Construction finishes on tallest building in Berkeley in 50 years

photo of a building
Nick Quinlan/Staff
A hoped-for outcome of the completed Mariott is a reduction in rent prices, according to the vice chair of Berkeley's Rent Stabilization Board.

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The tallest building built in the city in half of a century has completed construction: a 331-room Marriott hotel on Center Street in Downtown Berkeley.

Opening to its first batch of guests this Friday, the Residence Inn is now Berkeley’s fourth-tallest building. Soli Alpert, the vice chair of Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board, said that ultimately, the hotel’s completion could deflate rent costs in Berkeley.

“I want it to act as an alternative to Airbnbs, ” Alpert said. “When somebody puts their apartment up for short-term rentals, it takes a property off the market for people in the area, which obviously makes what’s left more expensive.”

Legislation regulating Airbnb use is extremely labor intensive and difficult to enforce, according to Alpert. Alpert added that Airbnb is a “300-pound gorilla in the room,” and alleged it is particularly intensive on lobbying the opposition of legislation targeted toward its business.

Alpert believes the addition of this hotel will allow the city to open a new discussion about regulating Airbnb and other companies that take long-term housing options off of the market.

He added that to help fund the Marriott’s construction, the city put in place a temporary hotel tax relief plan, allowing it to put in place a number of labor contingencies.

“The waiver of the hotel tax is basically the city giving the project money. Part of the deal includes a labor division; that means all the jobs at the hotel will be unionized,” Alpert said. “The hotel industry, in particular, is a space where a lot of worker abuse happens. Having the union prevents the epidemic of sexual harassment that is so commonplace elsewhere.”

Contact Jack Hughes at [email protected].