Flash: Harold Way Bites the Dust

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 17, 2020 - 05:44:00 PM

Berkeley Plaza, aka 2211 Harold Way, seems, this time, to be really really dead. At the last minute of the last business day before January 20, which is the Martin Luther King holiday, Berkeley planning director Timothy Burroughs replied in the negative to a letter from the attorney for HSR Properties seeking an extension to the use permit which had been granted by the City of Berkeley almost five years ago.

Three extensions had already been granted to two conditions on the use permit which originally imposed a 180-day deadline to submit a building permit application and pay all building-permit related fees promptly. The fees, which were due at the end of 2019, had not been paid.

The third extension is due to expire on Jan. 20, 2020, this Monday.

These conditions were originally imposed "to ensure that projects that receive approval from the City move forward in a timely manner to advance the goals of the City's Downtown Area Plan, which prioritizes transit-oriented development."

The DAP provided for three buildings of up to 180 feet in height. The other two are moving forward in construction, but Burroughs points out that "The condition of approval is designed to ensure that once a project gets approved, it gets built."

His letter can be seen here: -more-

Public Comment

Letter to Berkeley Planning Director Tim Burroughs re 2211 Harold Way

Erin Diehm
Thursday January 16, 2020 - 09:04:00 PM

Dear Mr. Burroughs,

I believe the entitlement for 2211 Harold Way will expire this coming Monday, January 20th. In the name of fairness, transparency and precedence I am writing to urge you to NOT grant this project yet another extension. The fourth, if I'm not mistaken - a shocking possibility. The investor has had ample time, four years, to secure funding and move ahead. Our city has been inordinately accommodating, granting three extensions already, behind closed doors and without public process or hearings. The granting of yet another, a fourth, would violate public trust and the goals of our permitting conditions, which were established to make sure projects move forward in a swift, timely fashion. To this end, I believe you stated when granting the prior, third extension:

"August 31, 2018. We are granting your extension request, but the project team will need to move swiftly to demonstrate to the City and the broader community that this third extension will result in a different result and that the project will get built consistent with City approvals."
Well, it's 16 months later. We are counting on you to honor your words. In the letter you stated that "a different result" was expected, that is, the project would move ahead quickly in 2018-2019 and there would be no more requests for an extension. And yet, here we are again. This simply must not stand.

To reiterate, in the name of precedence and fairness, I urge you to refuse any additional exceptions or extensions to this project. We've lost precious time with this investor. Granting yet another exception would amount to favoritism and essentially nullify the results of the democratic process we struggled and fought for in the community. In addition, offering yet another extension would set a very bad precedent for the future of our city, encourage other investors to request special treatment, and detract from our ability to enforce the construction of entitled housing in a timely fashion. I urge you to do the right thing. No more extensions. -more-

Harold Way: Time for Our Elected Officials to Take Another Look

Christopher Adams
Thursday January 16, 2020 - 09:02:00 PM

The current developer (i.e., the most recent owner of the development rights) of the 18-story project at 2211 Harold Way may be able to get yet another administrative extension to the planning approval to go forward with this project by January 20. The project was brought before the Landmarks Preservation Commission in December 2019, but the LPC did not take any action because it was incomplete. At that time a newly hired architect presented some cosmetic changes to the building facades that allegedly made it more in keeping with historic buildings in downtown. His presentation was not convincing for many reasons, not least because he failed to show any of the adjacent landmarked buildings in his drawings. But the bigger issues, which were brought up in public comments, had nothing to do with things that the LPC has control over.

It appears that the developer now wants to reduce the number of movie theaters promised at the time of approval from ten to six and to make other changes to the program. Downtown Berkeley is thriving, especially in the evening, with many new restaurants and bars. It was even hopping when I went downtown for dinner with my family right after Christmas when the University was completely closed. This activity certainly benefits from the number of cinema choices in downtown. I don’t know of anywhere else where this synergy is so apparent, except maybe in the Westwood area adjacent to UCLA. Reducing the number of movie theaters by 40% is a significant change that directly affects the benefits that this project was promised to bring to the city. This is sufficient reason to bring this project back for further public review. -more-

Digging Deep into Harold Way

Kelly Hammargren
Thursday January 16, 2020 - 08:42:00 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kelly Hammargren was one of the original organizers of Save the Shattuck Cinemas, and she was one of the unsuccessful plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging the project's Environmental Impact Report. This week she completed her review of more than 800 pages of the public record of the City of Berkeley's dealings with the project backers of 2211 Harold Way, which is attempting to get a fourth renewal of its use permit grant from city staffers in the City of Berkeley Planning Department before Monday, January 20.

