Tesla is expected to open a service center at 901 Gilman St. in West Berkeley. Photo: Read Investments

Electrical vehicle manufacturer Tesla will open a maintenance and repair center in West Berkeley later this year. The new service location was unexpectedly confirmed at Berkeley City Council’s meeting on Tuesday night when Mayor Jesse Arreguín let the news slip out during a discussion of the city’s pilot program for domestic electric vehicle curbside charging stations.

Mayor Arreguín said a “Tesla dealership was opening.” He was immediately corrected by Councilwoman Linda Maio, who clarified the project would be a service center. The closest Tesla service centers to Berkeley currently are in Dublin, San Rafael and San Francisco.

I would ask @elonmusk to join at the ribbon cutting, but he will probably be too busy planning a colony on Mars. #berkmtg— Jesse Arreguin #GetVaccinated (@JesseArreguin) February 28, 2018

Architect David Trachtenberg confirmed his firm is working on the project, which will be at 901 Gilman St., the former site of Pyramid Alehouse until mid-2015.

“We are working with Tesla,” he said. “We don’t know what the timing is yet.”

An October 2017 Zoning Adjustments Board report provides details of the project, naming Tesla as the “expected tenant” of the space. The company expects to service 20-25 cars a day at the site and keep up to six cars as loan vehicles for customers. Approximately 33 employees are expected to be hired.

“It was a pain in the neck having to go to Palo Alto for service.” — Alan Saldich

The 115,000-square-foot location already has a variety of businesses operating there, as previously reported on Berkeleyside. Alternative milk producer Ripple Foods and Blue Bottle Coffee (which makes its cold brew products at Gilman) are both up and running. Two other tenants, Starter Bakery and Here North America, are on target to open this summer.

Starter Bakery, which will start construction on its 12,000 sq. ft. space soon, provides pastries to Philz Coffee, among many others. A mapping and location company called Here, owned by a consortium of German auto manufacturers, will have developers working on self-driving vehicle technologies in Berkeley at the site. Its website currently lists 20 job openings in Berkeley.

Read Investments owns the property. Scott Huffman, COO, declined to comment on Tesla as a possible tenant. “We’re not allowed to make any comment on specifics of any deals,” he said.

The revitalization of the site, which was vacant for over two years after the Pyramid closing, adds to the activity in the area, including the Whole Foods which opened in 2014 and the Gilman District development which includes Farm Burger and Philz Coffee.

Tesla had not responded to a request for comment by press time.

During the city council presentation on the charging stations, city staff said that 1,508 electric vehicles were registered in Berkeley in 2016, and the numbers had grown in 2017. Teslas, a rare sight a few years ago, are now commonplace on Berkeley streets.

“They require hardly any maintenance,” said Alan Saldich, a Berkeley Tesla owner who describes himself as an “early adopter” – he bought his Model S shortly after the 2012 launch. “I view mine as a ‘beta’ version. It was a pain in the neck having to go to Palo Alto for service… It’s absolutely convenient that they’ll be in West Berkeley.”

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...