On Thursday evening, the Zoning Adjustments Board convened to discuss a potential development project near the intersection of Adeline Street and Ashby Avenue. The project would involve the demolition of Flacos, a popular vegan Mexican restaurant.
At the meeting, the project’s architect as well as the property owner heard input from ZAB and community members before the Design Review Committee critiques the building’s plans next Thursday.
Moshe Dinar, the architect, has drawn up plans for a five-story mixed-use building at 3031 Adeline St., across the street from Ashby BART.
Dinar first approached the city with a proposal for the property in 2014, but did not pursue it further until December 2016, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.
The proposed building would include 42 residential units, 38 parking spaces and about 4300 square feet of commercial space. Berkeley development standards, however, allow buildings to have a maximum height of three stories. Dinar is seeking permits to exceed this height, as well as permits related to parking and setbacks from the sidewalk.
At the meeting, ZAB members expressed their reluctance to allow the additional two stories if the complex only allows two units of affordable housing, as Dinar proposed at the meeting. ZAB member John Selawsky said he would like to see as many as 10 units of affordable housing in the complex, adding that two seemed “like an insult” to the community.
Board members also disagreed with Dinar’s plans for parking and sidewalk setbacks. ZAB member Patrick Sheahan suggested building an underground parking lot to make room for more units. Because the complex is across the street from BART, ZAB member Carrie Olson suggested removing parking altogether.
In addition, 3031 Adeline St. sits next to the Hull Undertaking building, which has been dedicated a historic landmark. ZAB members, including Teresa Clarke, said they would like to see the building set further from the sidewalk so passerby have a better view of the historic building.
Almost no mention was made of the restaurant Flacos at the meeting, although Dinar suggested that the restaurant could occupy some of the space on the first floor of the complex.
“(It) depends on the terms,” Flacos’ owner, Antonio Magana, told the East Bay Times. Magana added that he wants to continue serving affordable food that is not “$30 a plate.”
Eric Martinez, a Flacos employee, said he thinks the demolition should not happen.
“People keep coming in here saying ‘you’re not gonna close, are you?’ ” Martinez said. “And we’re like, ‘we can’t control it.’”
Community members had mixed reactions to Dinar’s proposal. Alex Sharenko praised the architects’ willingness to work with the community and said it is “embarrassing and anachronistic” that Berkeley zoning does not automatically allow for high-density apartment complexes.
Many residents of the area, however, disagreed.
Mina Caulfield and Richie Smith, residents of South Berkeley, pointed out at the meeting that Berkeley recently received a $750,000 planning grant to work with locals on the Adeline Corridor, on which the proposed apartment complex is located. The Adeline Corridor Project involves working with locals to determine how to best redevelop their neighborhood and will be complete by 2018. Caulfield and Smith criticized ZAB for considering the proposed complex before then.
Caulfield, who lives directly behind the proposed development, also said at the meeting she was concerned about residents of the new complex staring into her house over their balconies.
Nancy Lake, an employee at Jack’s Antiques who helps run the Adeline/Ashby Merchants Association, said she supports development in the area if it is done well, but thinks the new building is “not in keeping architecturally with the existing neighborhood.”
Berkeley resident Lisa Cooper said she heard a form of redlining, or racial discrimination, when members of ZAB suggested during the meeting that they would be open to the idea of the project’s units providing middle-income, not low-income, housing.
“The whole neighborhood would be overshadowed by a structure like this,” Caulfield said.