To the Editor:
Over the past several months, the proposed multi-use project at 2700 San Pablo Ave. has gone through the normal review processes required by the Zoning Ordinance. There has been substantial public input and as a long time neighbor (Ninth and Grayson Streets) and an on-going advocate for renewal of the southern end of San Pablo Avenue I would like to add my two cents.
I have lived and raised a family in Berkeley for about forty years, fifteen of those at my present location in the southwest corner of town, two blocks west of San Pablo Avenue. I have witnessed with concern some urban decay but have been encouraged as well by the gradual revitalization of parts of San Pablo Avenue such as at Dwight Way. Now there is a chance to encourage that same kind of rebirth farther to the south with this proposed project of residential units over street level commercial space.
The primary criticisms of the project have been that it's much too dense for the neighborhood, that it will bring increased traffic, will disrupt bay views and will overshadow nearby residences. These criticisms from local residents are largely misdirected and unwarranted.
The proposed mixed-use is certainly denser than the current use as a long abandoned gas station. However, I believe this increased level of density is being proposed for precisely where it belongs, on a wide, major arterial like San Pablo rather than on a small neighborhood street. This project is not too dense but should in fact become the standard to emulate in the future for San Pablo Avenue's long ignored southern end.
There will not be a canyon of apartment buildings created by a long string of similar developments as suggested by opponents because there simply isn't a long string of contiguous parcels available for purchase and development.
The need for pedestrian traffic is clearly essential for the success of street level businesses and what better source than local residents. We all would welcome more, smaller independent stores in Berkeley rather than larger chain stores as has been expressed so often by so many citizens at all levels (private and official) and in all venues. The typical needs of a neighborhood like markets, bookstores, cafes, medical or dental offices, etc. end up appearing where there are people.
In addition, the already existing local businesses will benefit from the increase in local population.
The height of the building is roughly the same as similar, local projects, successfully built on University Avenue, Shattuck Avenue at Hearst and in nearby Emeryville opposite the Home Depot to name a few. Because those projects are on very wide avenues, as is San Pablo, there is no sense of over-shadowing and they are on relatively flat land with few, if any, views of the bay to be disrupted.
The perceived height for this project has been reduced by moving the uppermost floor back away from the street facade of the building and by providing more space between the building and adjacent homes.
Please consider the future of all of Berkeley by encouraging the start of some meaningful development at this end of San Pablo.