Berkeley housing: Projects could bring more than 500 new apartments

Recent proposals include North Shattuck’s tallest building, 210 units on University Avenue and a replacement for shuttered Dollar Tree.

The Lair, an eight-story, 40-unit apartment proposal, would occupy the site of 2440 Shattuck Avenue, at Haste Street, in downtown Berkeley. Credit: Johnson Lyman Architects

Developers are pitching plans for four new apartment complexes along Shattuck, University and San Pablo avenues. Meanwhile, work has resumed on a downtown Berkeley project that was destroyed in a fire while under construction in 2020.

If they’re all approved and built, the four recently submitted projects would create a combined 512 apartments — at least 72 of which would be affordable — at new buildings in North, Central and West Berkeley.

The rebuilt project at 2067 University Ave. will add another 50 units, assuming its construction isn’t derailed again.

Here’s a round-up of the projects:

1598 University Ave.

Berkeley-based NX Ventures wants to build a 210-unit apartment complex on what is now the site of North Beach Pizza and a language school on University Avenue at California Street. Credit: Trachtenberg Architects

The largest of the proposals is a plan to build a 210-unit, eight-story complex at the intersection of University Avenue and California Street.

The proposal is in the very early stages — Berkeley-based NX Ventures submitted a pre-application for it in January, and co-founder Nathan George cautioned that the project’s details and the design shown in renderings are both subject to change.

Plans call for a U-shaped structure built around a central courtyard on its south side, with 42 affordable units, a large commercial space on the first floor and a 42-spot parking garage.

To make room for the project, George’s firm is proposing to demolish the A-frame building that has long housed North Beach Pizza at the corner, along with the building at 1548 University Ave., home of the Chinese language Hanwen School.

NX Ventures’ pre-application was first reported by the San Francisco Business Times. The firm also built the Overture apartments at 1812 University Ave.

“We think it will be a really nice project for that University corridor,” George said of the 1598 University project. “It’s a great location close to North Berkeley BART and Ohlone Park.”

2601 San Pablo Ave.

A rendering shows a seven-story, 194-unit apartment complex proposed for 2601 San Pablo Ave. in West Berkeley. Credit: Trachtenberg Architects

NX Ventures is also eyeing the intersection of San Pablo Avenue and Parker Street for a seven-story project with 194 apartments.

A project application calls for including at least 20 apartments for very low-income renters, which under California’s density bonus law could allow George’s firm to build higher than the area’s 50-foot height limit, to a total height of 79.5 feet. To satisfy Berkeley’s affordable housing requirements, the development team plans to either include additional below market-rate units in the building, or pay into the city’s affordable housing fund.

Taking advantage of Berkeley’s move to eliminate minimum parking requirements in new developments, the building plans don’t include any on-site parking for residents. Instead, it would have storage space for 118 bicycles.

The project would require the demolition of existing buildings at 2603, 2609 and 2613 San Pablo Ave. One of those buildings was the long-time home of KC’s Bar-B-Que before it was destroyed in a fire in 2017; the restaurant has since moved to a new location.

NX Ventures’ proposal has not yet been scheduled for a hearing by the Zoning Adjustments Board.

1752 Shattuck Ave.

This seven-story, 68-unit apartment complex proposed by developer Patrick Kennedy at 1752 Shattuck Ave. would be the tallest building on the North Shattuck corridor. Credit: Trachtenberg Architects

Berkeley developer Patrick Kennedy has plans for a 68-unit apartment building that would become the tallest structure on the North Shattuck corridor.

Kennedy’s firm, Panoramic Interests, wants to replace a car repair shop at the intersection of Shattuck and Francisco Street with a seven-story building that has apartments ranging from studios to three bedrooms. The building will have at least seven affordable units, and Panoramic Interests is still deciding whether to include additional units or pay into the affordable housing fund to satisfy city requirements.

The building also won’t have any resident parking on-site — six parking spaces included in the plans would be for customers at a cafe planned for the ground floor.

A handful of neighbors attended a community forum on the development, two of whom objected to the building’s height and size, according to notes submitted in the project application. But Kennedy, whose firm has built more than a dozen projects around Berkeley, noted the area is home to several four- and five-story apartment buildings, and said he has seen opposition to greater density softening.

“I think residents of North Berkeley and Berkeley at large recognize that there’s a massive housing shortage,” he said. “I think the pendulum has swung in favor of in-fill development.”

The building does not yet have a hearing date before the Zoning Adjustments Board. Kennedy said he hopes to break ground on the project a year from now.

2440 Shattuck Ave.

A rendering shows a street-level view of The Lair, proposed for the former site of a Dollar Tree on Shattuck Avenue. Credit: Johnson Lyman Architects

The downtown building that until last year housed a Dollar Tree store would be demolished for an eight-story, 40-unit apartment complex under plans submitted by the Austin Group, an East Bay developer.

Called The Lair, the project at the corner of Shattuck and Haste Street would be made up of one- to three-bedroom apartments, and would also have no on-site parking. Three of the units would be affordable, and Austin Group President Bill Schrader said the firm anticipates paying about $1 million into the city’s affordable housing fund.

Schrader described the planned building as a “fraternal twin” to another Austin Group project that opened last August at 2510 Channing Way, called the Den, since both projects are the same size and have the same number of units. The complex would mainly cater to student renters, Schrader said.

“Until the student demand balances out, in and around campus is going to be a student market,” he said.

The project has not yet been scheduled for a Zoning Adjustments Board hearing. The Austin Group hopes to break ground this fall and open the building in time for the 2024-25 academic year.

2067 University Ave.

Crews work to rebuild the seven-story apartment complex planned for 2067 University Ave. The project was destroyed while under construction in a 2020 fire. Credit: Nico Savidge

This 50-unit project on the former site of the Vietnamese restaurant Anh Hong is rising once again.

Granted city approval in 2017, the seven-story building was under construction in November 2020 when a six-alarm fire broke out at the site, damaging the structure to the point the city ordered its wooden upper floors demolished.

Work at the site resumed last year, and this week crews had rebuilt as far as the fifth floor. Berkeley Planning Director Jordan Klein said the rebuilt project will be the same as the original one.

The project’s owner, David Lau, did not respond to a message seeking more information.

Nico Savidge is Berkeleyside's senior reporter covering city hall. Email: nico@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: NSavidge.