The owner of this parking lot at 1414 University Ave. does not want adjacent businesses using it. She sent a construction crew to erect a fence on Wednesday. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

The owner of the building at 1414 University Ave. attempted to install a fence Tuesday along the parking lot that she gained exclusive rights to in a contentious lawsuit last year. The fence would have blocked off access from the lot into a string of businesses known as Strawberry Walk.

Employees of Strawberry Walk, which borders the parking lot, arrived at work to find a contractor drilling holes in front of their sidewalk in preparation to install a 5-foot diamond-link fence. A Strawberry Walk tenant alerted the building’s landlord, Cecile Isaacs, who came to the site and asked the worker to show her his construction permit. When he said he didn’t have a building permit, Isaacs asked him to stop construction and called the city.

“The police woman on the beat came by and agreed that that was the right thing to do,” Isaacs said. “She asked the construction manager not to do any more work until he had a permit that he could show to anyone that requested it.”

Construction workers filled holes they had drilled earlier after admitting they didn’t have a permit. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
Construction workers filled holes they had drilled earlier after admitting they didn’t have a permit. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

The construction workers re-filled the holes they had drilled and left the site.

The fence would restrict handicap access to the parking lot, Isaacs said.

“When we were waiting for a construction update this morning, one person came by on crutches and another person came by with a walker,” she said. “It’s the traditional way that people navigate safely through the parking lot to the Savers store.”

Palo Alto’s Berkeley Bazaar Partnerships (BBP), owner of the building that has housed Savers Thrift Store since November, won exclusive rights to the parking lot last summer. BBP’s tenants had previously shared the lot with Isaacs’ for years. Isaacs argued unsuccessfully in court that prescriptive easement — rights to a property due to continued use — should have granted her tenants the rights to the lot.

BBP could not be reached to comment on the fence, but partner Joyce Yamagiwa said in October, “Parking is critical for a retail business, so we have taken action to secure the parking for use by our tenants.”

The manager and CEO of Savers, a national chain, have both said they are happy to share the lot and did not request the fence.

Savers manager Craig Gains said BBP emailed him last week to tell him they would begin building the fence sometime this week. Gains alerted the Strawberry Walk tenants that he had received the email.

“We do things to be good neighbors,” Gains said. “I have no say in what the property manager does.”

When BBP first began visiting the site to make plans for a fence shortly before Savers’ opening in November, Savers CEO Ken Alterman said, “I don’t know what’s to be gained from that.”

Gains said people who are not affiliated with Savers do continue to park illegally in the lot, but it doesn’t bother him.

“I’m a spectator like everyone else,” he said.

Excitement and concern mark opening of Savers Thrift (11.15.13)
Neighbors angry at parking restrictions at old Andronico’s (10.01.13)
Ace Hardware will not move to old Andronico’s space (09.18.12)
Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses (07.13.13)
Andronico’s to shutter University Avenue store (10.17.11)
Andronico’s and A.G. Ferrari saved from the brink (10.12.11)
Andronico’s files for bankruptcy (08.22.11)
Andronico’s plans recapitalization with new lenders and investors (05.25.11)
Four Berkeley Andronico’s face difficult conditions (05.24.11)
A.G. Ferrari closes Berkeley store, company bankrupt (04.05.11)

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Natalie Orenstein

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...