Berkeley Tenants and the students of the ASUC filed an appeal last summer to stop the demolition of 18 rent-controlled units on Durant. Berkeley’s City Council finally heard the appeal on December 1st, but just sent the decision back to the Zoning Board with instructions for the volunteer board to pay close attention to several issues in the appeal as well as a lengthy economic report submitted by the Rent Board.
Both the ASUC and BTU had dozens of speakers present to highlight various aspects of the problem, and emphasize that this would be a far-reaching policy decision for the Council, not just about this one project. The Council seemed particularly swayed by a letter from a former student tenant. But in the end, there wasn’t even that much deliberation, and no decision, just a remand.
On the one hand, BTU is pleased that the Council did not uphold approval of the project, because this would be the first time in history that our city would agree that a developer can’t make a profit by rehabilitating an older building instead of tearing it down. On the other hand, it would be nice to see our elected leaders stand up for affordable student housing. BTU had hoped the Council might chastise the developer for encouraging damage to his own building in order to claim he could not afford to fix it.
It is not yet known when the ZAB (Zoning Board) will hear the appeal. In the meantime, the 4×4 Committee, which is where the Rent Board meets with the City Council, discussed changes to allow more demolitions while protecting tenants and creating affordable housing.
“In approving the demolition permit, the ZAB agreed with the owner’s financial projections that it could not make a fair rate of return on its investment if it were to rehabilitate the building in its existing configuration — a notion contested by Pamela Webster, Lisa Stephens and Matthew Lewis in an appeal on behalf of the Associated Students of the University of California. The trio noted, moreover, that the owner allowed the building to deteriorate by keeping it vacant and inviting the Berkeley Fire Department to do training exercises there in late 2014, which involved cutting holes in the roof.…
Dozens of speakers warned that upholding the demolition permit would set a dangerous precedent. They warned that it would encourage landlords to pay exorbitant prices for rent-controlled buildings and let them go to waste while expecting the city to guarantee them a good return by allowing them to tear down the buildings and build larger ones with market-rate apartments.”
For More About the Demolition Ordinance:
Zoning Board Approved Kennedy Bait-and-Switch
A while ago, infamous Berkeley developer Patrick Kennedy (Panoramic) got approval for a residential hotel which was to house folks making less than 120% of area median. The other day, Zoning allowed him to change the project to tiny studio apartments (300 square feet) with no parking. Kennedy will make two of the 22 units at 2711 Shattuck affordable to 120% AMI, and two affordable to folks making 50% of Area Median Income. The other 18 will be market rate. Commissioner Denise Pinkerton was particularly vocal, condemning other ZAB members for calling for more affordable units.