said. “It’s way beyond the zoning of the area. I think you need to work on that.”