The Continued Saga of 2211 Harold Way
Note: Please refer to our Sixteenth eNEWS Edition for background on this project.
Excavating under the Shattuck Hotel
Since the proposed 18-story project was announced, there have been many design changes. At first, the project eliminated the Shattuck Cinemas entirely, then six theaters were added, and now the developer says there will be 10 theaters, with 651 seats as opposed to the current 10 theaters with 850 seats. This last change involves excavating under the current Shattuck Hotel Building basement along Kittredge almost to Shattuck Avenue, in addition to the deeper excavation to a depth of about four stories along Harold Way to provide underground parking, and along Allston Way where Strawberry Creek was diverted into a culvert years ago. (No one seems to know for a certainty the condition of this culvert.)
A letter from Tuan and Robinson, Structural Engineers states that the foundation for the Shattuck Hotel Building dates around 1910 and that it consists of reinforced concrete ribbed floor diaphragms, concrete beam supports, and girders with hollow clay tile in the spaces between the ribs. The letter notes that hollow clay tile is a brittle material which can crack and lose its structural integrity. This letter is the source of most of the proposed Mitigation Measures which are designed to protect the building during construction. The letter is quite clear, however, that the engineers “did not consider the effect of vibrations on the concrete culvert of Strawberry Creek that runs along Allston Way,” which is close to or within the north boundary of the proposed project. It stands to reason that this absent information must be provided to properly assess what needs to be done to protect the creek culvert, which because of age may be in poor condition and pose increased risks to other properties in the Downtown.
The site on which this project is located is also a designated, mapped liquifaction zone. Engineering reports and other information, including the Geotechnical Feasibility Report (which by its own written admission is out-of-date) have been submitted in support of the proposed building. Each has stated that changes in design requires additional confirmation. Changes in design have occurred, yet no new, updated information has been submitted, and the City has not requested that information from the developer!
Furthermore, the current proposed Mitigation Measures provide that after permits are obtained for the project, there should be an existing condition study of the Shattuck Hotel foundation to establish a baseline, and a monitoring program put in place so that if “substantial adverse impacts” are found, construction could be halted — yes, after the fact! These decisions are to be made by the developer’s consultants and at some point shared with the City’s Planning Department.
BNC maintains that City decision-makers, City Staff, commissioners, and City Council, must consider the following at all stages of approval:
- the safety of hotel guests;
- impacts of this project on the preservation of the Shattuck Hotel Building, said by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association to be the most important landmark in the City’s Downtown, and eligible for the National Registry;
- inclusion of a full complement of the existing Shattuck Cinemas as an essential component of the project. The City must NOT approve a project that includes a full component of the Cinemas only to discover after construction begins that a part or all of it just wasn’t feasible; and,
- the extent and content of significant community benefits as conditions of approval for this project.
In making these decisions, BNC recommends that a prudent course of action would be Mitigation Measures that require:
- establishing a baseline of the condition of the existing Shattuck Hotel foundation prior to the issuance of permit approvals. This should be a part of the project permit approval process in order to determine whether the full extent of the proposed work is feasible; and
- the baseline report and any monitoring information provided to the City shall be public; and
- in formulating their response, the City must seek a second, independent opinion of reports and methods being proposed. The Library Gardens Balcony collapse should serve as a “lesson-learned” regarding the value of obtaining a second, independent opinion to prevent tragic consequences.
Members on the Landmarks Preservation Commission Change
On August 13, 2015, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) held a public hearing on the issuance of a “structural alteration permit” for the 2211 Harold Street project. This action means that the LPC either says “no” to the proposed project because of its impacts on historical resources, or “yes” because they find no impacts or that the impacts outweigh the benefits brought to the community by the project. To no one’s surprise, City Staff recommended that the LPC approve the structural alteration permit, along with a list of findings and conditions, and the California Environmental Quality Act Findings and statements of overriding considerations (i.e. the City knows there are impacts but is going to ignore them) and a Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program.
The surprise came when once again, the members of the LPC had again changed. Absent was Shannon Brown, who had been serving at all previous meetings under an old appointment made by Council Member Wozniak. Council Member Droste appointed Planning Commissioner Steven Murphy — her former campaign treasurer — to replace Mr. Brown for this one meeting only. When asked by BNC why he wasn’t there, Mr. Brown explained that it had been his understanding there would be no LPC meeting in August. Then, when a meeting was suddenly scheduled, he had already made vacation plans that couldn’t be changed.
