City Council supports changes to Parker Place development project

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Berkeley City Council moved Tuesday to support modifications to the Parker Place development project in Downtown Berkeley.

The project site, which is currently occupied by an auto dealership, is located at the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Parker Street. Developers hope to modify the site by inserting a second story without increasing the height of the building at 2600 Shattuck Ave., opening courtyards and constructing offices, health clubs and recreational studios.

The modifications grant developers the option of installing rental units, not just condominiums, throughout the project to meet affordable housing requirements.

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said it does not matter whether the developers choose condominiums or rental units — improving access to affordable housing is the main goal.

“This project helps to expand our market,” Capitelli said. “It helps to prevent our rents from increasing as rapidly as they have been.”

The developer, Lennar Multifamily Communities, plans to increase the number of parking spaces by 100, exceeding the zoning requirement, according to the staff report. Some Zoning Adjustments Board members were concerned with such a large surplus of spaces but ultimately deferred the decision to the project planner to use his discretion.

In April, the developer filed an application for a use permit to modify an already approved mixed-use development project, which was originally approved by City Council in January 2012. The Zoning Adjustments Board reviewed and approved the application in July.

In August, Christopher Lien filed an appeal on behalf of Berkeley resident Carl Word about the zoning board’s decision. In the letter, neighbors felt that the decision was inconsistent with controlling zoning standards and that the project might have adverse environmental impacts on the surrounding community.

City Council held a public hearing Tuesday before voting on whether to appeal the board’s decision. After a public hearing, City Council moved to dismiss the appeal on a substitute motion and uphold the board’s decision, with one abstention from Councilmember Max Anderson.

During the public hearing, some residents raised ongoing concerns about increased traffic.

“There were promises made. We were told that this would minimize additional traffic,” Word, who spoke during public comment, said. “But with these modifications, there are 100 more cars coming to my block.”

But Capitelli said all the parking spaces can be accessed through Shattuck Avenue instead of the neighborhood, which alleviates the traffic problem.

Berkeley resident Tim Frank, who rides his bike past the location two to four times a week, encouraged the progress of the project.

“What we have is an opportunity here,” Frank said during public comment. “There is desperately needed housing there, and adding mixed usage will improve sustainability of that neighborhood and make that immediate area more walkable.”

Staff writer Suhauna Hussain contributed to this report.

Bo Kovitz covers city news. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @beau_etc.