A new live-work project for artists and craftspeople has been approved in West Berkeley by the zoning board, to take the place of the city’s old municipal animal shelter, which closed in 2012.
The project, at 2013 Second St., was unanimously approved April 9 by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board, with no one speaking against the proposal.
The four-story, 26,500-square-foot building would include 19 one-bedroom live-work rental units of approximately 1,000 square feet each. It is also set to include one vehicle and one bike parking spot per unit. According to the project staff report, “A large landscaped courtyard will provide shared work/live open space for the residents.” The old animal shelter would be demolished to make way for the new project.
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The building is the latest to win approval in the increasingly busy neighborhood, where the nearby Grocery Outlet, at University Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets, is set to be demolished and replaced by a large housing complex (152 units), and plans are underway at 800 University (between Fifth and Sixth streets) for a five-story building (58 units). In recent years, new apartment developments have gone up nearby at Fourth & U (171 units) and The Avalon (99 units), which opened last May.
City staff noted last week that there aren’t very many live-work complexes in Berkeley. The West Berkeley Plan — from 1993 — put the number at about 2% of the area’s housing, but also noted that the city had no comprehensive directory of those properties.
Chris Hoff, who owns the Second Street property with his brother Greg, said theirs is the first project of its kind to come to the city in more than a decade.
“We want to run a great artist, ‘maker’ community,” he told the board. “We think it’s a great idea.”
The project, added architect Toby Levy of Levy Design Partners, “is really about community.” She referenced the 3,000-square-foot courtyard — which spans more open space than the code actually requires — as one element of that approach.
To facilitate arts and crafts uses, “The units have large windows and high ceilings to provide sufficient workspace for light industrial ‘maker’ uses,” as per the staff report. Each unit would be designed for a ratio of 60% work area to 40% live area, as required by the zoning code. At least one resident in each unit would need to maintain a valid business permit with the city, as the units are actually considered commercial spaces — rather than dwelling units — under the city code.
Some of the units will be one-story, while others will be two-story “townhouses.” As per the applicant statement, “Finishes within the units and building in general will be resilient: concrete floors, metal panels, timber, etc. Exterior work space in the courtyard will be provided as well, such as large open areas for welding, woodworking, etc.”
The lobby will also “function as a gallery for displaying work created by the residents,” according to staff.
As for the outside, “The exterior façade will be primarily cement board and larger operable windows that evoke the image of a warehouse.”
The project will pay into the city’s childcare and affordable housing mitigation funds, but the specific amount of those fees for the property was not listed on project documents. (Berkeleyside has requested that information from staff and will update this story if that is provided.)
Some zoning board commissioners questioned the building’s approach to sustainability, noting that it had received a low score on an assessment for green features. But they also pointed out that perhaps the score had not been calculated correctly, to take into account certain project features, such as “operable panels” on metal frames on the building’s west side that are designed to help the building respond to outside temperatures and be more efficient in its energy use.
The development team said it’s also looking into putting solar panels on the roof, but has not made a final decision. Hoff said he wanted to wait to see how the financials work out, noting “some real problems” with “balancing the zoning with the realities of construction.”
“It’s taken us a lot of effort just to get this thing designed,” he told the board, adding that he is “pretty sure we’ll have solar.”
All of the units will have mechanical ventilation that will provide filtered fresh air inside, as well as special air ducts and acoustic features that keep down the noise from the nearby freeway and train tracks, Levy said.
Neighbors previously raised concerns about street parking and access, flooding and drainage issues in the area, and a retaining wall shared with an adjacent property, but Hoff told the board that he has been working with the neighbors and that those concerns have been addressed.
See project documents on the city website, and the project plans (NB: This is a large PDF) that were presented to the zoning board. Read the city’s West Berkeley Plan, and its chapter on land use in the area.
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