Public Comment

Harold Way โ€” Has It Been Flipped Yet?

Gale Garcia
Friday September 22, 2017 - 11:26:00 AM

I keep hearing the rumor that the proposed project called 2211 Harold Way may have found a new buyer. The current owner, HSR Berkeley Investments LLC, successfully sought permits to build 18 stories and 302 apartments sprouting from the back of the iconic Shattuck Hotel. Several people warned that the applicant was a flipper, not a builder. Sure enough, as soon as a legal challenge concluded, HSR put the property on the market as a fully-entitled development site. 

But exactly what does this "development site" consist of? When HSR bought the property in 2012, it did not purchase a separate piece of land โ€” it purchased two out of three interconnected commercial condominiums comprising an existing five-story building that contains the Shattuck Hotel, Landmark Shattuck Cinemas and other commercial ventures. 

The condominium conversion of this historic building took place in 1996, when the building was partitioned in a truly bizarre manner. According to the condo conversion documents filed at the Alameda County Recorder's Office, the Shattuck Hotel is one condominium, consisting of the hotel lobby and restaurant on the first floor of the building and all the hotel rooms on the second to fifth floors. The remaining two parcels owned by HSR comprise the rest of the building, including the storefronts on Shattuck Avenue, which were built in 1910 and 1913, as well as most of the basements under them. 

Thus the Hotel and the "development site" are under separate ownership, but are connected in an exquisitely complicated fashion. 

Because a liquefaction hazard zone runs beneath the oldest portions of the building, owning the basements and foundations under the Shattuck Avenue storefronts, and therefore under many of the hotel rooms, might lead to liability problems in the event of an earthquake, particularly if massive and protracted construction happens next to and under the Hotel for an 18-story tower and four floors of underground parking. 

If the rumor is true and a deal is in the works, we should soon learn about HSR's successful attempt to flip this site. Then we shall see if this improbable project actually ever gets built.