On July 21, The Daily Californian reported that the Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board was considering the possible construction of a six-story building as an addition to Telegraph Avenue at Dwight Way. Although local business owners registered legitimate concerns about this undertaking, The Daily Californian is in favor of the construction of this building.
Telegraph Avenue is historic, colorful and homely. The city of Berkeley has mounted several efforts to clean it, light it and attract business to it. No small effort with balloons tied to it is going to be enough to improve the image of a street that is still dotted with burned-out buildings and darkened storefronts. The initial period of construction will be noisy and ugly, but these are only the growing pains of improvement. For this trouble, local businesses can expect improved foot traffic and better curb appeal in the neighborhood.
The creation of housing is utterly critical in Berkeley. Students and low-income workers have few options near campus, and many are pushed out toward the waterfront or into Oakland. If builder Panoramic Interests makes good on its offer to allocate 10 percent of the space of the building to lower-income residents, that could provide housing to many who might not otherwise find it in the immediate campus area. Adding more housing to an impacted market can help control rents and stem the panic of searching for an apartment in Berkeley.
We have some concerns regarding the project. We would like to be assured that the target date of July 2016 is actually feasible and that current residents will not be subjected to interminable inconvenience. We would like to be sure that the remaining 90 percent of the units in the building not earmarked for low-income residents are not all luxury apartments available only to those capable of paying above-market rent. Berkeley needs development of affordable housing above all other things; this building could help set a tone for that.
Telegraph can frankly use any help it can get. Despite its old-Berkeley charm and Michael Chabon and Childish Gambino street cred, it is an area of the city that makes students and citizens feel unsafe after dark and detracts from businesses that doggedly hold on to operating there. A large, modern housing development could help turn things around on this one-way street.