18-apartment building approved in Berkeley, where high rise will block views of Campanile Way

Image 1 of 4

A battle over a high-rise housing proposal ended with developers getting a green light from the Berkeley City Council Thursday to build an 18-floor apartment building downtown.

The building at 2190 Shattuck Avenue would sit at the corner of Allston Way and includes 274 market rate housing units, 103 parking spaces, and is located adjacent to the BART station. 

Supporters celebrated the council's decision which passed with 6 yes votes and 3 abstentions.

Opponents say they don't oppose the housing units, but the building blocks a spectacular view from UC Berkeley's Campanile Way. They say the council should have asked the developer to modify the height. 

A group of Berkeley residents who opposed the building's 180-foot height said the Shattuck Terrace Green Apartments high-rise tower downtown would destroy the view of San Francisco Bay from UC Berkeley's Campanile Way. They say it turns a public scenic view into a privatized view limited to residents of the new apartment building. 

"This building would rise between the pillars of the Golden Gate like a tombstone," said Steve Finacom, one of the Berkeley residents who filed an appeal to the zoning board's approval in October of the project. "The first people who planned this campus recognized that looking out the Golden Gate was a defining feature of this place."

"We'll lose this forever. It's really an iconic view. It's on the National Register," said Kelly Hammargren, another member of the group, asking the council not to approve the use permit, but instead send it back to the zoning board for revision. 

At the base of the Campanile on Thursday, a group of high school students from Los Angeles stopped to take photos. 

"Look at the possibilities of this campus, this city. all the possible things that are around. It's beautiful," said Victoria Rodriguez, one of the group's chaperones from Los Angeles. 

"It's nice to come and sit with friends and look at the sunset and get a nice vantage point to remind us that there much greater things out there," said Kathryn Field, a UC Berkeley junior. 

Public testimony lasted about two hours as community members sought to persuade the council members.

At the city council meeting Thursday night, the room was packed with UC Berkeley students and other community members. 

Many students and supporters of the project spoke passionately about the need for housing and noted the 2190 Shattuck site was next to BART. Some students were emotional describing how UC students and staff face long commutes because they can't find affordable homes close to campus. 

"Its really sad to see them a lot of time commuting. They deserve to have housing close," said Julia Castro, a 2nd year UC Berkeley student. 

Business owners and construction workers said it would help the downtown economy..

But others pointed out the housing would be market rate, not affordable housing units. In return, the developer agreed to make a $10 million donation to affordable housing causes, in lieu of designated affordable units at the site. 

"You've been given a false choice," said Moni Law, a  Berkeley resident, who suggested the council negotiate a lower building height with the developers and preserve the view. "We should be the standard bearer for affordable housing. And this is not it. You can have it all. No housing is lost if the extra high floors are eliminated and the view is preserved." 

The developer told the city council, however that lowering the number of floors and units would not be financially feasible. 

The opponents have 30 days to file a legal challenge. The developers say they plan to proceed with obtaining building permits and could break ground as soon as next year.