A rendering of Shorenstein Properties’ proposed complex. This would be the view from San Pablo Avenue at Jones Street. Image: Pyatok Architects
A rendering of Shorenstein Properties’ proposed complex. This would be the view from San Pablo Avenue at Jones Street. Image: Pyatok Architects

One of the region’s biggest developers has set its sights on Berkeley and is proposing to build a 5-story, 170-unit mixed-use complex at 1500 San Pablo Ave.

Shorenstein Properties is developing the 1.65-acre-site that covers most of a square block and is bounded by San Pablo Avenue to the east, Jones Street to the north, 10th Street to the west, and is near Hopkins. The land, long owned by Michael McNevin, once served as the home of McNevin Cadillac and is now the service department of Berkeley Honda.

The complex, which would be just a short walk to Acme Bread, Bartavelle Café, and the Kermit Lynch wine shop, will be a mix of two-and-a-half-bedroom townhouses, two-bedroom apartments, one-bedroom, junior one-bedroom, and studio apartments. The average unit size would be more than 800 square feet, according to documents submitted to the city, and should appeal to singles, professionals, couples, families, and retirees. The building will also have space for either offices or retail. The developer is including applications for permits for a restaurant with a bar, a café, and outdoor eating space.

Shorenstein Partners is asking for a 35% state density bonus for the project in exchange for adding more affordable housing units. Under the proposed plan, the complex would have 16 of the units available to very low-income households, defined as people with incomes not exceeding 50% of the median income of $44,250.

The project would have 10.03% of its units affordable, which is more than required by law, according to the documents submitted to the city.

See the proposal for the apartment complex.

Shorenstein wants to build 33 garage spaces for the commercial units and 128 spaces for the residential units, which is below the city requirement. Shorenstein argues in its application that the complex is near transit lines and within walking distance of many shops, so not all residents will need cars. Shorenstein plans to build 184 bike spaces and offer to pay for membership and rental fees for a car-share program.

The development as seen from Tenth and Jones Street. Rendering: Pyatok Architects

Meg Spriggs, the managing director of Shorenstein’s Multifamily Investments Group, said the company considers Berkeley to be “a vibrant and diverse community.”

“At the same time, Berkeley is a community that has very little available housing to meet this desire,” said Spriggs in an email. “The northern stretch of San Pablo Avenue has long been a destination location for locals. Places like Fanny (now Bartavelle), Acme, Kermit Lynch, and Tokyo Fish are integral to the city’s food culture and sense of community. Our housing proposal here is an effort to bring more people to within walking distance of these institutions.”

Shorenstein Properties has submitted its proposal to the city of Berkeley and is at the beginning of the planning process. Construction probably won’t be completed until 2018 or 2019, Spriggs said. Shorenstein is in contract to buy the land from McNevin, she said.

The parcel straddles two zoning area, one marked for residential development and one for commercial. The westernmost section of the lot is zoned residential and will hold 11 townhouses in three stories. The entrances to driveways for these units will be on Tenth Street, according to the developer’s documents. The eastern portion of the lot will be four and five stories tall and will comprise apartments arranged around a courtyard. This is where a restaurant, offices, or shops will be.

This is the second iteration of a complex for the site. The Berkeley developer Hudson-McDonald had plans to build a 180-unit mixed-use development on the site in 2008, just when the economy soured.

Shorenstein Properties was started by Walter H. Shorenstein and has grown into one of the region’s largest developers. It owns the Market Street building that holds Twitter in San Francisco, as well about 130 buildings around the country. Shorenstein himself died in 2010 at the age of 95. His son, Doug, now heads the company.

Read more about real estate development in Berkeley. 

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...