Housing Project Approved

BY MILLICENT SAMPSON-EVES staff writer

An apartment complex plan for West Berkeley, approved in May of 2016, is now set to be built at 1500 San Pablo Ave.

The project proposals began in March of 2015, though the construction itself recently started. The complex will include a five-story apartment building with 170 residential units.

The site on which the complex is being built included a three-story building which was described in the Findings and Conditions report submitted by the developer as “underutilized.”

Additionally, the Zoning Adjustments Board found in their research that traffic  in the surrounding area would not be significantly affected by the new building.

The board found that the building would increase traffic by 21 vehicles in the morning and 48 in the evening.

At the meeting, an alternate course of action was proposed by local residents to adjust aspects of the complex that would make it, in their opinion, better suited for the neighborhood.

The neighborhood proposal was attempting to address issues of density, design quality, retail viability,  parking, and traffic.

Their proposal included dropping the height of the building, remodeling the retail space, and moving parking entrances for residential and commercial use.

However, the motion, which was supported by board member Igor Tregub, failed to gain approval from the zoning adjustment board.

Tregub said that the on-site affordable housing is “very welcome. We don’t have enough affordable housing in Berkeley right now that’s being built.”

Tregub did mention possibly negative side effects of the building and said that “the housing is going to be primarily market-based,” which he said potentially could “drive up” the surrounding area’s real estate prices, a phenomenon which could “cause displacement.”

Tregub was one of two board members who abstained from voting on the building approval.

His abstention was driven by his involvement and support of the alternative motion proposed by residents and by his opinion that “at the end of the day Berkeley needs more housing.”

Gema Morales, a junior at Berkeley High said that “the buildings don’t really fit in.”

He also said that the growing spread of expensive market-priced housing development projects “is definitely an issue in West Berkeley.”