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Drayage Demolition Moves Forward; ZAB OKs Bus Yard, Condos

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday December 19, 2006

A marathon Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) session Thursday ended with approvals for two major housing projects, new bus yard, a new home for Freight & Salvage and demolition of the Drayage. 

Besides their approval of the 183-apartment Trader Joe’s project, ZAB gave the nod to the 24-condo-over-commercial five-story project at 2701 Shattuck Ave. and the Berkeley Unified School District’s new bus yard at 1325 Sixth St. 

Members also praised another mixed-use project during their first look at a building planned for 2747 San Pablo Ave. that will include 41 condos, including two live/work units, and a commercial space. 


Drayage vote 

By a 5-1-2 vote, the board approved the request by Aquatic Park Enterprises LLC to demolish the 19,400-square-foot vacant warehouse at 651 Addison. 

Jesse Arreguin cast the sole dissenting vote, while colleagues Sara Shumer and Dave Blake abstained. 

The structure, once known as the Drayage, had housed the homes and shops of an eclectic group of Berkeley artists who found themselves threatened with eviction a year and a half after inspections by the city building and fire departments. 

After waging a long and ultimately unsuccessful struggle to save their illegally handcrafted dwellings constructed and equipped without the requisite permits, the remaining tenants accepted settlements last year.  

Developers Chris Hudson and Evan McDonald are planning a new project at the 651 Addison St. site, which is directly across the Union Pacific tracks from a block-square housing-over-commercial project ZAB approved earlier in the year. 

A last-minute addition requested by planner Greg Powell inserted the finding that the structure was unsafe, a fire hazard and a public nuisance, and “unsuitable for uses compatible with the district.” 

At no time during the brief discussion before the vote was the word “Drayage” mentioned. 

While Arreguin asked for a condition to be included that any new project include live/work units, developer representative Sean McKinney said, “Before there weren’t any live/work units, so we aren’t taking any away”—a statement that may conform to the official record but not to the reality. 


Bus yard 

Despite the pleas of neighbors worried about increased pollution, noise and traffic, ZAB members voted unanimous approval of the Berkeley Unified School District’s (BUSD) proposal to build a bus depot with office and classroom space at 1325 Sixth St. 

The new facility would unite functions now housed at three different sites in the city and would feature a 4,094-square-foot office and classroom building, a 6,553-square-foot mechanical shop and a washing station along with 32 slots for bus parking and 37 car spaces. 

BUSD Facilities Director Lew Jones said the district had devoted long effort to exploring alternative sites, but in the end found that the site at Sixth and Gilman streets was the only suitable location in the city. 

Eight neighbors spoke in opposition, including Joe Matera, who owns a commercial building directly across Gilman from the site and said he was representing five businesses who had hoped to see commercial development on a key site on a street that the mayor has proposed for increased commercial use. 

But most of the neighbors, like Ann Armstrong and Tracy Mills, said they were concerned about the effects of increased diesel emissions on their families. 

Jones said the district is increasingly reliant on the less-polluting biodiesel—which it buys from the city—and is now replacing its four oldest buses with new models that are run cleaner and more efficiently. 

Former BUSD board member Terry Doran, who was filling in for the absent Raudel Wilson, made his own plea for the project before voting with the others for its approval. 


Shattuck condos 

ZAB gave the green light to the 2701 Shattuck Ave. condo over retail project, with Arreguin dissenting because he felt the structure should have been restricted to the four floors prescribed in the South Shattuck Plan rather than the five the board ultimately approved. 

The project, which is being developed by the family of Rev. Gordon Choyce, will be the first to take advantage of the city’s new inclusionary fee, which allows developers to pay a fee to the city in lieu of building units reserved for lower-income tenants and buyers. 

Senior Planner Greg Powell said the developers will pay the fee for the 4.8 units they would otherwise have had to sell at reduced prices.  

The proposed fee allows developers to sell the units at market rates in exchange for paying a fee that amounts to 62.5 percent of the difference between the mandated inclusionary price—now a maximum of three times 120 percent of the area’s median income—and the market rate price. 


San Pablo plans 

The board had nothing but praise for the four-story condo project proposed for 2747 San Pablo Ave. by David Mayeri and Laura Billings. 

Presented as a preview for the board before the permit process begins, the project incorporates green materials and design along solar panels on the roof and concealed in the San Pablo Avenue frontage. 

Bob Allen and Sara Shumer, often at loggerheads on other issues, both said they admired the design—especially the rear of the building where the structure is stepped down and broken up to better meld with the houses across Tenth Street. 

The developer is also including eight inclusionary units for sale at 80 percent of the area median income and planned for only 39 units instead of the 52 permitted by city codes