Berkeley considering 6-story student-housing building on Telegraph Avenue

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Kira Walker/Staff

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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board is considering construction for a six-story building to be built on Telegraph Avenue, which has drawn controversy from community members who argue that the “monstrosity” of the new building will obstruct views for surrounding neighbors.

Proposed by Patrick Kennedy, a developer for Berkeley-based development company Panoramic Interests, the six-story building is planned to feature about 65 units with an eight-car parking garage. The building — primarily targeted as student housing — will be situated on 2539 Telegraph Ave. and allocate approximately 10 percent of its units to low-income students.

The building will replace the former site for the Center for Independent Living, a center that provides assistance to people with disabilities. The center has moved elsewhere.

“The commercial district there could use new blood, new residents, new businesses,” Kennedy said, adding that he hopes construction of the housing project will begin a new “development boom” on the street.

Planning for the building started in January, he said. Kennedy chose the location of the housing project because of its proximity to campus, transit and, overall, “western civilization.”

Constructing new units would require approval by the Zoning Adjustments Board, with larger buildings requiring the approval of the Design Review Committee, according to board commissioner Igor Tregub.

Kennedy said he hopes the new construction will pave the rejuvenation of Telegraph Avenue, despite having faced “spirited opposition” from community members when he presented the proposal to the board two weeks ago.

“It’s going to be horrible for our business,” said Jan Stahl, whose daughter owns Charlotte’s Web, a clothing boutique near the proposed six-story housing project. “(Customers are) not going to want to go through a construction zone. It’s going to be a big mess.”

Stahl, who attended the zoning board meeting July 10, recalled the public’s adamant opposition to the development of the apartment building. Community members voiced concerns that construction of the new building would block their views and create new parking concerns.

“The poor people who live behind (the apartments) are going to have this monstrosity,” Stahl said.

But not all neighbors feel negatively about the proposed building. The new building will be “good for community,” said Alishia Beaty, an employee of Sway on Telegraph. Commissioners from the zoning board, though, echoed neighbors’ concerns that the building’s height and density could create problems for the community.

Titled “The Independent,” the building is estimated to be completed by July of 2016. The next step for the project is drafting an environmental impact report, which considers the building’s potential environmental impacts and possible mitigation, according to Tregub.

“A new beginning for Telegraph is long overdue and should be welcome by everyone in the community,” Kennedy said.

Contact Lydia Tuan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @tuanlydia.