City Council defers voting on ‘mini-dorm’ construction permit

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Cesar Ruiz/Staff

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At its Tuesday meeting, Berkeley City Council deferred voting on the construction of two proposed “mini-dorm” duplexes, pending further review by the Zoning Adjustment Board, or ZAB, of newly submitted construction plans.

The ZAB had denied use permits July 24 for construction of the duplexes, which are located at 2204 Dwight Way and 2201-2205 Blake St. behind the Berkeley historic landmark Alfred Bartlett Houses. ZAB reports said the projects would “be detrimental to the City and to adjacent residences,” citing increased trash, noise pollution, insufficient parking and an impact on neighborhood peace due to an increase of residents. An appeal, filed Aug. 12, was discussed by the council Tuesday.

This agenda item was continued from the Jan. 13 special meeting. Tuesday’s vote was ultimately deferred in light of new plans submitted to the city Feb. 5, which address concerns regarding the driveway from the garage, home ownership of units and usability of the buildings’ open spaces, among other things.

Community members who attended the meeting expressed concerns about the potential construction of these “mini-dorms,” which are residence hall-style units in privately owned houses designed primarily for students.

“I live in a duplex, and it’s a prime house for being converted into a mini-dorm,” said Linda Locke, a resident in the area who spoke during public comment. “Not only are the mini-dorms increasing density, vehicles, the traffic, the trash … but (they are) also a threat to me,” alleging that in 2009, landlords threatened to kick her out of her duplex to convert the building into a mini-dorm.

The Dwight Way site proposal includes a three-story duplex, and the Blake Street site proposal includes a two-story duplex, a single-story building and an underground parking garage with six parking spaces.

Project architect Jeremiah Tolbert, who spoke at the meeting on behalf of the project, said that the new plans for the projects met zoning ordinance requirements and that increased noise and trash would be “behavioral issues.”

The Blake Street site proposal would add nine bedrooms to an existing 13 on the property, with additional spaces that could potentially be used as bedrooms. Both the residents of the proposed 2204 Dwight Way and Blake Street duplexes would use the six-car subterranean parking garage at the Blake Street site.

City Councilmember Max Anderson said he was in favor of upholding the July ZAB decision, calling the projects “an assault on this community and its integrity.”

“While it puts a lot of money in the pockets of the developer, it certainly doesn’t do anything for the community,” Anderson said.

Former city planning manager and land development consultant Mark Rhoades said during public comment that the lack of housing in Berkeley warrants the construction of the buildings and garage.

“We have a housing crisis in Berkeley,” Rhoades said. “Let’s get some housing in Berkeley so people aren’t continuing to look in vain for really terrible places to live.”

The next ZAB meeting will be held Feb. 26.

Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks and Anna Sturla at [email protected].

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  • powerbus

    “Let’s get some housing in Berkeley so people aren’t continuing to look in vain for really terrible places to live.”

    Translation: why should they look in vain when we can build them really terrible places to live.