. If you are having trouble keeping track of what is happening with the project proposed for 2211 Harold Way, here is what seems to be the latest, along with some history for context, information I acquired from making a Public Records Act (PRA) request[1] which resulted in 808 pages of communications between the City of Berkeley and the developer and developer’s representatives/agents.

The December 31, 2019 email from Joe Penner of the HSR financial firm, the current property owner and holder of the use permit which has already been approved, said:

“…The city believed that development projects are a never ending piggy bank."

Was this a ploy to get Timothy Burroughs, Director of the City of Berkeley Department of Planning and Development, to give the Harold Way project developers a fourth extension of time to get their act together? The third extension granted by Timothy Burroughs [link to Burroughs letter] expires on January 20 if the developer doesn’t pay the building permit fees.

Members of the Save Shattuck Cinemas group said all along that Harold Way developer Joseph Penner, founder of Hill Street Realty, /[2] was a speculator who would be selling the project after it was entitled (approved). Lawsuits[3] delayed the for-sale posting, but by December 31, 2016, the announcement was up on the Arbor Realty Capital Advisors website with the drawing of the project listed as 2200-2240 Shattuck Ave, not 2211 Harold Way[4] and the statement “coming soon.” While Arbor has updated its website since 2016, the Harold Way for-sale ad is can still be seen there today.

Even though the Harold Way developers won the 2016 lawsuits, the problems identified by the public through testimony at dozens of meetings and in their hundreds of letters didn’t go away. -more-

The Gaslighting of Single-Family Zoning

Bob Silvestri
Friday January 17, 2020 - 10:41:00 AM

They say we live in a post-facts world. In a post-facts world, ideology trumps scientific evidence or credible statistical data. The only thing worse are the politicians who knowingly feed this ignorance for financial gain and political power.

Most will assume that I’m referring to politics in Washington DC. But as significant as their sins against truth may be, Senators Scott Wiener, Nancy Skinner, and Mike McGuire, the co-authors of Senate Bill 50, are giving them a run for the money.

To paraphrase Rose McGowan, if b.s. was music, they’d be a brass band.

At the rollout press conference of the new and “improved” SB 50, which comes up for a vote in Sacramento on January 26th, Senators Wiener and Skinner were on hand to promote their vision of urbanism for everyone and the elimination of single-family zoning in the state of California.

The theory behind SB 50 is that if we remove all zoning and legislative impediments to development, the “market” will solve all of our state’s housing problems. This approach, they claim, will lead to more affordable housing, even though SB 50 contains no provisions whatsoever to require affordability.

Ronald Reagan and Arthur Laffer[1] would be proud.[2]

Weiner and Skinner’s dog and pony show was drowned out by an Oakland homeless group, Moms 4 Housing. The “Moms” were protesting the inevitable collateral damage from SB 50, which includes higher rents, gentrification, and the displacement of people of color.

Senator Wiener’s response was to say,

“Frankly, I don’t care how much money developers are making. That’s not my concern. I just want more housing.” -more-

Jobs: Bad News Reported as Good News

Harry Brill
Thursday January 16, 2020 - 09:09:00 PM

Even many critics of the federal government assume that the Department of Labor’s (DOL) reports on employment related issues is honest and accurate. But actually, neither is true. In fact, what the DOL often claims is good news is really bad news. According to the DOL the economy is producing more jobs, which accounts for the low unemployment rate. The assumption is that the more jobs, the better. However, “It ain’t necessarily so". In fact, it can make things worse. -more-


Supporting Workers in Gig Professions is Complicated

Becky O'Malley
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 11:36:00 AM

The law of unintended consequences is alive and well and living in Sacramento. A well-intended bill which seemed to be designed to correct inequities affecting drivers of on-demand car services like Uber and Lyft is causing an uproar among small arts production organizations among others.

An onine posting from one of the Bay Area’s excellent small-scale low budget professional production companies, Alameda’s Island City Opera, tipped me off:

“It is with a heavy heart that, due to circumstances beyond our control, we must postpone our current plans for the March 2020 production of Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers. “As of January 1, 2020 the State of California put into effect new regulations. Island City Opera (ICO), with the guidance of legal counsel, has determined that these new rules apply to ICO and present significant new administrative and financial requirements. The ICO management team is investigating exactly what is required to meet the new rules and developing a plan for the future.”
The villain is Assembly Bill 5, which was authored by California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 18th, 2019, to take effect on January 1, 2020.

Groups like Island City recruit performers from an itinerant contingent of professional actors, singers and other musicians who need to assemble a lot of different jobs to create something like a living wage. That’s where the term “gig economy” originated—jazz musicians back in the day called their engagements “gigs´. Wikipedia claims that the word originated in the 1920s and is short for “engagement”. That might just be folk etymology, but regardless of origin, this term has been adopted for all kinds of short-term work.