The other new appointment, Kiran Shenoy, was made by District 2 Council Member Moore. Readers might remember Mr. Shenoy from the 2012 Rent Board election in which he ran as a member of the TUFF (Tenants United for Fairness) slate. This was the slate that was heavily funded by Sid Lakireddy, President of the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association and which was fined $42,500, the second largest fine in 20 years, for violating the City’s Election Reform Act. In addition, individual candidates on that slate, like Mr. Shenoy, were fined $300 each for failing to file campaign spending reports on the in-kind support they had received from the slate mailers. Mr. Shenoy is an attorney in Emeryville, who lives in North Berkeley and who had previously served on the Police Review Commission.
Readers might also remember that on April 6, 2015, Berkeleyside posted a story that Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Rose Marie Pietras had been removed from her seat on the LPC by Mayor Bates. It was reported that Mayor Bates removed her after she had a conversation on March 2, 2015 with Calvin Fong, a staff member in his office, during which she had expressed concerns about the impact of the Harold Way project on the View from the Campanile. A few days after that conversation, a message was left on her answering machine telling her that she had been removed from the LPC because her opinion differed from that of Mayor Bates. This has been confirmed verbally by Ms. Pietras. Berkeleyside further stated that Charles Burress, another staff member in Mayor Bates’ Office, confirmed on April 3 that Mayor Bates had removed her because “their views did not align.”
Mayor Bates’ new appointee to the LPC is Kim Suczynski Smith who at her first LPC meeting on April 2, 2015 cast the fifth and deciding vote against landmarking the Campanile Way View. At that meeting and subsequent LPC meetings she is noted for never saying a word about the issues except to cast her vote. She is a lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Design and works for Pyatoc, Architectural and Urban Design in Oakland. Interestingly, Pyatoc has a Berkeley project that is currently undergoing active review. The project is at 1500 San Pablo, most recently known as McKevin Cadillac. The project involves demolishing the 1957 car dealership and replacing it with a 170 residential unit, commercial ground floor building fronting on San Pablo and is adjacent to a R-1A single-family neighborhood in the rear. The project is being proposed by Shorenstein Partners in San Francisco. It is controversial not only because of the adjacent single-family zoned neighborhood, but also because it is seeking a density bonus that significantly increases the number of residential units over what would be possible under its current zoning, is proposing parking at a rate of .8 per unit and is not being asked to include any traffic mitigation measures.
The San Pablo project was discussed by the LPC on June 4 because the building to be demolished is over 40 years old. The LPC took no action at that time, and it is unknown whether Ms. Smith was present and took part in that discussion. On August 20, 2015, the Design Review Committee held a meeting regarding design issues. The outcome is pending, but it’s a safe bet that you will be hearing more about this one before long.
Then there was the appearance of Carrie Olson, appointed by District 7 Council Member Worthington. Ms. Olson had previously served on the Landmarks Preservation Council for a number of years. After a break in service, she had now been appointed to replace Anne Wagley who had been termed out. The August 13th LPC meeting opened with a testy exchange between LPC Commissioner Paul Schwartz and John McBride, President, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA). Mr. Schwartz challenged her appointment because of her association with BAHA. Mr. McBride firmly defended Ms. Olson stating that she was meticulously following the rules and not discussing the project in any way with BAHA. Mr. Schwartz dropped his challenge.
The LPC’s Decision
More than 60 people packed the August 13, 2015 LPC meeting, causing one Commissioner to comment that it was the first time that so many people had come to a LPC meeting at the North Berkeley Senior Center requiring an expansion into a larger room.
Joseph Penner, the 2211 Harold Way sponsor, spoke as part of the project presentation. He emphasized that the project was needed to meet Berkeley’s housing crisis since our population has been increasing since 1970 and the City is averaging only around 48 new housing units per year. Members of the audience quickly noted that this information was incorrect in that the 1970 census shows a Berkeley population of 116,716 with an annual decrease every census year thereafter. In addition, Berkeley has been adding at least 82 housing units annually over this 45-year period with that number rising to around 256 more recently with a lot more yet to be counted. Also, Mr. Penner’s number does not include the thousands of students’ beds that UC Berkeley has added (and are included in the City’s population).
