Litigation About Berkeley Building Begins

Becky O'Malley
Friday April 15, 2016 - 04:48:00 PM

People have been asking me what happened to the challenge to the project planned for 2211 Harold Way in Berkeley, on the site of the Shattuck Hotel: 300 market-rate apartments that would be built as an 18-story building on the part of the site now occupied by the Landmark Shattuck Cinemas, which would be displaced for several years and might never return.

The short answer is that it’s still in the works, but the lawsuit filed by two solo plaintiffs (“pro per”) has started winding its way through the courts.

Today was the first public appearance of the combatants in the court of Judge Frank Roesch, a Berkeley resident with a substantial record of hearing cases under the California Environmental Quality Act. Petitioner Kelly Hammargren had requested an October hearing date, but Judge Roesch turned her down, mentioning newish CEQA requirements to get these cases tried as fast as possible. The other petitioner, also present today, is James Hendry.  

Now Hammargren hopes to retain an experienced CEQA lawyer to represent her in the lawsuit, partly because she’s experiencing health problems that will make pro per representation more difficult than expected. In the courtroom was CEQA attorney Mark Wolfe, there to learn what his schedule would need to be if and when he took the case.  

Her opponents were Berkeley City Attorney Zach Cowen and representatives of the advocacy firm headed by Mark Rhoades and an attorney representing the developer, from the politically powerful Manatt firm. They of course would like the matter finished as soon as possible so they can commence demolition and construction.  

The litigants had a couple of quick meetings in the hall outside the courtroom at Judge Roesch’s request to try and choose a mutually acceptable hearing date, but failed to agree. He offered them three dates in August, but finally just set an August 26 date on his own initiative. This will require opening briefs to be submitted by July 8.  

Present in the courtroom were about a dozen supporters of the petitioners, several from Landmark Legal Action, an ad hoc committee which has been formed to help with research and fundraising for legal expenses and fees. I’m a member--if you’d like to join, email me at bomalley@berkeleydailyplanet.com and I’ll give you contact details as soon as they are available. Please put “LLA” in the subject line so your letter doesn’t get lost in my email.