Some musicians and actors at some points in history have achieved the goal of steady work with the aid of Actors’ Equity and the American Federation of Musicians, but the vast majority of those who entertain us in the Bay and elsewhere must go it on their own with no union to back them up. Many go back and forth between managing productions and appearing in them. Professionals usually get small fees and they are supported by a lot of unpaid volunteers. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

Shattuck Cinemas and Downtown Still in Suspense

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 17, 2020 - 11:08:00 AM

As of 11:30 on Friday, January 17, I haven't been able to talk to anyone at Berkeley City Hall to find out if city staff are gifting HSR properties with a fourth extension on the use permit for 2211 Harold Way, which has tied up the Downtown Plan for, oh, I don't know, maybe 5 years. I'm holding up my comments on the transaction until the deal goes down, since the last window will close on January 20, but, oh dear, that's a holiday. I think today's the day, as you can see from the several Public Comments posted on the BDP front page. It's a constant source of wonder for me that Berkeley citizens know exactly what's going on but city staff pretend they don't. -more-


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Trapped Within the Invisible Walls of Mental Illness

Jack Bragen
Thursday January 16, 2020 - 09:23:00 PM

If mentally ill, many doors that most people take for granted as available are shut in our faces. Other than incarceration, which has taken on the role of de facto state mental health option, there are milder forms of unhappy restrictions to which mentally ill people are subject. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday January 17, 2020 - 10:58:00 AM

Striking a Political Pose -more-

Arts & Events

A Poetic Dialogue Between Poets and Novelistsg

John Curl and Jack Foley
Thursday January 16, 2020 - 09:14:00 PM

(Recorded 1/11/2020) -more-


The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Jan. 19-26 2020

Kelly Hammargren
Saturday January 18, 2020 - 10:42:00 AM

Worth Noting and Showing Up:

  • Tuesday: The City Council 6 pm regular meeting agenda is still very long even though the 40 items on consent should not take a lot of time. The Hot Items on action are: 5-year paving plan, 44. Establishing Outdoor Emergency Shelter, 46. Purchase order for 9 trucks.
  • Wednesday: Both the Energy Commission and the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission look worth attending, unfortunately they both are at the same time and neither are recorded.
  • Thursday: The Council Budget Committee meets and the agenda includes fiscal policy and cannabis cryptocurrency tax. The Zoning adjustment Board will review the proposed 7-story apartment building (retail ground floor) at the Touchless Carwash site.


  • The January 28 City Council meeting agenda is available for comment and follows the weekly summary of meetings. Key items: 13. Surveillance: Technology and Acquisition Reports 15. Resolution for Safe overnight RV Parking at Designated City-Owned Parking Lots
  • January 30 - Are You Prepared for the Next Power Outage, 6:30 – 8 pm, at 1606 Bonita, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, CERT trainer Sam Freeman will present seminar on alternatives to utility powered appliances and alternative power sources https://bdpnnetwork.org/event/are-you-prepared-for-the-next-power-outage/
  • February 1, Climate Disruption, Migration, and the Rise of Walls, 7-9 pm, 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, $5 admission – no one turned away for lack of funds

  • February 20, Berkeley 2020 Census Town Hall with Supervisor Keith Carson, 5:30 – 7 pm, Ed Roberts Campus
Sunday, January 19, 2019

No City meetings or events found

Monday, January 20, 2019

Martin Luther King Jr Holiday – City offices closed

Tax the Rich Rally, with music by Occupella, 4 – 5 pm at the Top of Solano in front of the Closed Oaks Theater, Rain Cancels

Tuesday, January 21, 2019 -more-

Back Stories


The Editor's Back Fence

Shattuck Cinemas and Downtown Still in Suspense 01-17-2020

Public Comment

Letter to Berkeley Planning Director Tim Burroughs re 2211 Harold Way Erin Diehm 01-16-2020

Harold Way: Time for Our Elected Officials to Take Another Look Christopher Adams 01-16-2020

Digging Deep into Harold Way Kelly Hammargren 01-16-2020

The Gaslighting of Single-Family Zoning Bob Silvestri 01-17-2020

Jobs: Bad News Reported as Good News Harry Brill 01-16-2020


Flash: Harold Way Bites the Dust Becky O'Malley 01-17-2020


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Trapped Within the Invisible Walls of Mental Illness Jack Bragen 01-16-2020

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces Gar Smith 01-17-2020

Arts & Events

A Poetic Dialogue Between Poets and Novelistsg John Curl and Jack Foley 01-16-2020

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Jan. 19-26 2020 Kelly Hammargren 01-18-2020