18-story Berkeley high-rise project faces disapproval at Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting

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Developers continued to face disapproval from community members over the planning of a Downtown mixed-use building during a Thursday meeting of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, or LPC.

The commission reviewed the final environmental impact report and the design alternatives recommended by the city’s Design Review Committee for the 18-story building proposed for 2211 Harold Way. The project, which would include 302 residential units and movie theaters, is one of the high-rises permitted under the Downtown development policies approved by Berkeley City Council in 2012.

If approved by the LPC, the project will demolish and alter the currently landmarked site on Kittredge Street and Harold Way, adjacent to the Hotel Shattuck Plaza, which is considered to be a significant landmark in Berkeley.

The commission decided to continue the discussion at the next meeting because of opposing comments from the public, some commissioners’ concerns about the mass scale and safety of the project, the effects on Hotel Shattuck Plaza during construction and the project’s design features.

“The environmental impact report is so deficient. … There are so many things missing,” said LPC chair Austene Hall. “There’s still tons of work to be done in this project.“

Community members, including some from Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and Save Shattuck Cinemas, have continuously expressed concerns during many commission and City Council meetings about the project’s location in the historical district among other landmarks, including the post office and the public library.

The community members also spoke about the building partially blocking the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Campanile Way, which was stated to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

At the meeting, residents and several commissioners pointed out that the location was not identified as an opportunity site for the project in the 2012 Downtown Area Plan.

Mark Rhoades, former city planning manager and consultant for the Harold Way project, stressed that the project will not change any features of the hotel and said the proposed building will be a “beautiful backdrop.” He also said that more requirements and the delay of approval will lead to the implausibility of development projects and cause housing shortages in the area.

“We need to build a whole lot more housing — luxury housing, affordable housing and in-middle housing — to scratch the surface of the city’s demand, and we started to do so in the last few years,” Rhoades said.

The project’s application was submitted in February 2013, the environmental impact report was certified June 25 and the project is now awaiting approval from the LPC and City Council. The council will vote on a resolution to determine significant community benefits — a system for the city to capture value from developments more than 75 feet tall — at its regular meeting Tuesday.

The LPC will continue the discussion at a special August 13 meeting to talk over the approval of the project.

Contact Yuka Koshino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @YukaKoshino.