Zoning Adjustments Board reviews plans to develop vacant lot on Telegraph Avenue

Kirk Peterson/Courtesy
The western view of the building.

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After decades of conflict, the development of the vacant lot on the east side of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue has cleared another hurdle toward completion.

In the most recent efforts to develop the property at 2501 Haste St., the Zoning Adjustments Board reviewed at its Dec. 12 meeting the drafts for a proposed mixed-use building to be built on the site, giving mostly positive comments and some suggestions to improve the outside appearance of the building.

Since a fire in 1986 destroyed the Berkeley Inn, which once was located on the property, the plot — down the street from Rasputin Music — has remained unoccupied.

“The empty lot has had a major negative impact on Telegraph,” said Roland Peterson, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District. “(It) has definitely been a psychological barrier.”

Peterson added that he hopes the construction of the new building will eliminate the barrier by reconnecting the north and south sides of Telegraph Avenue and add to the distinctive feel of the area.

Over the past several years, the city of Berkeley has pressured Ken Sarachan, the owner of Rasputin Music on Telegraph Avenue, who acquired the site in 1994, to develop the property.

In early 2012, the city filed a lawsuit against Sarachan and gave him two choices: either submit plans to develop the site or face legal action. Sarachan chose to develop.

After Sarachan hired an architect to design a building that would expand over both the vacant lot and the property he owns adjacent to it, Berkeley City Council dropped the lawsuit last October. The council also waived the nearly $641,000 in lien and other charges Sarachan owed, with the condition that he continues to adhere to specified deadlines for the development of the plot.

The current draft of the building consists of six floors, with the bottom floor designed to be for commercial use and the upper floors for residential use. The building is modeled in a Mediterranean style with Moorish stylistic elements, according to the building’s architect, Kirk Peterson.

Sarachan could not be reached for comment.

According to planning director Eric Angstadt, the design now has to be reviewed by the city’s Design Review Committee and by ZAB. After modifications to the design are complete, ZAB will have to take a final vote on the design and, if approved, issue building permits, which Angstadt estimates could take anywhere from six to eight months.

Peterson added that construction could begin in 2015, but it depends on when the building permits are issued.

“Increasing the viability of Telegraph is important to the city,” said city spokesperson Matthai Chakko. “We want Telegraph Avenue to succeed, and we do whatever we can to make it happen.”

Michelaina Johnson covers city news. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MichelainaJohns.