New high-rise on Shattuck Avenue may obstruct Bay view from Campanile Way

City of Berkeley/Courtesy

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A proposed 18-story high-rise on Shattuck Avenue could potentially obstruct the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Berkeley’s Campanile Way.

The project would place a new apartment complex above the Walgreens located at 2190 Shattuck Ave. next to the Downtown Berkeley BART station. Although the project, put forth by developer Mill Creek Residential, is still in its early stages, there is already conflict over the details. The primary community concern is that the building would pollute the historic view from the base of the Campanile on campus and its accompanying path, Campanile Way.

The proposed building is set to contain 274 housing units, with 55 units reserved for affordable housing. The ground floor would feature a commercial and retail area, potentially including the Walgreens that would be relocated during the construction process.

This important project is a great vision to address our incredible need for more housing in Berkeley and our region,” said Jason Overman, Mill Creek Residential spokesperson, in an email. “(The building’s) transit-oriented location at BART will make it a vibrant addition to Berkeley and contribute significantly towards affordable housing and environmental sustainability.”

The location is directly in the view corridor, or line of sight, of the Golden Gate Bridge from Campanile Way, and it is substantially taller than other buildings in the corridor.

What is now Campanile Way was conceived in the 1860s by Frederick Law Olmsted, the ‘Father of Landscape Architecture,’ who designed the campus for the College of California (before the UC system was created),” said Steven Finacom, president of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, in an email. “(Olmsted) emphasized the campus should be oriented to face the views of the Bay and the Golden Gate.”

According to Policy UD-31 of the Berkeley General Plan, the city’s guide for public decision-making, “construction should avoid blocking significant views, especially ones toward the Bay, the hills, and significant landmarks such as the Campanile, Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz Island.”

Finacom filed an unsuccessful application with community support in 2015 to make Campanile Way a city landmark, which would give it official protections by the city. According to Finacom, the application will be revived, amended and resubmitted this fall.

“I understand the historical significance and why people are concerned about it, but at the same time, progress, especially down in Berkeley, shouldn’t be necessarily halted,” said campus student J.T. Karis.

According to Finacom, the lower levels of the building would have about 20 apartments per floor but only six larger apartments in the upper levels. Finacom described the situation as not a fight against building on the site, but rather against the height of the proposed project.

It’s a sensible location, and hundreds of apartments could go there. The fundamental problem is that this specific building is too tall. If it were shorter, problem solved,” Finacom said in the email.

Contact Phil Zhang at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @philzhangDC.