5-story building approved in South Berkeley

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The city of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board, or ZAB, approved a new five-story building at 2701 Shattuck Ave. in South Berkeley on Nov. 8.

The project, which has come before the board in different forms since 2001, will be a 62-foot building with 57 dwelling units and a 600-square-foot café on the ground floor.

Five of these units will be very low-income, or VLI, units, which qualifies the project for a density bonus of 15 units because of the California State Density Bonus Law.

The developer, BayRock Multifamily, LLC, will also pay about $1 million to the Berkeley Housing Trust Fund, which pools money to develop and preserve below-market-rate housing for low-income households across the city.

“A lot of the units are smaller than average units, which means they can be provided at discounted rents relative to what larger units demand,” said Charles Kahn, ZAB commissioner. He described the project as “affordability by design.”

In order to receive approval, the building’s design underwent minor changes — including removing parking spaces — after it failed approval by ZAB in July.

At the ZAB meeting, community members pushed back against the design’s height and density. Many four- to six-story buildings tend to be built next to single-family homes in Berkeley’s major corridors, which can impact smaller homes, according to Kahn.

In response to complaints that the development would be too large, Kahn said the board was limited by the state Density Bonus Law but that ZAB was “quite successful” in mitigating impacts.

The site will feature a building with three two-level townhouses, 46 studios, six one-bedroom units and two one-bedroom units. The project will also include an outdoor seating area for the café, public art integrated into the building facade and planter-beds.

“We’re going to improve the public open space,” said Stuart Gruendl, CEO of BayRock Multifamily, LLC. “We’re going to have a dramatic outdoor seating area flanked by the express bus to San Francisco, … basically a public plaza — another community benefit.”

Contact Katherine Kemp at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @katherinekemp.