Neighbors sue city over 2902 Adeline St. project

Yukun Zhang/Staff

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The 2902 Adeline Street Neighbors, an unincorporated nonprofit neighborhood association to protect low-income housing, is suing the city of Berkeley over a mixed-use construction project at its namesake address.

The city of Berkeley has approved Realtex’s project to demolish one single-family dwelling and one mixed-use building at 2902 and 2908 Adeline St. and 1946 Russell St. in order to build a six-story mixed-use building. Realtex Apartments, LLC. will be carrying out the development.

Cody Fornari, CEO of Realtex, declined to comment. The city of Berkeley could not be reached for comment.

The new building is going to have five live/work spaces and 50 dwelling units, along with 56 bicycle spaces and stacked parking for 24 vehicles. The building is allotted for four units of the 50 to be low-income housing, four more units to be very-low-income housing and one unit to be moderate-income housing.

The lawsuit states that the proposed building was approved for a density bonus by the Zoning Adjustments Board, which granted the project an increase in its size.

The author of the legislation that allows for the bonus, Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, commented that he believes the ability to preserve and promote affordable housing is very important.

The suit alleges, however, that the project violated government code “which prohibits a density bonus based on the provision of low, very low, or moderate income housing unless the Project replaces pre-existing low or very low income housing that would be lost as a result of the Project.”

The suit argues that the new building’s allotment of eight low-income units and one moderate-income unit does not properly replace the low-income housing lost and essentially harms the low-income community.

Robert Lauriston, a member of the 2902 Adeline Street Neighbors, alleges that a low-income occupant was evicted from the Russell Street property to further the project.

“(The developers) were required to replace the two five-bedroom units, but there are no five-bedroom units in the building,” Lauriston said. “The ways that the owners got rid of the tenants at the Russell Street house (was that) they doubled the rent. … I presume they were directed by Realtex to do that because Realtex wanted the house empty before they got into contract with the owners.”

In November of last year, 30 people living within 300 feet of the project (including Lauriston) appealed the Zoning Adjustments Board’s decision to the City Council that the density bonus was unlawfully granted but were denied the appeal, according to the suit. The city approved the project this May.

“We hope to get some consideration in how much these places are renting for and how large they are,” said Richie Smith, a member of Friends of Adeline. “Low-income housing is very much in demand. … I’m a senior citizen, like a number of people living in this community who are retired on fixed incomes, and we can’t afford to pay that affordable rent.”

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected]

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that all the people appealing the Berkeley Zoning Board’s decision were members of the 2902 Adeline Street Neighbors.