The zoning board voted to certify the Harold Way EIR on Thursday night. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
A number of appeals have been filed concerning the development proposal for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
A number of appeals have been filed concerning the development proposal for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning

A number of different groups – including the developer himself – have filed appeals asking the Berkeley City Council to overturn various permit approvals for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley.

Mark Rhoades, acting on behalf of the property owner, Joseph Penner of HSR Berkeley Investment LLC, asked the council to reconsider the permit awarded last month by the Zoning Adjustments Board for the 18-story, 305-unit property. ZAB included a provision requiring HSR owner Joseph Penner to donate $5.5 million in cash for community benefits as a condition of approval.

The figure is too high and doesn’t give Penner proper credit for rebuilding 10 movie theaters and other things, Rhoades wrote in the appeal.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

ZAB “disregarded guidance from City Council members,” Rhoades wrote. That action “has caused a significant imbalance in the project’s financial profile jeopardizing the project and compromising the legal foundation of the city’s approval.”

The other appeals came from the Berkeley Unified School District and the groups that have been opposed to 2211 Harold Way from the start. Many of them believe the apartment complex is too large and will be out of place downtown. They question why the city would permit a 180-foot building in that particular spot, which was not one of the spots spelled out in the Downtown Area Plan.

There have been nine appeals filed. Some seek to overturn the ZAB permit and some are challenging the structural alteration permit given by the Landmarks Preservation Commission to tear down one of the old additions to the Shattuck Hotel. Some of the appeals appear to come from the same people. Kelly Hammargren’s name, for instance, appears on a number of the appeals. She has been active with the Save Shattuck Cinemas group.

Others who have appealed include the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, Save Shattuck Cinemas, the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition, Gray Panthers, and Landmark Legal Action. Many individuals also attached their names to the appeals, including Hammargren, Mike and Becky O’Malley, Lesley Emmington-Jones, Charlene and William Woodcock, Moni Law, Dean Metzger, Paul Matzner, Steve Finacom, Harvey Smith, and Gale Garcia.

Attorneys for BUSD have appealed the ZAB permit because they say the “project will have significant impacts on the health, welfare and safety of BUSD students, teachers, and facilities.” The 2211 Harold Way project is less than a block away from Berkeley High School.

The other objections to the permits granted for 2211 Harold Way are varied, and include:

  • There were violations of the Brown Act because of limited citizen participation in the process.
  • ZAB Commissioner Denise Pinkston had a conflict of interest because she sits on the board of a local youth theater that is seeking to get theater space in the complex.
  • The project will affect the view from the Campanile. Specifically, there will be glare off the building.
  • There are unresolved geotechnical issues. The current plan for the theater complex calls for some theaters to go underneath the Hotel Shattuck and soil studies were not done on that part of the property.
  • The scale is incompatible for the area.
  • The Downtown Area Plan did not include 2211 Harold Way on its list of project sites and consequently it is false to presume that voters intended for this site to be developed.
  • The proposed theater complex will reduce the number of seats. The ceiling heights in some of the theaters will be about 13 to 14 feet high, much lower than the current ceiling heights of around 21 feet. “So it will be more like watching a Big Screen TV at home rather than a movie experience,” Hammargren wrote in one of the appeals.

The City Council is expected to take up the appeal on Dec. 8.

All project documents, including the appeals, are posted on the City of Berkeley website. Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of 2211 Harold Way. Several recent stories appear below.

This story was updated after publication when new information was received.

ZAB approves Harold Way use permit with increased affordable housing provision (10.01.15) 
Harold Way project gets Landmarks Commission approval (08.14.15)
Op-ed: The Harold Way Project, as presented, will sacrifice Berkeley’s unique character (08.05.15)
New plan calls for 10 theaters at 2211 Harold Way (07.30.15)
Berkeley council adopts community benefits package (07.16.15)
Op-ed: Let’s say ‘yes’ to a vibrant downtown Berkeley (07.10.15)
Council declines to overturn LPC vote on Campanile Way (07.01.15)
Berkeley council to hear Campanile Way landmark appeal (06.30.15)
Council approves community benefits package; ZAB votes to certify Harold Way EIR (06.29.15)

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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 Created California, published in November...