UC Berkeley students take stand against apartment development

BERKELEY, Calif. (KTVU) -- Downtown Berkeley could be seeing a new luxury apartment building go up in the near future, but some UC Berkeley students are doing their best to put a stop to it.

On a fog-free day, you can see the Bay, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from the base of UC Berkeley's 100-year-old clock tower, the Campanile. But a proposed housing development would partially obscure that view.

"It's very important to have symbols like the Campanile that help demonstrate this unifying student body," said Cal junior Alexandra Smith, who is leading the opposition to the downtown building.

The students are trying to preserve signature views visible at the top of the iconic building and from the ground around it.

"When they designed the campus, the goal was to have this view of the Bay that was spectacular, that all of the generations of students could enjoy," explained Smith.

But now, there's a plan in the works to build an 18-story apartment building that would partially obscure the ground-level vistas.

"There's a huge amount of money at stake here. This is a 302 unit building," said Steve Finacom, a former UC staff member and now apartment building opponent.

The rents in the building are said to be planned for close to $4,000 per month. It would go in at 2211 Harold Way, on the block around the Shattuck Hotel. Everything else, including the Shattuck Cinemas movie theater would be torn out - although there are plans to rebuild the theater.

Finacom says there are ways to make the building work for everyone.

"They could make the northern portion of the building lower, and they could alter it in other ways. And it would have less of an impact on the view. So far, they haven't really been willing to consider that."

There is also opposition at nearby Berkeley High School because of the potential adverse effects there.

"Traffic is already a real challenge around the high school, in terms of dropping off and picking up students, several streets around the campus are set to be closed entirely during the construction phase," said Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguin.

Opponents have created a petition to stop the development which has now been signed by close to 3000 people.

"I know that there's a housing crisis in Berkeley, but there are plenty of places that you could build on either side of this view that would be sustainable housing," said Smith.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates told KTVU by phone that he supports the plan as it is and that the opposition is more opposition to development in general.