There will be a joint hearing of the Zoning Adjustments Board and the Landmarks Commission on Thursday July 2nd at 6:00 PM (arrive on-time) at City Council chambers at 2134 MLK to decide whether to give Wareham Corporation permits to:
1.Demolish the landmarked Copra building at 740 Heinz.
2. Give Wareham a Variance to build a 72 foot high spec R & D building. 45 feet is the existing allowable height.
3. The FAR (Floor Area Ratio) on this building is close to 4. The allowable FAR is 2. Wareham recently changed their FAR calculation on this building from about 4 to LESS THAN 1. They did this by saying that all their parcels on that block were under one ownership, so they could calculate the FAR by spreading out all their buildings on all their nearby properties. This was done after describing this property as a distinct entity for years.
Please consider coming to this hearing and weighing in.
If you are concerned about the building and development standards for your West Berkeley neighborhood this hearing is important, as what happens here will almost surely set precedent for the future. What Wareham gets to demolish and build here will likely be replicated all over West Berkeley in the not-distant future. Along with being totally out of scale, the building will significantly shade Magic Gardens across the street and shade the Durkee Building and its artist tenants to the east.
Additionally, the building is proposing to provide way less parking than a structure of that size is required to supply.
Wareham has continually expanded since they first bought the Durkee site (Aquatic Park Center) in 1985 and immediately gave all the businesses and artists on that site eviction notices. They now own at least 25 buildings in West Berkeley on at least 16 acres.
They bought the Fantasy block a couple years ago and along with this came property across from the B of A on Parker and along San Pablo. Next they made an offer to the owner of the ENTIRE Block south of the Fantasy that he couldn't refuse - it wasn't even for sale. Your blocks may be next. Wareham (Rich Robbins) is, and will likely continue to be the largest aggregator of property in West Berkeley. What they're planning to do on their properties is the template we can expect on many sites.
To receive the height Variance it's seeking Wareham must make the case to the ZAB that these two conditions have been met:
"1. There are exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or conditions applying to the land, building or use referred to in the application, which circumstances or conditions do not apply generally to land, buildings and/or uses in the same District; 2. The granting of the application is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of substantial property rights of the subject property's owner;"
The only "exceptional or extraordinary circumstances" applying to the property is Wareham's desire for greater profit than present standards allow. There is NO NECESSITY of this height or mass for an R & D biotech or Physical Sciences building. There are numerous buildings already in West Berkeley dedicated to these uses that don't require this height or mass. Certain biotech facilities, such as those at Bayer, have a demonstrated need for expanded heights, but these needs are related to specific production requirements and aren't necessary for R & D. The only need for this height is the need for greater profit at the expense of the livable and workable built environment of an existing vibrant neighborhood.
Rick Auerbach 29 June 2009.