After attempting to develop 1900 Fourth St. for more than four years, West Berkeley Investors, or WBI, ultimately decided to not develop the site Aug. 23.
This decision comes on the heels of the city of Berkeley’s second rejection of WBI’s proposed project for 1900 Fourth St. WBI previously argued that the site qualified for SB 35, a state bill that expedites developments by curtailing city laws if the proposed project contains 50 percent affordable housing, as first reported by Berkeleyside.
A letter dated Aug. 23 from the site’s property owners, Ruegg & Ellsworth and Frank Spenger Company, stated that West Berkeley Investors gave the development rights back to them.
“With the execution and recordation of the deed, all right, title, and interest WBI and its agent Rhoades Planning Group had in the property returned to Ruegg & Ellsworth and Frank Spenger Company,” the letter said.
In the letter, Ruegg & Ellsworth also stated its intent to take over all development rights, “including any rights associated with the pending Applications.”
For the Ohlone tribe, 1900 Fourth St. — dubbed West Berkeley Shellmound by the tribe — is sacred land, and tribe members have repeatedly opposed development of the site. WBI has said otherwise, citing maps included in the site’s Environmental Impact Report that show the site was historically underwater and thus uninhabitable.
According to Corrina Gould, co-founder of Indian People Organizing for Change and a descendant of the Ohlone tribe, the newer city of Berkeley map includes 1900 Fourth St. in West Berkeley Shellmound. Gould added that maps do not define whether or not a site is sacred.
“For the developers, it might just be a piece of land,”Gould told The Daily Californian in a previous interview. “But for us, it is a place where we pray and honor.”