Petitions reflect community concerns about Harold Way development project

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Two petitions express community concerns about the construction of a proposed 18-story mixed-use building in Downtown Berkeley, which petitioners say would block the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Campanile Way and may force the Habitot Children’s Museum to shut down.

The property, which would comprise more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space and a 171-space parking garage at 2211 Harold Way, is proposed to be constructed at the museum’s current site. At 180 feet tall, the building would partially obstruct the view of the San Francisco Bay from Campanile Way, which runs from the base of the Campanile to the Valley Life Sciences Building.

As of Wednesday, the petition to recognize the museum as a community benefit had more than 600 signatures, and the petition to maintain the unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Campanile Way had more than 3,300 signatures.

“This view has stood for over 100 years, and I want to preserve it for the next 100 years to come,” said UC Berkeley junior Alex Smith, who created the petition to save the Golden Gate view from Campanile Way.

In the petition addressed to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Mayor Tom Bates and eight City Council members, Smith said substantial development could occur in Downtown Berkeley without “obstructing and privatizing the irreplaceable public view.”

Smith drew inspiration from retired UC Berkeley staff member Steve Finacom, who petitioned to landmark the view from Campanile Way earlier this year. His application to landmark Campanile Way was voted down by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in April.

“I want to save something that’s public — that’s been there ever since the campus has been built,” Finacom said. “It’s not an issue of stopping the construction of the entire building, because the size of the building could be changed.”

Habitot Children’s Museum is also petitioning City Council members to recognize the museum as a community benefit that would receive financial support from the developer.

“If the project is approved, Habitot will be forced to move, and we will have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars just to operate a children’s museum in a new location,” said Gina Moreland, the museum’s executive director.  “Beyond that, Habitot will have to raise millions of dollars from the community to recreate what we have today.”

Habitot Children’s Museum provides family-oriented activities and resources — including a drop-in art studio, hands-on exhibits and classes for children and their parents.

John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said the project creates a welcoming place for people to live in Downtown and creates a vibrant urban core.

“It’s a terrific project. It revitalizes a drab and dreary part of town,” Caner said. “We think this is really an important project for Downtown Berkeley.”

The proposed project was discussed at the city’s community benefits town hall meeting Tuesday night, but no actions were taken, Smith said.

Contact Cassie Ippaso at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @cassippaso.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the Landmarks Preservation Commission as the Landmarks Preservation Committee.

A previous version of this article also stated that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has already approved the Harold Way project. In fact, the commission has not.