The city of Berkeley has recently announced that they have rejected the plans to construct 27,500 square feet of commercial space and 260 apartments project, originally owned by the Frank Spenger Company and Ruegg & Ellsworth. Apparently, the construction project has been controversial from the start as it sits on the grounds of the area designated both as the historic remnants of West Berkeley Shellmound and a state archeological site.
According to the sources familiar with the matter, the developers of the project had attempted to qualify for special status under the new law – that grants special, expedited approval to certain residential buildings to get more construction projects, while alleviating the region’s housing shortage which are affordable.
Timothy Burroughs, Director, Berkeley’s Department of Planning & Development, reported in a letter that the 4th street project didn’t qualify as it would have been constructed on the land designated as the historical landmark which covered an ancient Native American burial ground. He further mentioned that historic momentous preservation is a core municipal affair as they often represent irreplaceable parts the city’s rare history. The Berkeleyside reported that the letter said the project did not comply in the affordable housing rules, that requires developers to make a minimum of 20% of the units inexpensive. The project includes 130 affordable units however, according to the city, it is still not in compliance with Berkeley’s ordinance. The letter also had a mentioned of the project’s greater impact on traffic which is violating Berkeley’s zoning rules and thus is not eligible for SB35.
Finally, the Berkeley city claimed that the project could also demolish the underground historic structures during the excavation process.
Despite failing to win special treatment under SB35 application, the developers of the project still can choose to construct on the site, as their standard application was put on hold. They can reactivate their original application, in which 33,000 square feet of commercial space and 135 affordable residential units had been proposed, revealed reports.