The city Zoning Adjustments Board approved a use permit Thursday for a proposed mixed-use building on Telegraph Avenue after an extensive period of public comment regarding the project’s accessibility and its role in the revitalization of the Telegraph Avenue neighborhood.
The project would include a six-story building at 2539 Telegraph Ave., which is the former location of the Center for Independent Living, an organization that provides disability services to residents of the city and surrounding areas. Once completed, the new building will feature 70 residential units, a commercial floor area and some automobile and bike parking spaces.
Because the Center for Independent Living is the nation’s first consumer-operated self-help service delivery agency for individuals with disabilities, the building site is marked as a historical resource under the California Environmental Quality Act.
The developers have been working closely with the center to acknowledge its founding legacy, according to Patrick Kennedy, a developer from Panoramic Interests, the property owner.
During an extensive public comment period, several disabled Berkeley residents spoke in support of the project’s accessibility — the building will include five accessible units with accommodations, including roll-in showers and elevator kickplates.
Several noted that they have struggled to find affordable, accessible housing in the past and would welcome this development into the neighborhood. Dina Velasquez, a disabled mother of two, explained in front of the board that she was almost forced to move out of Berkeley because of the lack of accessible housing options large enough to accommodate her growing family.
According to Kennedy, this particular housing project aims to create “affordability by design” by constructing simple units “without frills.” he hopes that the affordability and proximity to campus will also cater to students’ needs.
Igor Tregub, a commissioner of the board, said the major source of contention among the public arises from whether the developer made adequate mitigations to address its concerns, such as issues of privacy with immediate neighbors.
Overall, Tregub said, the board heard from a balanced number of residents speaking for and against the project.
“I’m hopeful that we can work something out to mitigate the effect on our neighbors,” Kennedy said. “You have to weigh the concerns of someone who says a four-story building will ruin his life with someone who cannot find accessible housing for a growing family.”