City Zoning Adjustments Board discusses new development project at 2211 Harold Way

Benjamin Shenouda/File

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The Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board decided at its Thursday meeting to delay certification of the environmental impact report, or EIR, for the construction of a new 18-story mixed-use building in Downtown Berkeley.

The property, which is proposed to be located at 2211 Harold Way, comprises 302 residential units, a six-theater cinema, more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space and a 171-space parking garage. The project was proposed to the city in 2012 and must request a series of permits from the city before the building’s construction.

The EIR is a document that provides information about a project’s possible environmental impacts, ways to minimize them and possible alternatives to the project.

During the meeting, the board decided to postpone certification of the EIR because of the lack of time after the public comment period.

The building would be 180 feet tall. Under the city’s Downtown area plan, only three buildings of such height are allowed in a certain area of Downtown.

John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said he is “very supportive of the project,” especially given the influx of new residents that he expects will come to Berkeley in the next few years. It is important, Caner said, that there are more residential units to meet the increasing demand for housing and to also help decrease rental costs by increasing the supply of units.

The project, however, has come under considerable opposition. According to its EIR, the project will “partially obscure views of the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island, and the Golden Gate from the base of UC Berkeley’s Campanile and Campanile Way.” This issue has inspired a petition trying to prevent obstruction of the view, which has now garnered more than 1,800 signatures.

In addition, the construction may have to demolish the Shattuck Cinemas, and the site is proposed to be located close to Berkeley High School, prompting concern about noise levels and pollution from the site.

Supporters of the project, however, said that any inconvenience from the construction would be only temporary. Caner also added that the proposed building would be constructed in a lot that is heavily “underutilized” and that the location is ideal given its proximity to the Downtown Berkeley BART station and other facilities.

During the meeting, a majority of the public comments were against approval of the EIR. Many pointed to what was described as an insufficient analysis of the potential environmental impacts and the community benefits of the project, as well as what was called the inadequate discussion of possible alternatives.

Although the board did not officially vote on the EIR, some members voiced concerns about the document. Board member Igor Tregub said he would not “support approving anything until there is a robust discussion and analysis of any impacts and mitigations.”

The next board meeting is scheduled to take place May 14.

Contact Natchapol Praditpetchara at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @natchapolp.

Correction(s):
A previous version of the headline attached this article misstated the name of the Zoning Adjustments Board.