Controversial West Berkeley Development Closer to RealityDecember 6, 2016
If approved and permitted by the City of Berkeley, the entire Fourth Street block bounded by Fourth Street, Heart Avenue, the Union Pacific Railroad corridor, and University Avenue will be leveled and a 2.2 acre development will rise up to five stories and 71-feet in height across the 1900 Fourth Street site which currently serves as a 350-space parking lot across from the landmark Spenger’s restaurant.
As designed by TCA and BCV Architects for Blake | Griggs Properties, the proposed development would yield 155 apartments; 30,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space; a new public/private garage for 372 cars, including one space for each apartment; and 13,000 square feet of open space spread across the ground, second-story and rooftop levels.
The commercial space would be divided into 10-15 individual spaces across the ground floor of the development, primarily fronting Fourth Street but with a few spaces along an interior paseo and a couple of storefronts at the corner of University and Fourth and along Hearst as well.
While the site is designated as a City of Berkeley Landmark for its association with the West Berkeley Shellmound, a sacred site and burial ground for ancestors of the Ohlone Indians, a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) doesn’t condemn the proposed project.
Comments on the EIR will be collected through January 12, 2017. And if the EIR is certified, the project could be approved by Summer of 2017.
Comments from Plugged-In Readers
Since nobody cares about Native Americans, this will be approved without delay. Native Americans and European Americans are the two groups we’re allowed to ostracize, discriminate against and mock without consequence. Had this been a bohemian gypsy mound of beads, there would be protests in the streets.
I think they’ve already been consulted, based on the fact that there is currently a parking lot on this location.
With Victoria on this one. It is nothing but pavement, roads and more pavement & a high frequency rail corridor next door in the middle of an urban environment… If not mistaken a rail station is on the other side of University & recent mid rise infill. This site is ready made to what is proposed.
Can anyone name 3 prominent sites that honor the history of San Francisco Bay Area’s Native American history? Anyone? How about 1? These people were here first and their history has been erased. Why not preserve the few sites we have left?
So, a parking lot in the shadow of a multi-lane overpass honors their legacy? (There’s no denying it’s an appropriate metaphor for what happened to them, at a minimum.)
As it happens, there are many sites that memorialize and honor the natives who lived here … “Ohlone Park” in Berkeley being the first that comes to mind. Also Coyote Hills Regional Park (reconstructed village and preserved site), Point Reyes (Miwok village recreation), and several Bay Area museums.
The Emeryville mall is built on the other famous/ major east bay shell mound. Emeryville actually did build a nice memorial to the native Americans. Not much left to preserve at either site. After the 1906 earthquake all the shells were ground up and made into concrete for the rebuild efforts.
It certainly will be interesting to watch. The Berkeley Progressive Alliance (aka the Coalition of the Unwilling) took a council majority is the latest election cycle. — even Mr. Stop Driving garnered 2.74% of the mayoral vote in Round 1 of RCV (up to 3.5% by the fifth round).
Remains of at least five individuals were found at the project site across the street from this location. Rumors about the demise of the Spenger’s Shellmound Memorial Asphalt Car Park have been greatly exaggerated. If the project manages to get through ZAB, I imagine they’ll be a fight in council chambers. The new Berkeley mayor cut his teeth in Ess Eff politics, so this should be a wild one. Not holding my breath — I’ll be happy if the already entitled Acheson Commons gets built in my lifetime (rumors are that it will be starting up soon).
It has begun… “Standing Rock has come here, to Berkeley… This sacred site is older than the Pyramids.. Galvan has a conflict of interest in his dual role as tribal consultant to the city representing Native American interests, and consultant to the developer team
That’s just utterly silly, Stop Driving. To claim that “nobody cares” about either group is ludicrous.
Native Americans, by law, are consulted on all development projects where remains may be involved. Does that mean a paved parking lot (how is the use of the property as parking any more appropriate for a sacred ground I don’t understand) should remain sterile and underdeveloped for ever. Besides, since we are all supposed to “Stop Driving”, why is preserving a parking lot so important*?
As for the poor, oppressed “European Americans”, look at every public hearing where wealthy homeowner NIMBYs are present. You can bet your sweet patootie they are “listened to”. Besides, who are a major customer group catered to by the Fourth Street Yuppie Organic Artisan Fourth Street Corridor? Certainly this development will not be oriented to low income working class people of color (except as service employees). The Euros will be served by this project. (and NO I am not claiming whitie is the only customer base for Fourth Street. Still…)
* Unless your screen name is ironic, and then you are just being a troll pleading for the preservation of sacred parking space?
The whole idea that this site *used* to be a shellmound and could therefore derail development – but is currently used as a parking lot – is pretty much Berkeley / San Francisco planning in a nutshell. Emphasis on “nut”.
As linked above: “The Berkeley Shellmound is the earliest inhabited location in the Bay Area. Contrary to…misinformation, archaeologists have recovered large numbers of tools and ornaments from the mound, and 95 human burials. Most of the artifacts are stored in the catacombs of U.C. Yes, the above-ground part shellmound was leveled and paved over. But much of the below-ground part remains intact today, extending up to twenty feet down in some parts, under parking lots, streets, railroad tracks, and buildings.”