After the project was presented, the public had its chance. Of the more that 60 who chose to speak, more than 90 percent were opposed. They raised issues about the:
- height of the project and the accuracy of the drawings depicting that height in relation to its surroundings;
- impact of the project that is 3 times higher than the landmarked Shattuck Hotel and that literally sits in the backyard of the Hotel and looms over it;
- shadowing of the south side of the project on the northern windows of the Berkeley Public Library’
- site has never been identified as an “opportunity site” for development in the Downtown Area Plan or any other plan;
- site is located within a cluster of 14 landmarked buildings;
- lack of affordable housing in the project;
- outdated and absent engineering plans for a building located so close to the Hayward Fault and within a designated liquifaction zone;
- problems with approving such an increase in population during a declared Stage 4 Drought Crisis;
- lack of an adequate greywater recycling system;
- impact on an old sanitary sewer system that is already causing sewage overflows on the playing fields of Berkeley High School and within the school itself;
- inadequacy of the Environmental Impact Report;
- building’s capacity to meet only about 5 or 6 percent of its energy needs when new buildings will be required to meet close to zero net energy within a year or two of the completion of this project;
- uncertainty that the project will be able to accommodate all 10 theaters of the Shattuck Cinemas until after permits are issued and engineering studies performed;
- uncertainty that the amount of excavation won’t endanger the foundations of the Shattuck Hotel and place both hotel guests and the Hotel itself in danger;
- intrusion into the Campanile View;
- impact of the lighting plan at night for the building which includes up lighting; and
- need for Landmark Preservation Commissioners to do their sworn duty to protect and preserve the City’s landmarks.
One resident, concerned by the ever-changing faces of the LPC, asked the Commissioners to raise their hand IF they had read the entire Environmental Impact Report, cover to cover. Only two, Austene Hall and Carrie Olson responded by raising their hands.
After all was said and done over more than three hours, the LPC on a vote of 6 to 3 supported the staff recommendation to approve the structural alteration permit and the other documents outlined at the beginning of this article. How Commissioners voted is indicated below alongside the name of their appointer:
|Voting Yes:||Beil (Capitelli), Belser (Maio), Murphy (Droste), Schwartz (Wengraf), Shenoy (Moore), Smith (Bates)|
||Hall (Arreguin), Linvill (Anderson), Olson (Worthington)|
The motion to approve was made by Dimitri Belser who stated he was doing so because putting large buildings in the Downtown and along transportation corridors “protected” neighborhoods. Mr. Belser is well-known to his neighbors for his support of the Parker Place development in the South Shattuck area. (see eNEWS Issue 12 for more information on that controversial project.) BNC made several attempts by phone to reach out to Mr. Belser to clarify and publish his reasoning regarding how this protected neighborhoods. He did not return our phone calls.
During the August 13, LPC meeting, Commissioners Murphy, Shenoy and Smith made no comments at all.
Adeline Corridor Improvement Grant
A Little Background
In the early part of 2014, Council was talking about development on Telegraph Avenue, and part of that discussion led to the Council agreeing to shift some resources to development in South Berkeley. Apparently in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the disastrous outcome that occurred a few years ago when the City announced plans for large scale development on the Ashby BART Station Air Rights, Mayor Bates called a community meeting at the South Berkeley Senior Center in late March 2014. Council Member Anderson helped run the March meeting to announce that the City was applying for a grant to take a “comprehensive look” at the Shattuck/Adeline Corridor from Ward south to the Oakland border. Mayor Bates was quoted in Berkeleyside as saying that
the City would create an advisory body made up of stakeholders to ensure the public was heard.
On November 18, 2014, the Council unanimously approved accepting a grant from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), and the Bay Area Air Quality Management Board (BAAQMB) to create the “Adeline Corridor Specific Plan.” The grant comes from a joint program in the regional Plan Bay Area called “Focusing Our Vision” or “FOCUS.” It is for Priority Development Areas (PDAs) that have been identified by the local jurisdiction where higher density commercial and housing development could occur.
The grant application indicates the following projections for this area:
Plan Bay Area PDA population growth = 1,110
Plan Bay Area PDA household growth = 410
Plan Bay Area PDA employment growth = 980
The amount of the grant is $750,000. It requires a local match of $102,273 (about 12%). The local match includes the cost of one new Principal Planner for 30 months to manage the project plus a portion of existing staff time. Council was advised that the City will “meet or exceed the required local match.” The funds to pay for this new staff member will come from the Permit Service Center Fund 833 which are Community Planning Fees collected for issued permits.
Grant money will be used to pay for a consultant for about 2.5 years starting in January 2015 and ending in June 2017. The consultant is MIG whose website indicates it is a woman-owned firm with headquarters in Berkeley at 800 Hearst Ave, and offices in Fullerton, Menlo Park, Pasadena, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego and Sonoma in California, Eugene and Portland in Oregon, and Raleigh, North Carolina, Pleasantville, New York and Denver, Colorado.
