Zoning board discusses community benefits of contentious Downtown Berkeley development

Tim Hyon/Staff

Related Posts

The community benefits of a contentious 18-story mixed use project were discussed during a Zoning Adjustment Board study session Thursday night, though no action was taken.

The 2211 Harold Way development — which has sparked controversy in the community since last year — proposed nearly $27.7 million in community benefits, though the required amount to the city under Berkeley City Council’s direction is approximately $13.5 million.

“I appreciate that the City Council recognizes the sovereignty of ZAB to make its decision about whether a project — any project for that matter — as a sum total is a benefit to the community or a detriment to the community,” said Commissioner Igor Tregub. “And for tall buildings, a significant community benefits package is part of that equation.”

As part of its proposed community benefits package, according to a memorandum from Rhoades Planning Group — the applicant of the project — the development could pay $100 per square foot for rentable residential square footage in the building between the height of 75 and 120 feet, and $150 per square foot for rentable residential square footage between 121 and 180 feet.

The package would be in accordance with a City Council guiding principles resolution, which provides direction for what kinds of community benefits buildings taller than 75 feet, such as 2211 Harold Way, should offer.

The fees would generate more than $13.5 million in community benefits for the city, according to the memorandum.

The project also proposes a theater complex valued at more than $17 million, a union labor agreement valued at $10 million and an additional payment to the city of $350,000, $250,000 of which the project recommends go to Habitot, a children’s museum that will have to relocate due to construction.

Some commissioners, along with a few individuals who spoke during public comment, voiced concern that the development is not providing enough affordable housing.

“It is important to note also that local government is barred from requiring a property owner to maintain or keep particular tenants or uses on a piece of privately owned property,” the memorandum stated.

Questions were also raised over whether the theater complex encompassed in the project qualifies as a community benefit, though a couple of public commenters praised the project for being sustainable.

Following the study session, a sustainable urban farm and quick-service restaurant were granted permits during the ZAB regular meeting.

Urban Adamah, a sustainable agricultural organization inspired by Jewish belief, according to its website, will develop on more than two acres at 1151 Sixth St, while restaurant Berkeley Public will combine with an existing basement-level bar and restaurant at 2516 Durant Ave.

The ZAB will reconvene for their next meeting Oct. 8.

Senior staff writer Melissa Wen contributed to this report. 

Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks is the lead business and economy reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ayoonhendricks.