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ZAB Hears Wright’s Garage Debate

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday February 13, 2007

The Zoning Adjustments Board closed the public hearing for Wright’s Garage on Thursday and continued the matter to March 8. 

Applicant John Gordon of Gordon Commercial had requested a use permit to convert an existing commercial building at 2629-2635 Ashby Ave. (the Wright’s Garage Building) into a multi-tenant commercial building on January 25.  

City staff is working with the applicant to address parking concerns raised at previous meetings by area residents.  

Some residents are worried that a large-scale full-service restaurant at the proposed building—currently zoned for a car repair shop—would exacerbate parking and traffic problems in the neighborhood. 

Apart from the restaurant, the proposed commercial building would also house retail and a yoga center. The building, which was bought and is being renovated by Gordon, is bordered on two sides by private homes.  

Gordon has met with the Claremont-Elmwood Neigh-borhood Association, Willard Neighborhood Association, Bateman Neighborhood Association and the Elmwood Merchants Group to address concerns related to parking, noise and traffic. 

Board members have asked Gordon as well as the community to think of creative solutions—valet parking was one idea mentioned—to help mitigate parking problems. 


Other matters 

• Berkeley resident Steve Wollmer informed the board that on behalf of Neighbors for a Livable Berkeley Way, he had appealed ZAB’s decision to grant permits to Hudson McDonald for their mixed-use project on 1885 University Ave.—known as the Trader Joe’s project—to the Berkeley City Council on Feb. 2. 

The project—which received opposition from area residents—appeared before ZAB nine times and the Design Review Commission (DRC) five times respectively before being finally approved on Jan. 1.  

Wollmer said the project fails to conform to state affordable housing law, is larger than the zoning allows, hampers the surrounding neighborhood, causes increased traffic and parking problems in the area and sets a dangerous precedent for the city by granting density bonus units reserved by state law for affordable housing to subsidize a commercial use. The appeal will be heard by the City Council in March. 

• The board continued the request for a use permit by Meskerem Tsegaye to increase alcohol service of the Ethiopian Restaurant on 2953-2955 Telegraph Ave. by adding service of distilled spirits to existing service of beer and wine, and by increasing operating hours from 8 a.m.-12 a.m. daily to 8 a.m.-2 a.m. daily to March 22. 

Staff told the ZAB they were working with the applicant on the project and that the she might withdraw her request. 

• The board approved a request for a use permit by Timothy Carter to demolish an existing dwelling at 837 Bancroft Way and build a two-unit building with three stories, 4,372 square feet floor area and two parking spaces, on a 4,996 square foot lot. 

• The board approved a request for a use permit by Rani Ranade of Toby Long Design to construct a new three-story, 2,486 square foot duplex with two spaces on a 6.750 square foot lot at 1522 Fairview St., that already contains a residential duplex. 

• A request for a use permit by Adam Block to construct a new commercial building totaling 11,249 square feet on a previously undeveloped lot at 1331 Seventh St. was also approved. 

• The board continued the request for a use permit by Bruce Kelly to construct a new two-story single-family dwelling with 1,460 square feet of floor area, two parking spaces, at an average height of 24 feet, on a 3,295 square foot vacant lot at 161 Panoramic Way. 

• The board elected Rick Judd as the new vice chair of the ZAB. Judd replaced board member Dave Blake—who will step down from ZAB in July—as vice chair.