1935 Addison Street, Avi Nevo

A new 69-unit building, with 7,240 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, has been approved by the city’s zoning board for construction on Addison Street.

The six-story 60-foot-tall building is the latest development by property owner Avi Nevo, who has developed numerous projects in Berkeley over the last 17 years, including Telegraph Gardens across from Whole Foods.

“I’ve been building projects in Berkeley since long before it became so popular,” Nevo told the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board in late June.

The Addison Street project, at 1931-1935 Addison (between Milvia and MLK Jr. Way), is set to take the place of two garages on adjacent parcels. A basement-level parking lot will include spaces for nine vehicles and 48 bicycles. There are 25 fewer spaces planned than the number required by city code, so Nevo will pay in-lieu fees — ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 per spot, for a total of $525,000 — to the city to compensate. All residents will receive a free transit pass for bus use, as required by city code. (City policy allows developers to choose to either build parking on site or pay the in-lieu fee.)

According to the staff report on the project, the city does not expect the project to cause parking problems in the neighborhood: “The abundance of bicycle parking, the provision of transit passes, the ineligibility for RPPs (residential parking permits), as well as the project’s proximity to public transit, jobs, goods and services, and the University, will help reduce car ownership and help ensure that parking demand does not exceed the project’s parking supply.”

The project also includes two outdoor courts above the garage level, private balconies on the fifth and sixth floors, and a rooftop deck and laundry facilities. Nevo said he’d like to create some kind of art annex in the ground-floor retail space, given the high concentration of art spaces in the area.

Ten studio apartments, five one-bedroom units, 53 two-bedroom units and one three-bedroom unit are planned. Ten percent of the units, a total of seven, will be affordable to very low income households — those earning 50 percent of the area median income. Nevo is not taking the “density bonus,” which would have allowed him to build a taller building.

The two garages that are slated to be demolished date back to 1931 and 1925, but the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission determined that neither are of historic value.

Local leasing agent John Gordon, who owns the property directly north of the 1931-1935 Addison, wrote a letter in support of the project, noting that he’d met multiple times with Nevo and his architect, and that they had made changes to the project that would lessen the impact on his property.

“Under our agreement the building’s northwest corner and the top level which presented the biggest shadow impact was set back approx. 14 feet from the property line for the top two levels which would reduce the project shadow impact on my property,” he wrote. “In addition the roof parapet was removed and revised to an eave to further reduce the impact.”

During the public comment period at the June 27 zoning board meeting, three residents who work near the proposed project site raised concerns about the project’s potential impacts on sunlight, noise and parking. Two of them asked the zoning board to slow down the process and allow more time for review and mediation.

Addison Street: before and after the proposed project. Click the image to see more before-and-after views. Image: Rony
Addison Street: before and after the proposed project. Click the image to see more, and larger, before-and-after views. Image: Rony Rolnizky

Project architect Rony Rolnizky said the resistance took him by surprise, as he and Nevo had received no negative feedback previously from neighbors during the community meeting they had held, or otherwise.

Commissioner Bob Allen said he thought the project would be a positive addition to downtown Berkeley: “This group has built what I consider the best apartments in Berkeley. They’re handsome buildings. They work very well.”

He went on to note, as did other commissioners, that the Downtown Area Plan’s approach to parking — which includes relatively few required spaces, and the option of paying fees into a fund that would allow the city to build its own parking garages rather than requiring parking on-site — may cause problems for the city in the future.

“I think we’re nuts to have this small parking requirement in downtown,” he said. “But hopefully we’ll figure it out sooner rather than later so, if we need to do it, the city can change it.”

In response to concerns expressed by members of the public, Allen went on to say that the Addison Street project is a sign of what’s to come based on the vision of the downtown plan: “This is what downtown’s going to be. We’re not going to be limiting the heights of buildings by what’s there now. It is going to be a much more dense downtown.”

Commissioner George Williams said the project, which complies in all respects with the city code, is “exactly what was envisioned in the downtown plan.” He added that he didn’t see parking being an issue, as members of the “younger generation” are “more interested in a lively street life and less likely to own cars.”

Commissioner Igor Tregub said he was sympathetic to the neighbors’ concerns and proposed a continuance to allow further study, but his motion failed due to lack of support.

An appeal dated July 16 and signed by 29 people has been filed, which would require City Council review of the Addison Street project. The appellants — including the East Bay Media Center — have asked for a traffic analysis and more information about future shadowing impacts, as well as for the project height to be dropped to four stories.

City’s largest apartment building ever gets go-ahead (07.11.13)
‘The Durant’ apartments win approval from City Council (06.27.13)
Developers put theaters back into high-rise plans (06.26.13)
Early high-rise plans lack inspiration, say commissioners (03.19.13)
Berkeley zoning board approves 78-unit Durant (03.15.13)
New building proposed for Sequoia site on Telegraph Ave. (02.27.13)
1,000 new apartments planned for downtown Berkeley (02.07.13)
First high-rise in 40 years planned for downtown Berkeley (12.21.12)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...