August 29, 2015
The planning effort kicked-off at the beginning of 2015, and several meetings have been held since then, basically around information/input gathering. The Saturday, September 29, 2015, billed as a Community Visioning Workshop, was held at the Harriet Tubman Terrace facility on Adeline Street. Approximately 160 people attended. After the City and Consultants made their presentation, attendees were divided into 12 break-out groups that reported back to the reassembled meeting.
Participants were enthusiastic, very verbal, neighborhood focused and concerned about affordable housing with many being in favor of a moratorium on development of any kind until the planning effort is finished. Below is a summary of how the break out groups saw the issues:
- Group No. 1 concerns:
- Social and economic diversity.
- Increase in affordable housing.
- Local social services.
- Moratorium on Development for 18 months.
- Increase safety in the area.
- Group No. 2 concerns:
- Preserve historical access.
- Make Adeline corridor a destination place.
- Make Adeline a bicycle corridor.
- Open space and parks — green space.
- Provide local employment.
- Provide shuttle service
- Use vacant spaces
- Community control over city processes.
- Bring back coop financing to support local business start-ups.
- Public art
- Clean-up the corridor now.
- Street round-about problems in the area need to be revisited and studied.
- Group No. 3 concerns:
- Make a culture and arts area with no cars.
- Moratorium on development.
- Affordable housing for low income families.
- Use city owned property for development.
- UC is not providing the necessary housing for their students.
- Group 4 concerns:
- Housing for low to medium income households.
- Narrow Adeline Street.
- African Health issues.
- Public open space.
- Close Adeline Street.
- Bring back the Bay Area flea market to what it was.
- No high rises in the corridor.
- Day light — no high rises.
- Group No. 5 concerns:
- Housing for low income families.
- Moratorium on development.
- Strength zoning laws.
- Adequate parking in new developments.
- Define detriment.
- Have an art community connection.
- Re-model the South Community Church and other historic structures.
- Group 6 concerns:
- Concerns about displacement of residents.
- Affordable housing needs.
- Conflict of interest laws need to be enacted.
- Affordable housing financing.
- Public participation in projects beyond the “1 minute” given to citizens now.
- Open space for the public.
- Social services.
- Group No. 7 concerns:
- Community-based services.
- Local owned businesses.
- Maintain the local history of the neighborhoods.
- Moratorium on development.
- Costa-Hawkins — how to replace affordable housing.
- Group No. 8 concerns:
- Open space for the public.
- Inter- generationalism of the area. Keeping families together.
- Public art to be included.
- Maintain history of the area.
- Economic development for small neighborhood businesses.
- Group No. 9 concerns:
- A mixed income community.
- Use of public spaces.
- Transportation issues — pedestrians and bicycles.
- More density along corridor.
- More local businesses.
- Flexible use of roof tops.
- Safety. An Affordable user friendly city so we know what can be done.
- Group 10 concerns:
- Affordable housing.
- Limit development to 4 — 6 stories.
- Narrow Adeline Street for neighborhood use.
- Development to attract local businesses.
- Other issues are the same as those above.
- Group 11 concerns:
- Definition of affordable housing.
- Open space.
- Narrow Adeline Street.
- Close Adeline to make more open space.
- Preserve historical character of the neighborhoods.
- Provide one central place where people can gather.
- Health clinic in the neighborhood.
- Group 12 concerns:
- All of the above.
- Stop gentrification of the area.
- Preserve the historic diversity of the neighborhoods.
- Affordable housing — 10 groups
- Moratorium on development — 5 groups
- Arts and culture considerations — 5 groups
- Open space and parks — 7 groups
- Preservation of Historic neighborhoods — 6 groups
- Provide for local businesses and employment — 6 groups
- Narrow Adeline Street — 4 groups
- Transportation — walking and bicycling improvements — 4 groups
- Close Adeline street — 3 groups
The fact that the same issues were cited by different groups gives an indication of the neighborhoods desires. The question is will the plan that emerges reflect these concerns accurately? If past planning efforts in South Berkeley are a gauge of what is to come, the answer is probably no!
Toward the close of the meeting, Max Anderson, District 3 Council Member, spoke to the audience and told them that unless the current development on and around the Adeline Corridor is stopped, this process will be useless and will destroy the efforts of the community to have reasonable outcomes. He went on to thank the large turnout for their concerns and efforts to make their neighborhood what they want it to be.
After the morning meeting the City had a “POP Up” exhibit outside on the street to simulate what different configurations might look like, particularly a bike lane to narrow Adeline.
One thing that concerns us right now is the difference in the maps showing the area that is included in this planning process. Compare the map below which was distributed at the meeting with the one at the beginning of this article. They show different areas.
Stay tuned — there will be lots more to come.