Student housing may come to vacant Telegraph lot

Ariel Hayat/File

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Negotiations are underway between the campus and a Telegraph Avenue property owner to build student housing on a lot that has stood vacant for more than 20 years.

According to Christine Shaff, communications director for the campus’s facilities services, discussions between the two parties are continuing over the plans for the development of commercial property and student housing at 2501 Haste St.

Ken Sarachan, who owns the lot along with numerous other Telegraph properties, including Rasputin Music, Blondie’s Pizza and T-Shirt Orgy, confirmed that he is speaking with the campus’s real estate division about options for the corner property. Sarachan said his plan is to develop the lot.

“This particular lot generates more rat complaints, noise complaints and trash complaints than any other address in my district,” said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “Getting something built to fix (its) blighted condition would be an incredible thing.”

Though the lot has stood vacant for decades, Sarachan is now making moves to break ground. According to Worthington, this decision could be in part due to a 2012 lawsuit the city issued against Sarachan. The suit, which would have either allowed the city to auction off the lot or forced Sarachan to pay more than $640,000 in lien and other charges, was dropped in 2013 on the condition that Sarachan begin building and adhering to city deadlines.

The proposed development was confirmed by Sarachan to be a six-story, Moorish-style, mixed retail and residential structure designed by architect Kirk Peterson.

The planned clearing of surrounding properties, including a 25-cent store and a parking lot, as well as the relocation of Woolley House, a historical property, has paved the way for a major development project, according to Roland Peterson, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District. He said anything put on the property would be an improvement for other businesses on Telegraph because pedestrians tend to avoid walking past vacant lots.

The possibility of increased student housing close to campus is an exciting one for Worthington, who said the first thing his student constituents talk to him about is high rent in the Berkeley area.

“Based on the people I’ve talked to, I think we need at least another 1,200 beds on campus,” he said.

Both Sarachan and Shaff said that though discussions are underway, negotiations are by no means finalized. Worthington said if no action is taken on the property soon, the city should consider using a process called eminent domain — seizing the private property for public use in exchange for what the city deems fair compensation.

“Optimally it’s bought and turned into student housing, but we shouldn’t wait … years to do something with it,” Worthington said.

Contact Kate Wolffe at [email protected].