Project renderings of the proposed Berkeley Humane building on Ninth Street. Image: Noll & Tam Architects

Berkeley Humane won approval last week to construct a new facility on Ninth Street, and the organization is hoping to get the community involved to help make the project a reality.

The city’s Zoning Adjustments Board approved the permit for the new building May 14 to allow demolition of the agency’s existing facility and future construction of a new 2-story, 13,211-square-foot replacement building at the same location, 2700 Ninth St. in West Berkeley. The permit was approved on consent, and neither board members nor members of the public discussed the project during the meeting.

The approval comes five years after a deadly fire destroyed most of the existing building, killing 15 cats. Since reopening in 2011, the nonprofit — officially named the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society Inc. — has operated out of only a small portion of the salvaged building.

The existing structure has been in use since the organization formed in 1927, and operates both community education programs and pet support as well as a veterinary hospital and animal shelter, according to Berkeley Humane.

Berkeley Humane “will have animal welfare at the center of the design” of its new building. Photos: Rachel Gross
Berkeley Humane “will have animal welfare at the center of the design” of its new building. Photos: Rachel Gross

In 1970, the organization’s board voted to end the euthanization of healthy animals, setting Berkeley Humane apart from similar organizations, according to the nonprofit. The shelter now only euthanizes animals with untreatable medical conditions or behavioral issues.

According to the nonprofit, the planned demolition of the existing building is necessary because it’s only partially usable due to the 2010 fire. The new building will also be smaller, compliant with modern safety standards, and more energy efficient than the existing building, according to the staff report prepared for the zoning board.

“We looked at renovating the building first and determined that it was not possible to repair… because it’s so chopped up,” said Aran Kaufer, president of Berkeley project management firm Bright Street, who was hired by Berkeley Humane to oversee the project. “The new building will have animal welfare at the center of the design.”

Berkeley Humane Executive Director Jeffrey Zerwekh said having more space will help the organization fulfill its mission.

“We’ve currently combined to operate out of only one-fifth of the space that we used to have,” said Zerwekh. “It hasn’t been easy, but we’re very focused on fulfilling our mission, which is to rescue, treat and save dogs and cats from the risk of not being adopted.”

Project renderings of the proposed Berkeley Humane building on Ninth Street. Image: Noll & Tam Architects

The board also approved the temporary use of an adjacent 10,000-square-foot warehouse to allow Berkeley Humane to continue its operations during construction of the new facility.

Construction is estimated to take 15-18 months, according to the staff report. Kaufer said the date to begin construction has not been set.

“When it’s done, we will have a beautiful, state-of-the-art shelter where animals will receive the best care and highest standards of welfare possible, and where community members will find the love and companionship of a new pet,” the organization wrote on its webpage.

The organization is now working to launch a capital campaign to fund construction of the new building.

“The architects and consultants got together and figured out a way to design a smart, compact adoption center and hospital,” said Zerwekh. “They did a beautiful job and, now that the building has been designed and the Zoning Adjustments Board has issued a permit, the next step is for our board of directors to start the capital campaign process.”

The capital campaign has not yet begun, but the organization is busy promoting other fundraisers to engage the community in the process of building the new shelter.

A fundraiser by Berkeley Humane and Pyramid Brewery will donate 50% of the profits from the brewery’s “Beer of the Week” to Berkeley Humane. Photo: Pyramid Alehouse

Preparations are underway for the organization’s upcoming annual fundraiser, Pints for Paws, on June 6. The beer festival, between 10th Street and San Pablo Avenue, will donate 100% of its profits to the shelter.

During the month of May, the organization is also asking supporters to “Drink up and do some good!” by buying specially-marked local beer at Pyramid Alehouse. The brewery, at 901 Gilman St. (at Seventh Street), will donate 50% of the proceeds to Berkeley Humane for every “Beer of the Week” pint it sells. For $1 extra, Pyramid will throw in a special Berkeley Humane pint glass.

The organization is looking forward to the possibility of a brand new space to improve and expand its operations.

“We’ve really been working hard in a very difficult situation, and we’re very proud of our success,” said Zerwekh. “We’re just as anxious as everybody else to have the resources to rebuild.”

Connect with Berkeley Humane on its website, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

A year after fire, Berkeley animal shelter lands on its feed (05.16.11)
Breaking: Fire at animal shelter guts facility (05.20.10)

Do you rely on Berkeleyside for local news? Support independent journalism by becoming a Berkeleyside member for $5 a month or even less, or by making a one-time donation.

Emily Dugdale, a graduate of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is a summer intern at Berkeleyside.

Emily Dugdale

Emily Dugdale is a journalist and graduate student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. She previously lived in Oakland and...