Fire-ravaged apartment building on Haste Street to be demolished

Fikre-selam Habebo/Staff

A partial demolition of the Haste Street apartment building destroyed by a fire last Friday could begin as soon as this week.

After the fire, the building — located at 2441 Haste St. on the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue — was deemed structurally unsound and at risk of collapse, forcing the city to block off the surrounding area to pedestrian and car traffic. Now, the lower stories of the building will be braced by support beams, while some of the walls of the upper stories will be removed in order to make the building safer for nearby residences and pedestrians, according to Gil Dong, deputy fire chief for Berkeley Fire Department.

Dong said he expects the safety improvements to be completed by Dec. 5.

Though normal permit processes can take anywhere from several weeks to months, Dong said the building’s contractor was given an expedited permit that was approved Wednesday in order to address the glaring safety issues of the hazardous building. The Berkeley Fire Department verified

Wednesday that all 68 tenants who lived in the 39-unit building are accounted for and safe, according to the city’s website.

Dong said there has been frequent communication with the owners of the building, Kenneth and Greg Ent, since the night of the fire — Nov. 18 — especially about what needs to be done to follow the building’s safety protocol.

Neither Kenneth Ent nor Greg Ent could be reached for comment.

In its current condition, the building is structurally unsound and has the potential to collapse from anything, such as a minor earthquake, since there are no interconnecting beams holding the walls in place, Dong said.

Several neighboring areas have been blocked off until the building is secured, including the streets around Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street, as well as Thai Noodle II and the apartment building immediately next door, 2435 Haste St.

Even after the building is made secure, it will not be habitable until after remodeling, since there is currently no roof and no electricity. Reoccupying or living in the building is an extremely expensive remodel, which will take a longer period of time to accomplish, if done at all, Dong said.

He added that it is unclear whether the owner or his insurance will pay the demolition costs.