It took a week of intense negotiations, with Councilmember Laurie Capitelli moving back and forth between developer Jim Hart and neighbors of his proposed five-story mixed-use project at Harrison Street and San Pablo Avenue, for the two sides to come to what appears will be a compromise agreement.
“It’s a good project the neighbors want to see it built,” said Prakash Pinto, project neighbor and architect, speaking to the Daily Planet after a special meeting of the Berkeley City Council on Monday.
Neighbors had appealed the zoning board’s approval of the project, saying it was too high and too dense for the neighborhood.
The agreement will be formalized only after neighbors sign off on the final drawings of Hart’s development. The project will be discussed again at next Tuesday’s regular council meeting.
Hart compromised with the Harrison and San Pablo appellants by reducing the building by three units to 27 and increasing parking by 9 spaces. He also rescinded a letter whose conditions would have made it very difficult for the council to deny the project.
Neighbors had wanted to tie traffic control measures to their approval of the project, but City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque said traffic control measures had to be considered separately.
“State law says we have to do an environmental review,” Albuquerque said, arguing that the city and not the developer is charged with traffic control.
“I can make the case that the diverters are related (to the project); the two issues are combined,” Pinto said.
Hart’s attorney, Rena Rickles, called for the council to take a half-hour break so that Hart’s architect and the appellants could go over the new sketches.
“Every time we walk away from the table, we get multiple changes,” Rickles argued.
But Pinto said he wanted to see the formal plans so that there would be “no misinterpretation.”
All finally agreed that final plans will be ready by Friday and all the 13 neighbors who signed the appeal would sign off on the plans before the next council meeting.
“We have to put it on the fastest track we can put it on,” Councilmember Max Anderson said.