Student housing may come to Telegraph Avenue lot after decadeslong vacancy

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Amanda Ramirez/Staff

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A Telegraph Avenue property owner is moving forward with plans for a residential building — potentially to be used for student housing — on an empty lot that has stood vacant for more than 20 years.

The lot’s owner, Ken Sarachan, was granted a permit to build the proposed residential structure in February 2017, and submitted a request to modify the permit on May 4. The modification would allow for about 12 more bedrooms to be added to the existing plans for the structure, according to Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

The proposed building includes group living accommodations, Worthington said. UC Berkeley and Sarachan are currently discussing the possibility of leasing space in the new development for student housing, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

“At this point, however, no lease agreement has been signed,” Mogulof said.

The proposed building has been on the table for “well over five years,” according to Marc Weinstein, co-founder of Amoeba Music and owner of Hi Fidelity, both of which are on the corner of Haste and Telegraph in addition to the empty lot. Worthington said he persuaded the city council to sue Sarachan in 2012 to push him to develop the site.

“That lot has generated more noise complaints, trash complaints and rat complaints than any other spot in my district,” Worthington said.

Weinstein said there have been more than four proposed buildings over the past 30 years for the lot.

In the 1990s, the lot was known as “People’s Park Annex” and was filled with people living there illegally, according to Weinstein. He added that the lot has remained empty since the original building burned down nearly 30 years ago.

In regard to the lack of development on the lot, Weinstein said, “It’s like a tooth is missing in the front of your face for years. … Considering how long it’s been, I think all of the business owners would love to see something built there, no matter what it is.”

The corner of Haste and Telegraph has seen major renovations in recent years — a vacant building owned by Sarachan was revitalized with the opening of Mad Monk Center for Anachronistic Media in 2016, the Sequoia apartment complex reopened in February 2016 after burning down in November 2011, and Hi Fidelity, a marijuana dispensary, opened in May 2018.

“This corner is really coming to life,” Worthington said. “If we can build housing on this other corner of the intersection, that would be great to get rid of that blighted, empty lot.”

Sarachan could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Contact Anjali Shrivastava at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anjalii_shrivas.