Well, there still could be a lot of shellmound under the current parking lot. Not that I’m saying that should stop the project, but that’s why it’s covered in the EIR. Presumably, construction will need to document what is found before it’s covered up. For folks who don’t realize, shellmounds are essentially the trash heaps of native villages, where thousands of years of shells and bones, and even human burial sites. Here’s a wiki about the Emeryville Shellmound.
That is how it is done!
Document – fine, of course. Do that all the time, from Boston to the San Francisco waterfront.
But as Elitist Pig notes, ludicrous to start hand-wringing and stall development at this point.
And sorry that I apparently had the gall to post a generalized response (which I stand by) without having clicked through and absorbed in detail each linked article.
Agree totally, SJ
If this wasn’t the last undeveloped (underdeveloped?) lot on the shellmound the protesting would be so bad. The bell has already been rung on the shellmound, the milk has been spilled, etc.
I also don’t see any of the people up in arms about this project moving out of their homes in favor of the Ohlone who once lived on the land. Is there a term for NIMBY slacktivism? Being just outraged enough to have an opinion, but not outraged enough to do something that would affect your own life?
Thank you for the thoughtful tu quoque argument.
This site is right next to an Amtrak station and has easy access to I-80. Perfect for higher density development.
Not sure if by “higher density” you were referring to height. The proposed height is appropriate for this area. Also, the lot is right across the street from the elevated portion of University which connect to I-80. Doubtful many folks would want sweeping views of a freeway onramp.
The problem with adding higher density in this area is that you’re putting more vehicles on I-80 which is already maxed out. Mass transit is woefully lacking. Amtrak works if you’re using it to get to Sacto or SJ. It sucks if you’re going to SF or anywhere else. Plus, there are limited connections to BART (Richmond, Coliseum) along the line. Now, if there were transit upgrades, then I could see higher density.
So instead, let’s leave this parking lot and build more houses 45 miles away in Yolo County?
Yes, height. Also note that I didn’t specify that the development should be residential.
Amtrak may be a weak transit alternative now but there are numerous inexpensive improvements that could improve service frequency and journey time. Spend a little more and fast connections to Menlo Park and Redwood City can be a reality. Even today Amtrak is a viable commute alternative to reach jobs in Fremont, North San Jose, and Santa Clara.
Given the ongoing redevelopment (and densification) of this area, and Emeryville, it’s a missed opportunity not to use this existing rail corridor for some kind of commuter rail – at a minimum up and down the East Bay side, but with a little planning they could probably do a convenient connector to BART at West Oakland (and certainly at Coliseum, where there’s already a bridge connector).
There are several ferry companies trying to start up Berkeley service right now. Though the walk still might be longer than some people want to take, Fourth Street is the closest land-housing to the Berkeley marina.
Also, many Berkeley residents only want to commute up to UC campus, which is bikeable and well served by buses from Fourth St. –we’re not aiming to just be a bedroom community for SF, peninsula, and South Bay.
Building on a Native American graveyard! What could possibly go wrong?
Clue: Redrum! Redrum!
Why don’t they make a Shellmound Museum as part of this project? It would add a cultural destination to this retailed area. It would be a win/win.
But more thought out than the homage to the Ohlone People at Bay Street where the creek daylights. The developer treated it as an after thought with the back end of Old Navy facing it. It could have been the centerpiece of that development…
Nah. The Centerpiece of any modern development is the parking lot. 🙂
The shellmound was not under this site. The shellmounds were around it, underneath buildings and parking lots to the west, north, and east. The project team did extensive archaeological research, with an Ohlone representative, including test drilling, extensive trenching, ground-penetrating radar and digging/sifting, etc.
Only after NOTHING was found was a project designed. We learned that this particular site was actually marsh land at the connection between Strawberry Creek and SF Bay based on detailed/scaled 1850’s US Government coastal maps.
At our first Draft EIR meeting in Berkeley last week we had over 100 protesters (many, many ethnicities, including Ohlone and European) decrying the “desecration of the shellmound.” Of course the Dakota Pipeline issue has galvanized many. This will be a difficult emotion v. fact debate/discussion.
Thank you for those facts. And good luck!
Thanks for the informed comment on the status of the EIR meeting.
Thanks for the detailed information Mark. Even after all this research, do they still require some type of oversight when the digging begins? That is often the case in Europe – you begin excavation and find a chipped clay pot and everything is put on hold until archaeologists can determine what it is…
absolutely, full monitoring.
Given how long humans have lived all over this planet there are thousands of former burial grounds/middens. That said a decently managed archeological dig before the bull dozers show up would be valuable. As to the building, the parking should be drastically cut–the pretty median of University should be rebuilt to a reserved ROW for streetcars as it was before 1950 linking the Amtrak/Capitol Corridor station to downtown Berkeley BART. And, indeed, allocating ground floor space to a museum displaying the fruits of the archeology work would be super. Last point, as a requirement, the developer should furnish a local transit pass to any tenant who agrees to neither own nor lease a vehicle.
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